From Steve Young on the November 18th MNF halftime show to Dylan Hernández to the Bolts From the Blue postgame comment threads, Philip Rivers is either being referenced or outright blamed as the primary factor for the the franchise's downturn in 2019.
With a roster featuring Derwin James, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Casey Hayward, Austin Ekeler, and Keenan Allen, there is a perception that Rivers has a superior supporting cast compared to other QB's. That narrative simply doesn't fly though based on advanced metrics.
While those aforementioned players and a few others would all be valuable pieces to any franchise, the defensive and special teams units on the whole are mediocre at best. Entering Week 16, DVOA ranked the defense 21st, while special teams checked in at 31st (offense ranked 13th). That's even before mentioning the Chargers possessed the 29th-ranked offensive line according to Pro Football Focus through Week 8.
To further back up that ranking, Hernández' recent column shared that the Chargers have provided Rivers with an average of 2.64 seconds to throw per pass attempt according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Only four qualifying passers have had less time to throw. Combine that with the lack of a 3rd or 4th WR option and it's easier to see how Rivers' passing rankings declined compared to last season.
Philip Rivers 2019 Passing Rankings
Completions - 6th Attempts - 7th Yards - 3rd Completion% - 12th among those who qualify Y/A - 9th
AY/A - 14th
NY/A - 7th
ANY/A - 13th
Sack % - 9th (See offensive line ranking above; illustrates that Rivers is doing something right in avoiding sacks) TD's - 15th
TD% - 24th INT's - T-2nd most
INT% - T-3rd worst 20+ yard completions - 6th 40+ yard completions - T-4th QB Rating - 18th among those who qualify
Philip Rivers 2018 Passing Rankings
Completions - 15th Attempts - 14th Yards - 8th Completion% - 7th among those who qualify Y/A - 3rd
AY/A - 6th
NY/A - 4th
ANY/A - 4th
Sack % - 15th TD's - T-7th
TD% - 5th
INT's - 12 (Eight others had more and five others had the same amount)
INT% - 19th best QB Rating - 5th among those who qualify
There is validity to pointing out how Rivers won't QB sneak and faltered in key games against the Raiders plus Chiefs. At the same time, a majority of those critics overlook how the lack of a single true home game suppresses stats for the QB. Rivers is playing under circumstances no other great player at his position ever has.
Contemporaries like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Big Ben also routinely get to play less than eight true road games per year due to the enormity of their fanbases. 2006 at San Francisco is arguably the only game where the Chargers had an extremely noticeable amount of fans for a Rivers road start.
Having Allen, Ekeler, and Williams combining to miss just one game is a massive luxury. You would certainly rather have Allen and Williams healthy than Dontrelle Inman and Travis Benjamin, but those injuries certainly had an impact. In terms of just 2019, Inman offered far more value than Andre Patton could in his rookie season due to Inman's previous tenure with the Chargers.
Offensive Unit Games Missed
#1 LT, Okung - 9 games #1 TE , Henry - 4 games #1 RB , Gordon - 4 games #1 C, Pouncey - 11 games #1 RT, Tevi - 2 games #2 WR, Williams - 1 game #3 WR, Inman - 13 games (based on what he would have had if an injury had not occurred; now on Colts) #3 TE, Culkin - 11 games
#3 RB, Justin Jackson - Missed multiple games due to injury, but may not have received many touches with Gordon back in mix OL Depth, Lamp - 9 games #4 WR, Benjamin - 11 games
Dealing with injuries of their own, the defensive unit was not the lethal force it had the potential to be. Instead of an being an upper-echelon defense, they morphed into a conservative outfit that suffered from a lack of explosive plays. Similar to Rivers, they also were hurt from not playing a true home game. An opposing QB never had to worry about getting flustered from crowd noise in Carson.
As has been common in the Rivers era, special teams provided little value. Opponents have averaged 7.7 yards/punt return and 22.5 yards/kick return against the Chargers, whereas the Chargers are averaging 5.4 yards/punt return and 20.9 yards/kick return.
Kick Return Rankings
AVG/return - 26th Long - 43 yards (20th) 20+ yards - 18 (T-13th with a bunch of teams) 40+ yards - 1 (T-10th with a bunch of teams) TD's - 0 (There have been five league-wide)
Punt Return Rankings
AVG/return - 28th Long - 68 yards (5th) TD's - 1 (There have been six others league-wide) 20+ - 1 (T-15th with a bunch of teams) 40+ - 1 (T-3rd with a bunch of teams) Fumbles - 5 (T-2nd most with two other teams)
If taking out the return TD, the Chargers returned 21 punts for 50 yards, which amounts to a 2.4 average. Each of the other five teams that scored a punt return TD had at least a 5.4 yards/return average when subtracting their touchdown play from the equation.
FG - 26-34 (76%) FG% - 23rd XP - 32-32 XP% - T-1st with five other teams
One area of fortune for the franchise this season was the lack of production from opposing kickers against them. They combined to go 22-32 on field goal attempts and 28-34 of extra points. An individual has to determine for themselves whether pressure generated from the edge on the snap helped cause this team-wide benefit.
There should be little doubt that the Chargers are not a typical 5-10 team. Point differential (+2) and expected W-L (7.6-7.4) back up that claim. To act like Rivers was playing with a juggernaut roster though and holding them back from a deep playoff run is misguided. If he is going to continue to be the fall guy for this season's outcome, the lack of production from the other units deserves to be brought to light.
This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.