With the Chargers and Philip Rivers finally deciding to call it quits on each other, the country will start to speculate on the best landing spots for the gutsy veteran who unsurprisingly believes he can still play at an elite level.
With the Rivers family permanently moving across the country from San Diego to Florida, the immediate teams that come to mind are the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars are in the middle of a QB controversy between Nick Foles, whom they signed this offseason for $80+ million, and Gardner Minshew who started most of the season after Foles broke his collar bone in the season-opener. They are most likely out of contention for Rivers so that leaves TB and Miami. I don’t see Miami wanting to invest in a veteran when they currently have the third overall pick in this year’s draft which leaves the Bucs as the most likely suitor. When you take into consideration that they’re coached by Bruce Arians, a known whisperer of the quarterback position and someone who has proven they can get the most out of aging QBs, then they sound even better.
However, I believe there is an even better fit for number 17. One that actually isn’t even in the Southeast region of the country.
That team is the Indianapolis Colts.
Yes, the team that lost to the Chargers in overtime on a walk-off touchdown pass to Darren Sproles during the 2008 season may be the perfect fit for Rivers at this point in his career. They’re built to field a quarterback of Rivers’ physical capabilities and have all the necessary pieces to maximize his pros while litigating his list of flaws.
For starters, let’s talk about the biggest issue that Rivers gives his offense.
If you created a spectrum of athleticism across all quarterbacks in the NFL, you’ll likely find 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson on one end and far, far away on the other side would be the 37-year old vet.
For every juke or spin move that Jackson executed perfectly on a defender, there was a sack that Rivers took from an unimpeded defensive lineman.
The next offensive line that’ll be tasked with protecting Rivers is going to have to be one of the best units in the league. He needs to be confident in his guys or he’ll start seeing ghosts. If he ever starts seeing them, it’s pretty much game over for the offense. He’ll start rushing passes and looking over his shoulder when he should be keeping his gaze downfield. And don’t even get me started on him hitting the fetal position the second he feels a defender’s breathe on his neck.
Enter the 2019 Indianapolis offensive line.
With Jacoby Brissett under center, the Colts ended the season as Pro Football Focus’ third-highest graded offensive line unit in the NFL. They were a tied for ninth in the NFL along with the Pittsburgh Steelers in allowing just 32 sacks all year. Some of the other potential suitors connect to Rivers at some point have been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, and New England Patriots. The Colts are only team to rank in the top ten for sacks allowed while also ranking in the top ten of offensive line units by PFF.
Second-year guard Quenton Nelson was once again graded as the best left guard in the league after claiming the honor as a rookie. He was also named to this second Pro Bowl and All-Pro team in as many years.
Unreal block & mental processing from Quenton Nelson to read this LB blitz and work back across the formation to pick it up. pic.twitter.com/3PeQIZV1jh— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 19, 2019
Fellow 2018 draft pick and right tackle Braden Smith has also been a rock-solid member of the front five after he was selected in the second round out of Auburn while veteran left tackle Anthony Castonzo looks to be the most sought-after tackle in free agency should he decide to test the waters.
The Colts also boast a rather prominent ground game after rushing for 2,130 yards in 2019, which was seventh in the league. Their 4.5 yards per carry were also just outside the top ten, good for 11th in the NFL.
This is all exactly what a team would need in order to keep Rivers in a position to be successful. They need a consistent and healthy offensive line (all five starter played 1,000+ snaps in ‘19), a strong running game, and the ability to keep defenders out of the pocket. In the last two years, the Colts have shown they have all of those necessary traits.