Philip Rivers will look to return to form after an inconsistent 2011 season.
The following is the second installment in a nine-part series analyzing every position, from the front office to the defensive backfield, making up the San Diego Chargers. To read Part 1 Coaches and Front Office, click here.
One position Dean Spanos and A.J. Smith won't have to worry about this offseason is quarterback. Philip Rivers and Billy Volek are both under contract beyond the 2012 season.
Rivers had a rough 2011 by his standards, but remember, his standards are pretty high. Despite throwing a career-worst 20 interceptions, Rivers finished this season with 4,624 yards and 27 touchdowns, ranking sixth and eighth in the NFL respectively, and earning him another trip to the Pro Bowl. Just ask the Washington Redskins or Cleveland Browns if they think those numbers represent a poor season for a quarterback. Rivers' main issue was uncharacteristically turning the ball over, but there is no reason to believe that he won't bounce back to form next season.
In the six years Rivers has been under center for the Chargers, he has averaged 27 touchdowns and more than 4,000 yards per season. His quarterback rating since 2006 is 95.8, and his completion percentage has never fallen below 60 percent. Only four quarterbacks have rated higher than Rivers over that span. His obvious passion for the game is contagious, and that coupled with his sustained success on the field has earned the respect of his teammates and the organization. In fact, team president Dean Spanos thinks so highly of Rivers that his endorsement of Norv Turner weighed heavily in Spanos’ decision to retain the head coach.
Volek was brought in to be Rivers' backup in 2006 and has served in that role ever since. The Chargers view him as a capable backup and feel comfortable with him in the event Rivers can't go. Obviously the goal is for Volek to remain on the sidelines unless he is taking a knee to secure a victory. But, if Rivers is injured, Volek’s experience and familiarity with Norv Turner’s system would theoretically keep the Chargers' offense afloat. In sporadic opportunities with the Chargers and Tennessee Titans, Volek has a completion percentage above 60 percent and a career quarterback rating of 84.9.
The past two seasons, the Chargers have drafted or signed rookie quarterbacks only to release them in the preseason and carry just two throughout the year. I expect the same to be true in 2012.
The Chargers selected Jonathan Crompton from Tennessee in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. The hope was Crompton would make the team as a third string quarterback replacing Charlie Whitehurst, who was traded to the Seattle Seahawks. Crompton was released in the final roster cuts prior to the regular season.
In 2011, the Chargers signed undrafted free agent Scott Tolzien out of Wisconsin and, like Crompton, Tolzien was released prior to the regular season.
With so many holes to fill on both sides of the ball, it’s unlikely the Chargers will waste a draft pick on a player who isn’t likely to make the final roster. A.J. Smith will likely look to sign a quarterback like Northwestern’s Dan Persa or Florida’s John Brantley if they go undrafted.