Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
I’ve always been a big fan of Philip Rivers. He’s been overshadowed because the San Diego Chargers haven’t reached a Super Bowl during Rivers’ six years under center, but Rivers has been one of the game’s best during that span.
He’s reached four Pro Bowls and averaged 4,023 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions per season since 2006. Rivers has a 63.6 completion percentage, a 95.8 passer rating and he’s led the NFL in yards per attempt—arguably the single most significant passing statistic other than passer rating—three years in a row.
Despite Rivers throwing for 4,624 yards and 27 touchdowns last year, his 62.9 completion percentage was his lowest in four years and his 20 interceptions and 3.4 interception percentage were each career-worsts.
Analyst Evan Silva detailed the struggles Rivera had last season, saying he may have peaked and that he frequently lacked the velocity he would normally display on deep throws.
Rivers also lost his best receiver, Vincent Jackson, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and up-and-coming receiver Vincent Brown recently broke his ankle and will likely miss a minimum of three months. Ryan Mathews is dealing with a broken clavicle that may cause him to miss time, and the offensive line is in shambles.
Longtime left tackle Marcus McNeill retired during the offseason after suffering a neck injury during 2011. The team signed Jared Gaither to an extension, and while this would seem like a terrific move to protect Rivers’ blindside, Gaither has had chronic back issues over his career and remains out indefinitely.
That means the left tackle job may belong to undrafted rookie Mike Harris, which certainly wouldn’t be the ideal situation for Rivers, although at least it’s better than Brandyn Dombrowski, who may be the worst lineman to ever wear an NFL uniform.
Left guard Kris Dielman, who went to four straight Pro Bowls from 2007 through 2010, has retired as well after suffering a seizure on a flight home last year. Center Nick Hardwick, a former Pro Bowler himself, is coming back, but he has struggled to stay healthy as well. The right side of the line consists of Louis Vasquez and Jeromey Clary, players that ranked 32nd-best and 74th-best at their positions last year, per Pro Football Focus.
That’s not good news for Rivers, who is going to be 31 years old during the season and not getting any younger. In addition, the division gets tougher with the return of Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the fact that the Chargers have the sixth-hardest schedule in the league this season doesn’t help matters. And the team has been historically slow starters under head coach Norv Turner, so slow in fact, that they haven’t rebounded to make the playoffs the last two seasons.
Rivers is still a good quarterback who could probably throw for 4,000 yards in his sleep—assuming his offensive line is able to keep him standing upright. But in terms of being mentioned with the elite fantasy quarterbacks—Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford—go with one of them.
I would even go with good to great players like Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco before I risk picking a player in the situation Rivers faces on the Chargers.