Philip Rivers: It's Time for San Diego Chargers to Begin Post-Rivers Planning

Todd McElweeCorrespondent INovember 12, 2012

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 28: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers passes during the first half against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 28, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

You stay classy, Philip Rivers, just not in San Diego too much longer.

The perennially underachieving San Diego Chargers are at it again, having dropped a Norv Turner special four of five in falling to 4-5. Lucky for Bolts fans, it appears certain that Turner will be manning a booth as an offensive coordinator—a position in which he thrives—next season.

Unfortunately for you, San Diego, Turner isn’t your biggest problem. Rivers is. Of late, the side-armed-slinging signal-caller has been a determent to the franchise he’s served so well. It’s a trend that does not appear to be improving and has to make the Chargers brass begin thinking about moving on from Rivers.

Rivers shouldn’t be jettisoned today or tomorrow. That being said, San Diego’s front office, which may also be without the man for Rivers, general manager A.J. Smith, needs to start examining what direction the franchise will head after Rivers’ contract expires in 2015. At very least, the Chargers need to use a draft pick this April in selecting the signal-caller that will likely replace the former North Carolina State great.  

Exploring the trade market is also an option. Rivers would be penciled in as QB-1 for roughly 20 teams and could garner a nice package such as a second-round and maybe even third-round draft pick.

The returns on Rivers are beginning to diminish. His interception totals have increased during each of the past three campaigns, as have San Diego’s wins. Fourth-quarter turnovers are becoming a habit. He turns 31 in less than a month and, unlike fellow 2004 first-round selections Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, has never won—nor reached—the Super Bowl.

Trailing 24-21 entering the fourth quarter of the Nov. 11 tilt against suddenly resurgent Tampa Bay, Rivers all but handed the game over to the host Buccaneers with a pair of final-frame interceptions, including an 83-yard Leonard Johnson pick-six.

Down by a touchdown following a Nick Novak field goal, Rivers was intercepted by LeQuan Lewis with less than four minutes remaining. The Buccaneers would tack on an insurance field goal for a 34-24 victory.

Rivers’ stats are respectable: 2,203 yards, 15 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 68-percent completion rate. However, his performance against Tampa Bay wasn’t an anomaly. He’s committed a turnover in seven of nine contests and has coughed the ball up at least twice on four different occasions, resulting in four losses. In San Diego’s four victories, he's thrown eight touchdowns compared to three interceptions. In four losses, he’s tossed seven touchdowns and nine picks.

The Chargers rank a mediocre 22nd in total offense. San Diego is 18th in red zone efficiency at 51.52 percent, but has reached pay dirt on only 40 percent of its trips into the 20 over the last three games.

Save for Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, Rivers is the most decorated quarterback the organization has ever known. Unfortunately, San Diego has never been considered an elite franchise, and Rivers’ playoff numbers are less than inspiring. He’s 3-4 in the postseason with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. The Chargers haven’t made the postseason since 2009 and haven’t won a playoff game since a 23-17 overtime win against the Colts in the 2008 Wild Card Round.

Rivers and the Chargers need to go in different directions. And while they don't need to do it immediately, both parties should recognize that a split is coming, and not too far down the road.