Philip Rivers Is Still Elite: Defending His 2011–12 Seasons with the Chargers

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIFebruary 13, 2013

After winning the passing title and receiving MVP consideration in 2010, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has fallen from that upper echelon of quarterbacks perceived to be elite by the masses.

After two back-to-back sub-par seasons, many have written Rivers off as no longer being one of the finer quarterbacks in professional football.

They're just wrong. 

What needs to be understood is that the quality of team support provided to a quarterback can have a monumental impact upon his chances of winning, being productive and being efficient.

From 2011 to 2012, the Chargers have won fewer games as Rivers has been less productive and less efficient. There's really no surprise here, it's not complicated.


2011 Chargers:

  • 16th in total defense.
  • 22nd in scoring defense.
  • 16th in total rushing.
  • 12th in yards per attempt.

Philip Rivers (2011):

366 of 582 (62.9) for 4,624 yards, 27 touchdowns and 20 interceptions

88.7 passer rating


What to take away from this: A team that features the 22nd ranked scoring defense is going to have to play catch-up. With nothing but an average running game to keep opposing defenses honest, they are going to load up in nickel-plus coverages to swamp Rivers' receivers in a sea of defensive backs.

Rivers was accurate (62.9 completion percentage) and productive (4,624 yards and 27 touchdowns).

The main knock against his 2011 season is the 20 interceptions he threw.

Yet Drew Brees threw 22 interceptions in 2010 playing with similar deficiencies in the quality of support provided by his defense and running game. 


2012 Chargers:

  • Sixth in total defense.
  • 16th in scoring defense.
  • 27th in total rushing.
  • T-30th in yards per attempt.

Philip Rivers (2012):

338 of 527 (64.1) for 3,606 yards, 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

88.6 passer rating.


The Chargers provided a better defense in 2012 and as a result, Rivers didn't have to play catch-up as often.

Naturally, defenses didn't load up in nickel-plus coverages as often, which resulted in Rivers throwing five fewer interceptions. 

His completion percentage (64.1) and touchdown percentage (4.9) improved as his interception rate (2.8) went down from the previous season.

The main knock against his 2012 season is that he simply wasn't productive enough.

His 26 touchdown passes were fine, but his total passing yards (3,606) was more than 1,000 yards fewer than his 2011 total.

Ironic, seeing how often we've heard the value of passing yards discredited.

Meanwhile, the value of rushing yards—which move you up and down the field no more so than passing yards—are lauded (i.e. Adrian Peterson's 2012 season).

Tough to be productive through the air when your top two receiving targets are Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander—whose career highs in receiving are 856 yards and 658 yards, respectively.

Did you know in 2012:

  • Rivers' 64.1 completion percentage was higher than that of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Colin Kaepernick, Eli Manning and Joe Flacco.
  • Rivers' 88.6 passer rating was higher than that of Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Jay Cutler and Andrew Luck.

Not bad.

Yet, how far a quarterback advances during the season is impacted by the quality of support with which a team surrounds him.

If you stick a quarterback in the same division as Peyton Manning and arm him with the 30th ranked rushing offense in terms of efficiency and nobody but Floyd and Alexander to throw the football to—expect off years to come.

The reality is this: Rivers is an elite quarterback.

His play in 2012 actually reminded me of Brady's play in 2004.


Tom Brady (2004):

288 of 474 (60.8) for 3,692 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Philip Rivers (2012):

338 of 527 (64.1) for 3,606 yards, 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.


Only Rivers had no Bill Belichick coached dynasty defense or Top 10 ranked rushing offense to back him up. 

The misinformed will scoff: "Stats don't tell the whole story."

Hence why we look into the impact inferior team support has on individual players.

With what the Chargers have been backing Rivers up with, teetering around the .500 mark is exactly where they should be.

Recent times have proven that all you need to do is better yourself from a 7–9 team into a 9–7 team before going on a four-game winning streak and BOOM!

You're champions.

Regardless of what the future has in store, Rivers' career resumé speaks for itself.

He's the best quarterback drafted in 2004 and he's still one of the best in the game today.


Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report. Any questions, comments or professional inquiries can be directed to his email at:

Follow him on Twitter at: @theryanmichael


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