I was scanning the CBS Sports message board looking at a Colts-Chargers thread that is way too premature, and some Indianapolis Colts fans have Peyton Manning on a pedestal high above San Diego Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers.
As a Chargers fan, I just don't see it that way. Manning has been spectacular without a doubt, but Rivers is (in the words of LaDainian Tomlinson) "playing out of his mind right now."
Manning has played at an extremely high level for a long time, and has now transcended the game. Rivers may never transcend the game, but his play has been off the charts in his four years as a starter in this league.
I understand Manning's won the Super Bowl, but so has Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger—with his QB rating of 22. Winning the Super Bowl is part luck and part team effort.
There are things about Rivers that most people don't know. Rivers ranks No. 1 all-time in points per start. He's never lost a December or January regular season game. The Chargers have won the AFC West every season Rivers has been the starter, and his career passer rating is second all-time to Steve Young.
Rivers completes passes that most QBs in the league can't even attempt, and he's done it his entire career.
The Chargers are in the midst of becoming one of the greatest scoring attacks of all time. Only once in NFL history has a team other than the Chargers averaged at least 25 PPG over six seasons. The last? The 1950-1955 Browns.
I don't want to give the wrong impression. I don't believe Rivers in the only cause of the high scoring, but he is a big part of it.
Talk a look at Rivers’ accomplishments:
Year One: 2006 AFC West Champs, lost in the Divisional Round
1. Made the Pro Bowl
2. Led all QBs in Red Zone efficiency
3. Led all QBs in 4th Quarter efficiency
4. Led the Bolts to 42 points in the second half to come back against the Bengals
5. Ranked eighth in the NFL in yards-per-pass with 7.4
6. Only threw nine interceptions (none in the red zone) with 22 TDs
7. Ranked 12th in the NFL with 41 passes of 20+ yards
8. Led the Chargers to a 14-2 record
9. Had a decent QB ranking of 92—good for eighth in the league
10. Led the team on a 10 game winning streak
11. Lost the first playoff game to New England, played on an injured knee that would have supposedly kept him out the next week (I doubt that).
Year Two: 2007 AFC West Champs, lost in the AFC Championship Game
1. It started out rough, but Rivers turned it around and led the team on an eight game winning streak.
2. Lost in the AFC Championship game, playing on two injured knees without a healthy LT, Gates, Nate Kaeding, Jamal Williams, or Shawne Merriman. They still made a respectable showing.
3. Showed signs of becoming an elite QB by the end of the season with the Chargers wide receivers lighting it up in the playoffs.
4. Passer rating dropped to a career low 82.4, typical sophomore slump
5. Led the team to an 11-5 (12-6 including the playoffs) season after an embarrassing 1-3 start
6. Rivers' huge weakness during this season was his complete inability to throw on the run, and his total lack of ability to throw the long ball. His timing on such throws was way off.
7. Threw a career high 15 picks against 21 TDs
Year Three: 2008 AFC West Champs, lost in the Divisional Round
1. The team embarrassed itself by starting the year 4-8, yet still finished 8-8 and won a playoff game against the Colts
2. Rivers led the NFL with a 105.5
3. Rivers tied for the league lead with 34 TDs with his mentor Drew Brees, but with 157 fewer pass attempts
4. Tied for fifth in the league with 48 passes of 20+ yards
5. Tied for third in the league with 12 passes of 40+ yards
6. Only threw 11 picks, despite leading the league at 8.4 yards per pass
7. Turned his biggest weaknesses into deadly strengths, becoming a beast while throwing on the run, and continuously completing long passes
8. Easily led the league in percentage of passes for first downs at 40%
9. Only QB to pass for 4000 yards with less than 536 attempts; Rivers had 478 attempts
10. Despite being a down-field thrower, Rivers completed 65% of his passes
11. Ultimately, this season was a continuation of Rivers' strong post season from the previous year. He had come off of ACL surgery and the injuries to key personnel like Antonio Gates and Shawne Merriman took the team a while to adjust to, which may have helped this season's team overcome the same adversity.
12. Named a Pro Bowl alternate, but had to drop out of the Pro Bowl due to injury
Year Four: 2009 AFC West Champs, first round bye
1. Second straight season with a QB rating over 100 (104.4)
2. Tossed 28 TDs to only nine picks, despite once again being a down-field thrower
3. Led the league with 64 passes of 20+ yards or more, no passer with fewer than 500 attempts was even close (Rivers had 486 attempts, which about what he normally does)
4. Ranked seventh with 12 passes of 40+ yards or more ( Donovan McNabb was incredible in that department this season! 17 passes of 40+ yards on only 443 attempts)
5. Led the league in first downs per pass once again with 42.8, this time, however, Brees and Manning weren't too far behind
6. Rivers once again led the NFL with 8.8 yards per pass
7. Was a steadying force on an injury-ravaged team that started out 2-3 only to finish 13-3
8. Pro Bowler—which doesn’t mean squat sense he was not voted to the Pro Bowl in the previous season and Brett Favre was
Ultimately, I don't mean to say that I rank Rivers above Manning. However, I think it's quite foolish to pretend that Manning is on a level by himself (or with Tom Brady) and Rivers is below that level.
The national perception is such that if the Chargers had started 14-0 and tanked the last two games and the Colts had fought through injuries to go 13-3 after being left for dead, Manning would have still have won the MVP and would be hailed as the great savior.
Chargers fans, smile that you have a quarterback like Philip Rivers, and don't worry about the national brand that is Manning.