When you talk about quarterbacks nowadays, the one word you hear get tossed around is "elite." You'll hear people say, "This guy's elite, and this guy isn't."
The word itself might end up being overrated because of the way people tend to overuse it. It's also still unknown how many QBs should be labeled as elite and what the actual criteria is.
Rivers has had some very impressive numbers so far in his career, including a 97.5 career QB rating, which is good enough to be in the top five all-time. He has already been to two Pro Bowls and has taken the Chargers to the playoffs the first four years he was the starter.
When you look at Rivers' stats, it's hard to say he's not elite. He has more than twice as many touchdowns as he does interceptions. He has a great yards per attempt average and has won 68 percent of his starts in the regular season as the starter. 2010 also marked the third straight year that Rivers has thrown for over 4,000 yards.
All of that being considered, I still believe there are at least five quarterbacks who are better, and I would not call Rivers "elite." He is very good, but Rivers does have his shortcomings.
In today's NFL it's not that hard to compile decent passing statistics. Last year Rivers was one of 10 NFL QBs to throw for over 4,000 yards. Most of the QBs who hold the best QB ratings have played in the last 10 years, mostly because it's just easier to complete passes and put up good stats.
Not to mention that Rivers has played on a team that has had over 10 different Pro Bowl players since he's been there. He's also thrown the ball to one of the greatest receiving tight ends in NFL history in Antonio Gates.
In 2006, LaDainian Tomlinson was the NFL MVP and set the NFL single-season touchdown record. So I think it's fair to say that Rivers has been able to throw and give the ball to some very talented players.
Regular season stats aren't the be all end all for judging QBs. I also have to judge quarterbacks on their intangibles and their playoff performances. Despite having great stats and a great winning percentage in the regular season, Rivers has been far from stellar in the playoffs in his career.
For his career Rivers has played in seven playoff games in four years and is just 3-4 as a starter in them, going one-and-done twice. Now fans of Rivers will tell you that the Chargers lost because of every other reason besides Rivers' play, but that is not true. In the playoffs a quarterback has to give his team the best chance to win, and Rivers has not done that for the Chargers.
Rivers has thrown at least one interception in EVERY single playoff game he's ever played in. Rivers' fans will tell you that it was not his fault, but the stats don't lie. For as consistent as Rivers has been in the regular season, he's been as inconsistent in the playoffs.
Rivers has MORE interceptions (nine) than actual touchdown passes (eight) in his postseason career. It seems to me if Rivers would have been able to play up to his regular season performance, the Chargers might have already played in and/or won a Super Bowl by now.
In 2009, the Chargers went 13-3, earned a bye and got a home game in the playoffs. Then the New York Jets came to town. Rivers threw two interceptions with just one touchdown as the Chargers were upset at home. I understand that it wasn't and hasn't been Rivers' fault, but he sure deserves a big share of the blame.
I hear Rivers' name get tossed around with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, and I just don't think he belongs. All of those guys have not only compiled great regular season stats but have also won a Super Bowl.
I would argue that his 2004 NFL draft counterpart Ben Roethlisberger is a better quarterback. Ben has very good regular season numbers and has played way better than Rivers in the playoffs for his career.
Of course, people will say that Big Ben has a great defense, but the Chargers defense was ranked No. 1 in the league in 2010 in terms of yardage, yet the Chargers didn't make the playoffs. The Rivers-led Chargers got beat by the Bengals (4-11) and the Seahawks (6-8) and got swept by the Oakland Raiders. That's not elite—that's a QB that puts up good stats until it counts.
Rivers may have even cursed himself last year when he said the Bengals game was a playoff game. We all know he doesn't do well under those circumstances.
Rivers had good stats last year, but also gained a lot of them in garbage time when the game was no longer winnable. He also threw a majority of his 13 interceptions in key moments of games.
Lastly, there's the Dan Marino Effect. Marino was one of the greatest pure passers in the NFL history and put up some of the most impressive stats in NFL history. Yet Marino never won a Super Bowl. People still rank Marino high when it comes to all-time QBs and I don't have a problem with that.
Rivers is nowhere near as good as a QB as Marino was.
Also, Marino actually played well in the playoffs and even won an AFC championship, earning a Super Bowl trip for the Dolphins. Rivers has yet to even do that.
I have Rivers as the sixth best quarterback in the NFL, behind Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady. All have good stats, been to a pro-bowl, and have won a Super Bowl.
In the end, Rivers is a very good and talented quarterback and has a very promising career ahead of him. I'm sure he'll continue to pile up some gaudy stats that drive fantasy football players nuts. However, he is not elite.
Not until he can play well in the playoffs and lead these Chargers to a Super Bowl appearance.