Philip Rivers' Time Is Up, and the Chargers Need to Find Replacement in 2020

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 19, 2019

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers looks on from the sidelines during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Estadio Azteca on November 18, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)
Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

Philip Rivers might one day be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's a Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers legend no matter how and when his tenure with the team ends, and he's rarely represented what's ailed that long-suffering, snakebitten organization.

But it's about time for the Bolts to start the next chapter.

They'll christen a new stadium next year, and in the process they'll try to build a new fanbase after three awkward, somewhat nomadic seasons in suburban L.A.

They should do so with a new face at quarterback.

It's become apparent after the Chargers' 24-17 Monday Night Football loss to the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs that the Bolts will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons, and it's impossible to absolve Rivers.

The soon-to-be 38-year-old has thrown seven interceptions in back-to-back one-score divisional losses. Those defeats came by nine points, which isn't unique for a team that has turned heartbreak into an art form and hasn't lost by more than one score this season. Rivers often looked lost in the last two, and if not for his many mistakes and woeful inaccuracy, the Chargers might have won both.

Under those circumstances, they'd be 6-5 and a half-game behind the Oakland Raiders in first place. Instead, we're ready to eulogize the 2019 Chargers, as well as Rivers' 16-year run with the team.

Monday's special affair in Mexico City bore the closest resemblance to a Chargers home game since the team left San Diego. The Chiefs didn't play well and lost their top wide receiver, Tyreek Hill, to a hamstring injury early in the first quarter. Los Angeles was healthier and coming off extra rest. There's no excuse for the hole the Chargers dug when they fell behind 24-9 in the third quarter, but they could have survived that if their so-called elite quarterback had merely been competent with the game on the line.

Aside from an aberrational 50-yard completion to Mike Williams to keep hope alive with about a minute remaining in a seven-point game, Rivers completed just four of his 11 pass attempts on a failed two-minute drill that culminated in a game-sealing interception.

We shouldn't have been surprised. Altogether, Rivers is just 14-of-37 with zero touchdowns, four picks and an 11.7 passer rating in the final two minutes of one-score games this season.

That makes it a lot harder to tolerate the fact that his 85.5 passer rating ranks in the bottom 10 among qualified, current starting quarterbacks, while only Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has thrown more picks (20) than his 14.

As per usual, Rivers' pass protection has not been satisfactory. But MVP candidates Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson have faced just as much pass-rushing pressure, and Matt Ryan has greatly outplayed Rivers despite a similar lack of support from his offensive line.

Rivers has more than enough support elsewhere. Few quarterbacks have arsenals that compare to a skill-position group featuring Keenan Allen, Williams, Austin Ekeler, Hunter Henry and Melvin Gordon III. All of those guys were active and productive with the ball in their hands Monday night, and the Chargers' talented defense limited Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' high-powered offense to 24 points. They forced Kansas City to punt six times, with four of those coming in the fourth quarter.

And yet Los Angeles again fell short.

We're past the point of believing it'll eventually happen for Rivers, who has thrown more passes than all but six quarterbacks in NFL history. He looks frustrated and defeated, both in the pocket and between plays. You'd have to imagine that's also how his teammates feel, as do the few Chargers fans who actually show up at the miniature soccer stadium the franchise temporarily calls home.

The Chargers need new energy before they move from Dignity Health Sports Park to the brand-new SoFi Stadium in 2020, and this offseason is likely to present a glaring opportunity to move on. Not only is Rivers scheduled to become a free agent, but several younger big-name quarterbacks—Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater and Gardner Minshew II, to name a few—could become available in the new year.

Of course, the Chargers are also in line for a top-12 draft pick, which could give them a shot at an incoming blue-chip quarterback such as Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow, or they could take Tua Tagovailoa and wait for him to take the reins in 2021.

Rivers is having a bad year—one that seems to be getting worse as it wears on. And he's continually let his team down in critical moments. This season is pretty much a lost cause, and the odds that he'll redeem himself in his age-39 campaign are slim.

Combine that with the circumstances surrounding the 2020 quarterback market, and from almost every practical standpoint, this is the right time for Rivers and the Chargers to part ways.

               

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.

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