NFL Offseason 2012: Philip Rivers Is At A Career Crossroads

AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

 

Marino, Barkley, Ewing, Drexler, Griffey and Tim Brown. When I say those names what comes to mind? Is it legends of their sport without a championship?

Don’t look now, but Philip Rivers is treading dangerously into a category he doesn’t want to be in. And no signs of it getting any better anytime soon. 

With a 3-4 playoff record, It’s easy to hide in the cozy confines of San Diego. There isn’t pressure on you like there is in Dallas; where an unappreciated Tony Romo resides in the billion dollar “House that Jerry Built.” Nor is the pressure like that of the Philadelphia Eagles and their Super Bowl hungry fan base. Particularly with the Phillies and Flyers breaking their title droughts in recent years. The team that originally drafted Rivers, the New York Giants, and their city rivals the Jets also know that microscope.

Yes, San Diego affords you a lot of things other markets don’t. One place that doesn’t allow it is history.

Philip Rivers, 30, is now inching ever closer to the other side of those prime years where one honestly has to ask can he get it done. Gone are Vincent Jackson(Tampa Bay), Mike Tolbert (Carolina), LaDanian Tomlinson (retired), Michael Turner (Atlanta), Darren Sproles (New Orleans), and a host of key pieces that helped Rivers become one of the games premier passers. Also gone are the days where the AFC West could be won by one of their customary late season surges.

Kansas City has pieces on both offense (Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles) and defense (Eric Berry, Tamba Hali) that can’t be overlooked. Oakland seems to finally be getting it together with the emergence of a healthy Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Did I mention Denver just signed some guy named Peyton Manning who, according to all reports, looks primed for a comeback season? It helps he will be throwing to what might be the most talented wide out in the division in Demaryius Thomas.

I don’t want to be a skeptic to the wonderful fans of San Diego, but the window for the Chargers is closed. Which is bad news for Philip Rivers as he tries to get things back on track. Last season Rivers threw for 4,000+ yards in a season for the fourth consecutive season. He threw 27 touchdowns to go along with a completion percentage of 62.9%. Those are still elite numbers when you consider that just last season he threw for 4,624 yards.

But there are more to those numbers than meets the eye.

Through the first 10 games of the season while he put up great numbers for yardage he threw for a rating of only 81.1 and had 15 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. The yardage is explained by the Chargers offensive philosophy of winning games through the air. The Chargers were 4-1 after week five and lost five straight after that. Another statistic to look at is that of those four wins not one came against an opponent with a record above .500 (Minnesota, Miami, Denver, and Kansas City).

Weeks 11-16 were a much different story, however, as Rivers threw 12 touchdowns against just three interceptions; a passer rating of 103.4 and a completion percentage of 64.8%. It’s no coincidence that with his uptick in production came the emergence of Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert at the same time. Tolbert scored in four of the final five games, while Mathews rushed for over 100 yards in three of the final five.

Which brings me back to the initial point. What happens now that Tolbert is gone and Vincent Jackson has signed with Tampa Bay? Lets be clear about something: Philip Rivers cabinet is bare as far as weapons are concerned. Ryan Mathews, despite his solid sophomore season, isn’t ready to take the full load of a feature back considering his health history; and Robert Meachem, Roscoe Parrish, and Vincent Brown will take some getting used to. Malcolm Floyd remains, but he will need someone from that group and Eddie Royal to step up in a hurry or risk being the never-ending subject of a double team.

So Philip Rivers enters his ninth season as thin at the wide receiver position as he’s ever had it, a feature back without a proven back-up, and, at age 30, running out of prime years.

But at least he’ll always have San Diego.

 

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