For the first time in almost 15 years, the Chargers will have a new player lining up behind center. Who that is, remains to be seen, but many Chargers fans are upset about it and many pundits may question this decision and many say that they never gave Rivers an offensive line. He now finds himself in Indianapolis with one of the best offensive lines in the league and he will aim to prove that the Chargers made a mistake. However, for the Chargers, the decision to move on from Philip Rivers and transition to Tyrod Taylor and then likely Justin Herbert was the right decision at the right time.
Philip Rivers is clearly on the decline. This past season was among the worst of his career, and frankly among the worst in the league. The Chargers were 2-9 in games decided by a touchdown or less and a lot of the time it had to do with Rivers not making the right throw or simply not being able to get the job done.
If the Chargers were consistently winning games and being competitive in terms of making the playoffs, it would definitely be hard to argue against giving him at least one more season. But the Chargers have made the playoffs just once since 2014, and since 2015 have compiled a record of just 35-45. He had 20 interceptions this past season which was the third-most in the league and he also had the 6th most dropped picks in the season.
His ineptitude was clearly displayed especially in the clutch moments of games. In the final two minutes of games that were decided by one score, Rivers had an 11.7 passer rating with a completion percentage of 37.8 % with no touchdowns and four interceptions. All of this resulted in the Chargers having one of the worst seasons and getting the 6th pick which put them in a prime position to grab a potential QB of the future in Justin Herbert who has a ton of upside.
During the offseason, the Chargers were able to add some intriguing members to the team, primarily on the offensive line which would definitely not have been possible with the $25 million price tag that Rivers received in 2020. That number was way too high and there were a number of better options that came much cheaper on the market such as Cam Newton.
The extra cap allowed the Chargers to sign Bryan Bulaga, Linval Joseph, Chris Harris Jr. while keeping Hunter Henry, all of whom will be vital to the team for years to come. In addition, having a QB on such a team-friendly contract whether it be the rookie deal with Herbert or the short term deal with Taylor will allow GM Tom Telesco to keep some of the vital players due for a huge payday soon including Joey Bosa, Keenan Allen, and Derwin James.
The majority of the teams that have won the Super Bowl had a QB that wasn’t eating the salary cap. Patrick Mahomes was on his rookie deal, Tom Brady was on an extremely underpaid team-friendly deal, Nick Foles was not making much at all (Carson Wentz also on a rookie deal).
When the Seahawks made back to back Super Bowls, Russell Wilson was making less than one million on average a year, after he signed his massive deal, the Seahawks have not had the same success as previously.
The same can be said with the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. Even with Jared Goff and the Rams, after paying him they went from almost Super Bowl winners to missing the playoffs. His large contract has resulted in players like Todd Gurley, Clay Matthews, and Nickell Robey-Coleman no longer being able to be fit in the cap (not to mention the inability to keep Cory Littleton and Dante Fowler). Not saying it is a direct result, but a huge salary cap eating QB limits overall flexibility. Time will tell how it affects the Chiefs with Mahomes and his massive contract although nobody is questioning his worth.
Finally, for the first time in what feels like forever, the Chargers will have a dual-threat at quarterback which will open up endless possibilities for both the receivers and the play-calling. This will really benefit the receivers and Austin Ekeler because whoever is under Center, being able to scramble will give the receivers potentially an extra few seconds to get open. It will also keep defenses honest and not allow everyone to drop back into coverage with the confidence that the QB will remain frozen in the pocket.
While Rivers will always be a cherished fan favorite and will go down as one of the great Chargers of all time, the time was right for the franchise to set their sights on the future.
Moving on will give the Chargers more offensive versatility even if at the expense of a less productive passing game, more financial flexibility to build and strengthen the roster. Due to poor production, the opportunity was ripe for the Chargers to grab a potential franchise QB. Time will tell how Taylor or Herbert pan out, but regardless, keeping Rivers around for an extra year would not have done anything positive in terms of competing for a championship and building for the future.