With the Chargers vastly underachieving this year, many are wondering if Philip Rivers may retire after the season. Like many all-time, franchise greats, the end can be ugly and some hold on too long. In Rivers’ case, he has had flashes of brilliance surrounded by poor decisions and physical shortcomings.
Will 2019 be the last season we see the old gunslinger?
This was supposed to be a year where the Chargers could surround Rivers with great talent worthy of a Super Bowl run. Yet, at 4-6, the team’s depth and coaching have been exposed and once again it seems like it’s all on the quarterback’s shoulders to salvage the season.
Universally known as one the most charismatic, and passionate quarterbacks in the league, Rivers wears his emotions on his sleeve. When things are going well, it’s fist pumps and high-stepping. When the going gets tough, his body language shows visible frustration and a furious chin strap unbuckling. One thing is certain, he certainly still seems to have the fire it takes to play the game.
Rivers has been reckless this year throwing 10 interceptions, and fumbling the ball six times. This is the sixth time that he has had double-digit interceptions in the team’s first 10 games. In those seasons, the Chargers have won more than eight games only once.
In last Thursday’s primetime debacle against the Raiders, Rivers had an especially bad night. With a chance to get right back into the playoff race against a division foe, the signal-caller faltered.
Rivers was under pressure all night getting sacked five times, and getting hit 11 times in total. He finished the game with three interceptions, including a brutal final drive. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his 0-7 passing on the last drive hasn’t been done by any quarterback in over 40 seasons. Rivers has had many chances to mount a late-game comeback this year but has ended three games with interceptions.
“I think this last stretch will be critical in determining whether or not he stays or goes.” Chargers reporter Eric Williams
What is even more concerning was the lack of power behind Rivers’ throws. While he’s connected on some deep passes, there have been many throws that have been dangerously floated with almost no zip.
That was the type of game on national television that is going to raise the question of whether or not Rivers should retire after the season. Some have even questioned whether he should finish the season as the starter. His backup, Tyrod Taylor, has strong ties to Anthony Lynn and never threw more than six interceptions in his starting years in Buffalo. We also know Lynn likes mobile quarterbacks.
I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that the Chargers bench Rivers this season. He is currently the NFL’s Iron Man starting the last 230 games, which is the longest ever streak for a quarterback not named Brett Favre. Nobody wants to see another Ben McAdoo-Eli Manning fiasco.
There are also personal reasons that it could be his final season. First, Rivers has nine children and has expressed the desire to coach his oldest son Gunnar. Secondly, he has said in the past that he’s not going to play for the sake of playing.
There’s also the fact that the Rivers family still lives in San Diego and he commutes to Los Angeles daily. He was one of the players who seemed most upset by the move. In a teary acceptance speech for a San Diego Salute to champions, he empathized with the city. “As I trot out there every Sunday with a bolt on my helmet and 17 on my back, play like crazy with that passion and fight. It’s the only way I know how. I hope that there’s some of you still here in San Diego that can still say, ‘That’s our quarterback.’”
I have talked with countless San Diegans and even the most bitter ex-fans still root for their old quarterback. For many, Rivers is the last string that tethers the Chargers to their mostly disenfranchised San Diego fan base. If he decides to retire, how many will stick around?
You also have to wonder how much longer he wants to keep getting battered in the pocket. The NFL world was just rocked after Andrew Luck was forced to retire due to injuries brought on by years of sub-par offensive line play.
It’s hard to say the Chargers are invested in protecting him having spent a first-round pick on an offensive lineman just once in his career. He takes an average of 30 sacks per season, it’s conceivable that he could be growing tired of the beatings.
I spoke with ESPN’s Chargers reporter Eric Williams, who has covered the teams since 2013, and he believes Rivers’ retirement has yet to be decided.
“I think it’s a possibility, I think, Rivers, at the end of every year kind of assesses where he’s at physically and tries to get an understanding of you know one, if he still wants to continue to play and if he physically can play” Williams said, on if Rivers’ will retire. “he’s gonna be 38 in December, does he want to continue to go through the punishment and take the hits and continue to kind of be that guy, because I know that does mean a lot to him”.
Retirement is not the only option, and the season is not over.
“I think it remains to be seen, a lot in terms of whether or not he stays will be dependent on how they finish; I think if they finish 9-7 you know obviously 10-6, then maybe there’s more of a likelihood he returns, but if they really struggle and finish you know 6-10 or something like that then I think its likely that either he retires or chooses to sign with another team. I think this last stretch will be critical in determining whether or not he stays or goes.”
Maybe the most interesting thing that Williams said is that the decision might not be up to the Head Coach.
“I don’t think that Anthony [Lynn] is going to have the final say, I think it’s going be ownership and Philip that ultimately have the final say on whether or not he returns”.
This brings up the point that maybe the team might not want to bring him back. Rivers’ contract is up after this season, and he currently ranks 27th in passer rating (90.6) amongst quarterbacks with at least 10 passing attempts. It’s unreasonable to put that entirely on him with the team’s struggles around him, but it still begs the question.
After 16 years in the organization, I have a hard time believing a team, with its public relations disasters of the past, will force out, arguably, the franchise’s greatest quarterback.
I don’t think that the Chargers are going to make a playoff run, but like many of the games this season, I think they will make it close. If they do, it will almost certainly be due to some Philip Rivers’ heroics.
Even if he doesn’t retire this year, the end is surely coming soon. Appreciate him while you still have him. Shoot, maybe go to a game and witness one of the smartest most passionate players to ever strap it up. Rivers has been dadgum great for this franchise, and you never know how good you’ve had it until it’s gone.
Philip Rivers loves the game, and I don’t think he’s going to retire. Feeling jilted and snake-bitten by this season’s events, I think he wants at least one more shot at making it to a Super Bowl.
This isn’t the end for Rivers, and all of us should be grateful for that.