Sports

Which Philip Rivers Will the San Diego Chargers Get Next Year?

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Back in Week 6, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers reached a new low. Rivers committed a career-high six turnovers and basically gift-wrapped a 35-24 win for the division rival Denver Broncos -- a game the Chargers led 24-0 at halftime. That Monday night collapse was easily the lowest point of Rivers’ career. However, since then things have gotten even worse for Rivers and the Chargers. So much so, in fact, that the question has to be asked: is Rivers already on the backside of his career, or is this just a bump in the road that he’ll be able to come back from next season?

It seems almost impossible to think that Rivers could be so far removed from the peak of his career, while fellow 2004 draftees Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger are still going strong and arguably still in the prime of their careers. After all, Rivers is just two years removed from leading the NFL in passing. He also, not too long ago, led the Chargers to four consecutive AFC West titles. To think that Rivers’ career has taken such a downward turn so quickly without any chance of recovery is hard to believe after everything that he’s accomplished since becoming San Diego’s starting quarterback at the beginning of the 2006 season.

However, there’s plenty of evidence that points to Rivers being past his peak, out of his prime, and in the twilight of his career. It starts with his quarterback rating. After three consecutive years of a QB rating over 100 from 2008 to 2010, Rivers dropped all the way to 88.7 in 2011, and has slipped even further this year down to 86. Next are interceptions. Rivers has always been turnover prone, but his 20 interceptions in 2011 was a career high, and he’s going to come close to that mark again this year with 15 interceptions through 14 games. To make matters worse, Rivers has fumbled the ball 15 times this year, and while not all of those fumbles were lost, it’s clear that Rivers is having problems holding onto the ball and avoiding turnovers more so today than at any point in his career. Last but not least, there are the wins. San Diego’s reign of dominance over the AFC West is over. After winning four straight division titles from 2006 to 2009, the Chargers have now missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

Last season’s failure to win the AFC West is particularly puzzling, since in a pass-friendly league Rivers was unable to life the Chargers past the Broncos, led by erratic thrower Tim Tebow, and the Raiders, who started three different quarterbacks over the course of the season. While there are plenty of people who can share the blame for San Diego missing the playoffs for three straight years and for not winning a playoff game since the 2008 season, the fact that they have failed to do so in such a weak division points to Rivers no longer being the elite quarterback that he was earlier in his career.

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The meltdown by Rivers and the Chargers during the Broncos game was a new low, and things haven’t gotten any better for either since then. In fact, they’ve gotten worse. Rivers has been unable recover from that low point, and as a result he has looked more and more like a shadow of his former self. Will a new head coach next year and better players around him help? Maybe, but there are no guarantees. It’s more likely that Rivers on the backside of his career and quickly approaching the time when he is no longer a viable starting quarterback in the NFL.