Despite saying he would never sign a contract with San Diego, the Chargers drafted Eli Manning with their no. 1 overall pick in 2004.
Several minutes later the New York Giants drafted Philip Rivers at No. 4 overall. Just minutes after that, the two franchises reached a deal that sent Rivers to San Diego along with a handful of future draft picks. Eli was headed to New York.
Despite having Drew Brees as a starting quarterback, the Chargers saw Rivers as the franchise's quarterback of the future. Two years later, Rivers was promoted to the starter, but remained a secondary figure to the franchise’s true feature player: LaDainian Tomlinson. However, in 2010 Tomlinson left to sign with the Jets, turning over the keys to the franchise to their burgeoning star quarterback Philip Rivers.
For the past two seasons, despite being only a shadow of himself, Tomlinson remained the leader of the team. Though Rivers played at a high level, and was praised for it, the Chargers were scarcely acknowledged as “his” team. With Tomlinson now playing New York, 2010 is finally the year when Rivers takes the reigns as the franchise player.
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Currently, Rivers is a borderline top five quarterback in the NFL. Many expected the loss of Vincent Jackson would severely hamper his success, yet he’s third in passing yards, tied for second in passing touchdowns and fifth in quarterback rating. No Vincent Jackson? No problem. Rivers continues to produce outstanding numbers.
However, for Rivers to truly emerge as the “guy” in San Diego, he must play better in the playoffs. Rivers is a career 63% passer with a 96.3 career quarterback rating. He’s thrown nearly over twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. Yet, in the playoffs, his numbers shrink. He’s only a 58.5% passer, with a 79.2 rating. To make matters worse, he’s thrown only eight touchdowns to nine interceptions.
In hindsight, the Chargers look foolish for dismissing Drew Brees for the hot, new toy that was Rivers. Brees has gone on to become arguably the best player in the NFL as well as a Super Bowl champion.
But it’s important to remember that at the time of the draft, Drew Brees wasn’t the Drew Brees we know now. He was merely a solid quarterback.
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Meanwhile, the Chargers have gotten off to one of their patented sluggish starts -- despite boasting the league’s number one offense and number one defense (in yards per game). They are routinely considered among the most talented teams in the NFL, but can't make it to the Super Bowl. This 2010 Charger team is Rivers’ team now, so he better be prepared to have his team's failures laid at his feet.