Philip Rivers is the forgotten man when it comes to discussions of current great quarterbacks. Sure, it’s not like people don’t know who he is, and most people would have him solidly in the top ten, but I suspect your first reaction was that I am crazy. I think part of it is the funky looking delivery that makes people think less of him. You might think that delivery is the sign of a dinker; in fact, he’s the maddest big play bomber this game has seen since Lamonica. Consider:
Two years ago, he led the league in touchdown passes AND yards per attempt, or if you prefer your passer rating, posted the 15th best single season rating all-time. He was amazingly not selected to the pro bowl, as the selectors went with the guy who led the league in interceptions and sexts instead. If that is not the definition of being criminally underrated, I don’t know what is.
He followed that up by leading the league in yards per attempt for the second consecutive year in 2009. The last quarterback to do that was Kurt Warner from 1999-2001, and before that Steve Young from 1991-1994, and before that, Terry Bradshaw in 1977-1978.
He has started every game over the last four years, and his teams have gone 46-18 in the regular season, and these aren’t “wins” that are really just the effect of playing with an elite defense during his prime. The Chargers have averaged 28.1 points per game with Rivers at quarterback. They have never finished lower than 5th in points in a season, while the defense has been a positively average 16th in yards allowed while he has been a starter.
He became a starter at age 25 in 2006. When we era-adjust his numbers and look at adjusted net yards per pass, here is where he ranks for all quarterbacks from ages 25-28 since the merger: Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, Boomer Esiason, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Ken Anderson, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Dan Fouts, Troy Aikman, and Drew Brees. He’s still in his prime at age 29, and he’s still dealing in 2010. So far this year, he (again) leads the league in yards per pass attempt with a whopping 9.4 ypa through 4 games. He’s doing this without is left tackle and without his top wide receiver from the past two seasons. Yeah, I’m pretty confident saying Philip Rivers is on top of his g
I know, I know, you are going to blindly say playoffs, and he hasn’t proven anything yet. Well, it’s true that the Chargers are 3-4 in the post season over the last four years. Every quarterback has to catch some breaks in the post-season, and Rivers certainly hasn’t caught them like some other great quarterbacks yet. Bradshaw, Montana, and Brady (twice against Rivers’ Chargers) are the only quarterbacks to win two different post-season games when they threw 3 interceptions. They wouldn’t have gone on to bigger games if their teams didn’t survive those. I don’t think it’s Rivers’ fault that Eric Parker muffed a punt and then Roosevelt Colvin fumbled away a game winning interception to Troy Brown. Rivers played on a torn ACL in a championship game against the undefeated Pats in January 2008, so he’s been tough. Oh, and he’s averaged 7.95 yards per attempt in the post-season, so it’s not like he’s been chopped liver.
In other late games:
Tennessee at Dallas: Dallas looks to continue their success after the bye, coming off an impressive road win at Houston. For those who think sacks are the responsibility of the offensive line, consider that Tony Romo has been sacked once this season. Would anyone out there who has watched the games say that the offensive line has been good at pass blocking, though? Tennessee hopes that Chris Johnson gains 4 or more yards on first down more than 29% of the time, like he has averaged so far this year, or DeMarcus Ware may have a field day if the Titans are in third and long. Tennessee may want to play action more on first downs.
New Orleans at Arizona: Max Hall is making his first start of the season, in game 5, as an undrafted rookie free agent. It’s hard to tell when free agent quarterbacks were rookies (since we don’t always have the accurate year as they may have been on a practice squad) but if we exclude guys that played in the CFL or USFL and just look at players straight from college, I believe this is the earliest start by an undrafted rookie free agent since Jim Zorn was the opening day starter for the expansion Seahawks in 1976 (excluding replacement players). New Orleans, meanwhile, has gotten off to a 3-1 start, but it’s not been a very impressive one. They’ve had injury issues, and have won their three games by less than a touchdown, against teams that are collectively 1-7 in other contests. Other teams this decade to go 3-1 to open, with all 3 wins being close ones have gone on to average 9.3 wins for the season. Good teams don’t just skate by bad teams, and the Saints of 2009 were far more dominating. This is a key game to see if New Orleans can put together a complete game against a weaker opponent.