Highlander Archives: Philip Rivers leaves behind a legacy for an embattled LA Chargers franchise

Two weeks ago, the LA Chargers announced they will not resign QB Philip Rivers, who will become a free agent next month. 

Rivers was drafted fourth overall by the New York Giants in 2004 before they swapped for Eli Manning, who was drafted first overall by the San Diego Chargers. Manning had made it clear prior to the draft he would not play for San Diego, forcing the blockbuster trade on draft day.

Despite showing tremendous accuracy during his college days, questions about his side-arm throwing motion kept his career prospects in doubt. Nevertheless, Rivers went on to have a prolific career with the Chargers, making the Pro Bowl eight times and leading his team to 11 playoff appearances, the first of which occurred after Rivers’ first season as a starter. 

Rivers’ career was not a flawless one though, especially in his last few seasons with the Chargers. Tight window throws into double and triple coverages marred his final season with LA and ultimately sealed his fate with the team. Despite playing with slight overconfidence at times, no one will question Rivers’ durability and toughness. He’s currently second all-time in career consecutive starts and first among active quarterbacks. Additionally, Rivers did not miss a single snap over the span of 16 consecutive seasons.

In Rivers’ sophomore season as a starter, the Chargers finished 11-5 and won their first two playoff games, making the American Football Conference (AFC) championship game in what is perhaps his most iconic and legacy-cementing performance. After going down with a knee injury in just the first quarter of the game, Rivers would return to the field with a knee-brace, and powered through the rest of the game throwing for 211 yards on 37 attempts. With Hall of Famer Ladanian Tomlinson also out for the game, the Chargers would fall to the New England Patriots, 21-12. It would later be revealed that Rivers was playing on a partially torn ACL, an injury which required surgery.

As an Alabama native, Rivers inherited a football bloodline. His father and brother both played college football, with his father, Steve, landing a head coaching job for Decatur High School. Rivers would go on to establish himself among the top-ranked quarterbacks in the state and received offers from Auburn and Alabama. Wanting to get as much playing time as possible, Rivers would defer to North Carolina State, where he was projected to start in his first year. 

After sitting behind Drew Brees for the duration of his first two seasons, Rivers took over at the start of the 2006-07 season.

In a post-game press conference, after the last game of the season, Rivers got candid with reporters as he reflected on his long-tenured career with the Chargers, “Shoot, I couldn’t have tried any harder.” Emotional and teary-eyed, Rivers saw the writing on the wall as he was vocal about wanting to continue playing, even if it meant playing for a different team after 16 years with the Chargers.

Rivers will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at some point in his life. Although his chances of being a first-ballot inductee are low, there is no doubt in the minds of those who have played with him that he has a spot in the Hall reserved among his fellow teammates, Ladanian Tomlinson and Junior Seau. 

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