Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, now 38 years old, becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. After the Chargers' disappointing season came to an end last week, Rivers boldly announced that he had no intention of retiring anytime soon. However, he did leave open the question of where he would be playing in 2020.
"I've never been in this position. I don't even know when the league year starts. We'll just kind of see," said Rivers in a press conference after the season finale.
"I'm very thankful for the 16 years, and if there is another, I'll be thankful for that."
A report from ESPN's Jeremy Fowler indicates a strong belief among NFL executives that the Indianapolis Colts would explore the idea of signing Rivers to replace their current starter, Jacoby Brissett.
Brissett led the Colts to a promising 5-2 start, impressive especially under the difficult circumstances of replacing the suddenly-retired Andrew Luck. Injuries and poor production took their toll, and the Colts lost seven of their last nine games, leading general manager Chris Ballard to outright state that "the jury's still out" on Brissett.
Of course, this is all rumor and hearsay at this stage, but the Colts hold some tempting advantages for the free agent quarterback. For one, unlike in Los Angeles, the Colts have most of the core pieces of a team together. With Marlon Mack gaining over 1,000 yards on the ground, the Colts can lay claim to a productive ground game, something the Chargers lacked this year as they lost Melvin Gordon to a holdout for the early part of the season and failed to get good yardage out of him when he eventually arrived.
The Colts also hold an added incentive in the form of their head coach. Should Rivers choose to sign with the Colts, he would be reunited with his quarterbacks coach from the Chargers' 2013 season, Frank Reich. That year, Rivers threw for 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns, and led the league with a 69.5 percent completion percentage. The Chargers finished third in the AFC West and snuck into the playoffs with a 9-7 record, and even upset the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round before eventually falling to Denver. Reich was promoted to offensive coordinator, a post he held for three years.
In 2019, Philip Rivers' production declined along with that of his team. While he threw for 23 touchdowns, he also threw for 20 interceptions as the Chargers tumbled to a 5-11 record. Though head coach Anthony Lynn has stated that he would rather have Rivers back, he hasn't shied away from openly criticizing his veteran quarterback throughout the season, including this quote after Rivers' game-sealing interception cost them against the Chiefs in November.
“Philip just has to execute better, as far as turnovers,” said Lynn. "His turnovers are a little higher than I would like. He knows that. And we have to get better in that area — period.”
While Rivers certainly had a down year in 2019, there is a silver lining in the gloom. His completion percentage was still a healthy 66, just inside the league's top ten, on a team that never really contended for the playoffs all season. Imagine the kind of boost he could bring to a team playing in one of the league's tightest divisions, one that narrowly missed out on the postseason even with an untested quarterback at the helm.
Perhaps the Chargers are also ready to move on. And the Colts are willing to buy. Sounds like a perfect match.