Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers are officially broken up and not getting back together. The two sides opted to "mutually part ways" on Monday, despite the move being telegraphed for weeks. Over most of his 16 years with the organization, the Chargers showed how not to handle a franchise quarterback. His tenure looks like nothing more than a huge missed opportunity.
Rivers' play declined this season and rumors of an increasingly frosty relationship with ownership swirled. But the 38-year-old is still the same guy who led the Chargers to a 12-4 record and posted a passer rating of 105.5 in 2018. The two sides are parting ways now because 2019 was a failure and LA wants a new quarterback when it moves into Stan Kroenke's stadium in 2020.
The Chargers paid Rivers handsomely over the years, giving him deals in-line with what a franchise quarterbacks get these days, but they rarely protected him or gave him the opportunity to succeed. For the last 12 years, they've turned their backfield into a shooting gallery, with targets aimed right at Rivers' chest. Rivers earned every penny of those contracts, given what he had to deal with.
As Gregg Rosenthal pointed out, the Chargers have rated below average in pass protection for 12 consecutive seasons, and ranked 30th and 31st in 2018 and 2019, respectively:
When a team has a franchise-level quarterback, it has to protect him. That's job No. 1. Job No. 2 is surrounding that quarterback with talent who can make plays. The Chargers put good skill players around Rivers consistently, but never protected him. Frankly, it doesn't matter how many playmakers a quarterback has if he can't get the ball off, doesn't have clean pockets, and can't step up to make proper throws.
There's a reason Rivers often couldn't step into throws or floated them -- he had to in order to get the throw out before getting hammered. The Chargers have occasionally drafted and invested in the offensive line but rarely pick the right guys. John Spanos and Tom Telesco have been awful at finding good players to protect their most valuable asset.
It's worth noting the Chargers also patently refused to target top-level head coaches during Rivers' tenure. After inexplicably firing Marty Schottenheimer in 2006, Rivers was coached by a parade of underachieving former coordinators who should never have been hired. Norv Turner somehow held the Chargers head coaching job for six soul-crushing seasons, Mike McCoy hung on for four awful years, and Anthony Lynn somehow got a contract extension this offseason after a disastrous 5-11 campaign in 2019.
Despite years of average coaching and terrible offensive lines, Rivers put up Hall of Fame numbers for the Chargers. He currently ranks sixth all-time in passing yards (59,271), passing touchdowns (397) and completions (4,908), is ninth in completion percentage (64.7 percent), and tied for ninth in yards per attempt (7.8), while also being 10th in passer rating (95.1) and passing yards per game (260.0).
He did all of that despite not being protected or put in the best position to succeed for most of his career. Throughout it all, he never once complained or ripped the franchise.
Philip Rivers deserved better than what the Chargers gave him. Hopefully he finds a better home at his next stop.