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Yes, Philip Rivers Belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Ryan Phillips
Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts v Las Vegas Raiders
Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts v Las Vegas Raiders / Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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Philip Rivers announced his retirement on Monday after 17 NFL seasons. After an incredible career, many were asking whether Rivers was Hall of Fame worthy following his announcement. I'm here to definitively tell you that Rivers is absolutely worthy of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and will make it when he's eligible in 2026.

Despite a unique, awkward delivery, average arm strength, and the agility of a dump truck, Rivers made it work. He relied on pinpoint accuracy and a deep knowledge of the game to give himself a leg up. He was one of the smartest players in the NFL, and often mixed in enough trash talk to fill hours of NFL Films archives -- though he never swore. He was the ultimate character and his love for the game shined through in everything he did. But what often got lost in the footage of his goofy exuberance was that he was a really good quarterback.

In 16 years with the San Diego and Los Angeles Chargers, Rivers was the galvanizing force driving the team. He made eight Pro Bowls and led from the front his entire career. Then he joined the Indianapolis Colts in 2020 and guided them to the playoffs while making an entire new fanbase believe in him.

Rivers entered the league in the historic 2004 NFL Draft that saw three potential Hall of Fame quarterbacks selected. Eli Manning went No. 1 overall to the Chargers, Rivers went fourth to the New York Giants and Ben Roethlisberger went 11th to Pittsburgh Steelers. Rivers and Manning were then swapped in a trade that netted the Chargers first-, third- and fifth-round picks. Manning and Roethlisberger are considered locks for the Hall of Fame, yet Rivers possesses better career numbers than both of them.

The 39-year-old quarterback will retire ranked fifth in career passing yards (63,440), completions (5,277) and passing touchdowns (421). He'll wind up 12th in career passer rating (95.2), 14th in yards passing per game (260.0), 10th in yards per attempt (7.8), and 14th in completion percentage (64.9). He had 12 4,000-yard seasons. Statistically, there's no argument that he's a top 10 quarterback in the history of the league.

Rivers has more yards, completions and touchdown passes than Manning and Roethlisberger and a higher career quarterback rating than both. He also earned more wins and a higher winning percentage than Manning. You can't argue with the numbers there.

The knock on Rivers, of course is that he never won big in the postseason. As Colin Cowherd pointed out, you can't really blame Rivers for all of that. He played most of his career for a Chargers team with horrific ownership. The same ownership that fired head coach Marty Schottenheimer after he went 14-2 in 20016 and replaced him with Norv Turner. Norv. Freaking. Turner. Rivers had five head coaches during his career, while also playing in the same conference as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Roethlisberger. Under those circumstances, playoff success was going to take far more than Rivers performing at his best. The rest of the team needed to help out.

It's also worth noting that for about his final decade with the Chargers the franchise failed to protect him. Rivers routinely had terrible offensive lines in front of him, yet he never missed a start. He was one of the toughest players to ever play the position. Hell, he played the 2007 AFC Championship Game with a torn ACL and nearly helped the Chargers top the undefeated New England Patriots. They lost 21-12 on a frigid, windy day at Foxboro but Rivers never gave up or let the devastating injury force him out of the action.

Wins and losses have never been an effective way to judge NFL quarterbacks. There is so much out of a signal-caller's control. Dan Marino only made it to the Big Game once in his career, a loss to the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX. He spent the next 15 years futilely chasing a return trip. No sane person would suggest those 15 seasons didn't matter because they didn't end in championships.

Sadly, Rivers never got there. He'll retire as the best quarterback to never reach a Super Bowl, surpassing the great Warren Moon on the list. But that doesn't mean his career wasn't successful.

Statistically Rivers is one of the 10 best to ever play the position. He will end up in the Hall of Fame when he's finally eligible in 2026.

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