Quarterback Philip Rivers has already set more than his fair share of team records since taking over the reins as the starting signal caller in San Diego. Rivers has passed up the legendary Dan Fouts in most statistical categories, but there are still a few more passing records which he has the opportunity to eclipse prior to hanging up his cleats.
The fact of the matter is, this will be the year that he overtakes Fouts in all major passing stats, make no mistake about it.
Perhaps if Ken Whisenhunt had remained with San Diego after the 2013 season rather than accepting the head coaching job for the Tennessee Titans, we would have already witnessed it. However, “Whiz” left in 2014 and Frank Reich was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.
While a portion of the argument would have to include the dreaded injury bug to the offense, the majority of blame lies in the uninspired playcalling over the 2014 and 2015 seasons. There was a flash here and there of going outside the box with the occasional reverse or two tight-end sets, but that was too infrequent. Reich may have been one of the better back-up quarterbacks in the NFL, yet play design was not his forte. His tendency to use and shotgun and pistol formations, inability to develop schemes that were more familiar to then-rookie Melvin Gordon and abysmal offensive line play led to a parting of the ways between Reich and the organization this past January.
Let’s not dwell on that, though. A new season is on the horizon. A great many positives can come out of this year’s campaign. It has been said many times that as Rivers goes, so does the team he leads.
Now, I recognize that when Dan Fouts led the Chargers, the rules for protecting the quarterback were a bit different. Quarterbacks might have been hit in the head or had their legs grabbed by a defender, and little came of it. The NFL rulebook has changed considerably, and a quote made in 2013 by ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer pretty much says it all: “…we played a game where we had to stay in the pocket and get hit in the face…But part of the badge of honor of playing quarterback in the NFL was standing in there and taking shots in the face and throwing a 20-yard dig route. That’s what separated you from the other guys. Now that’s just not part of the game.”
Undeniably, the QB position is one of the most protected when it comes to the assessment of penalties. Blatant or not, it’s going to be costly for the defense (possibly for the defender in the form of a fine) in today’s environment.
Keep a couple of things in mind as you read this: First, when Fouts entered the league in 1973, the season was 14 games long. Five years later it was changed to the current 16-game format. Second, two strike-shortened seasons skew his statistics. In 1982, only nine games were played. In 1987, weeks four through six saw predominantly replacement players take the field. One last thing, Fouts only had three seasons (1979 through 1981) in which he played the entire game schedule, whereas Rivers has played every game since becoming the lead signal caller for the Bolts’ in 2006.
There are a few of Fouts’ records that Rivers will meet and exceed in 2016, and at least a couple that might go into next year. For now let’s just concentrate on what is waiting.
Obviously, the first item is the career passing yards record. At the end of 2015, Rivers had amassed 41,447 yards to the 43,040 that Fouts had at the end of his career. That 1,594 mark could be gone by the end of the Chargers versus Saints game on October 2. Brees and Rivers may put on a passing extravaganza that day!
Another record that should easily be surpassed will be the number of 300-yard games. To date, No. 17 has collected 46 (including one playoff contest) to the 56 — including five playoff appearances — that Fouts has. That’s a difference which is well within PR’s reach. He is also one game-winning drive away from tying Fouts (25 vs 26), plus three away (21) towards matching the 24 fourth-quarter comebacks of his contemporary.
Last up, the number of games these two have played. Fouts played in 181 contests while Rivers is at 164. The disparity is due to the fact that Rivers sat behind Drew Brees until the last two games of 2005, when Brees suffered that shoulder injury while diving to recover a fumble in a meaningless game against the Denver Broncos. The only way that 17-game differential gets broken during this year’s campaign is if the Chargers fight their way into the postseason.
The discussion about who is the better quarterback will never stop. Don’t forget, however, that despite never making it to the Super Bowl, Fouts was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Is that honor in Rivers’ future, as well? Only time will tell, but he is so far up the record books, how could it not?!
All in all, the 2016 football season is shaping up to be one to remember!
Thanks for reading!