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!
Danny Woodhead is wide open.
If someone were to have told me, that Philip Rivers would throw for 503 yards, two touchdowns with no interceptions – that Keenan Allen would pile on the 14 receptions for 157 yards AND the Chargers would dominate time of possession but still would lose the game??
I would have asked you to check yourself into rehab.
Leading up to Sunday’s game, there was hardly anybody that picked the Chargers to hang with the Packers. After all, Green Bay was 9-1 against San Diego, a 10-point favorite and had not lost at home since December 22, 2013. There were some sports pundits that made viewers feel that the Bolts were going to star in the 1974 movie “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” However, what was happening before our very eyes seemed to sway more towards the Biblical tale of “David vs. Goliath.”
With career days for Rivers and Allen, visions of a celebration that would be of epic proportion appeared to be a very strong possibility. The game plan implemented going into Lambeau, was planned perfectly. The “dink-and-dunk” theory had shown in the past that it would work against the Packers. And who is better to execute that philosophy than Rivers, Allen and Antonio Gates (9 receptions for 95 yards). The question during the game was not “Can the Chargers offense continue to move the ball?” It was rather, “Can they stop the Packers’ offense?”
Has anyone ever coined the phrase “Offense wins championships?”
It has been said that Paul “Bear” Bryant coined the phrase “Defense wins championships.” I am in total agreement with this statement. With an average offense at best, look at what Seattle has done over the last few seasons with their “Legion of Boom.” Like it or not, people remember great defenses more so than great offenses.
Let me check your football history. Raise your hand if you have heard of:
“The Steel Curtain.”
“Purple People Eaters”
“Monsters of the Midway”
Those teams dominated the defensive side of the ball and won Championships. Of course there are creative offenses that are a household names as well:
“Greatest Show on Turf”
However, outside the St. Louis Rams, no other offensive team listed won a Super Bowl. What does that tell you? What it tells me is that offenses sell tickets and win games, but defenses win Championships. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were two other Super Bowl winners who had league-leading defenses. The quarterbacks that lead those offenses? Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, respectively – neither of whom could hold a candle to Philip Rivers
Now back to my earlier question, “Can they stop the Packers’ offense?” The indisputable answer would be “No.”
The defense has improved with personnel, however they continue to struggle; injuries or not. In fact, this passage from ProFootballFocus.com sums it up perfectly:
“The Chargers front seven continues to be completely ineffective against both the run and pass. On the defensive line, not a single player had a pass rushing grade of +1.0 or above. One has to wonder how much more they have to see from Donald Butler (-3.8) until they decide to go with someone else at inside linebacker. On Sunday he was a complete non-factor, collecting one stop in 56 snaps. He has graded negatively overall in every single game this year.”
For a while, the defense showed life in the second half, as Aaron Rodgers could not move the ball; resulting in back to back three-and-outs. Unfortunately until San Diego can consistently stop good offenses from moving the ball, the Chargers will continue to lose in heartbreak fashion. It does not matter how amazing Rivers plays, or how many fumbles Melvin Gordon has coughed up, if they cannot disrupt the opposing team’s offense by mixing up their looks, theirr record will continue to be paltry at best.
There is no doubt in my mind, that this 2015 San Diego team can compete at a high level and go far into the playoffs. Even with a 2-4 record, even with the players being infected by the injury bug, San Diego was still one play away from beating Pittsburgh at home and one play away from going into overtime against the undefeated Packers in Green Bay.
By the way, for those still wondering…Woodhead is still wide open in the end zone.
Thanks for reading.
Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott
Story Written by Chris Curran ( @ccurran2744 )
Rivers and Manning will forever be linked and debated. The media bias leans toward Manning. I know it’shard to argue with two Super Bowl wins. I could counter that if the quarterbacks switched teams, Rivers would have two titles as well.
After 2003, Drew Brees was not panning out as a Charger QB. The local team was picking first overall. AJ Smith was not very high on Brees and was in the market for a new starting QB.
There were three QB’s in the 2004 draft that were considered first round talent. There was a quarterback from Mississippi with “Manning” on his back that was pretty good. Roethlisberger from Miami of Ohio University and Rivers from North Carolina State were considerations as well.
Roethlisberger, or “Big Ben,” was big and strong with a tremendous arm. He could move and throw on the run with the best improvisational skills. He played his college ball in the MAC.
Rivers started every game in four years. He brought respectability to a college program that rarely won anything and was a College Bowl MVP five times in four years. He was considered an exceptional leader and held a high football IQ,
Manning had the best mechanics and an NFL pedigree that will never be matched. A solid first round talent, although I do believe if his name was not Manning he would have been the number three among the quarterbacks taken in round one of the 2004 NFL draft.
Archie Manning announced that his youngest boy would not play for the San Diego Chargers. Archie refused to state any reason for this other than to say the Chargers were not a good fit for his son. Maybe he did not like the Spanos Family. Maybe he was not a Schottenheimer fan. Maybe he remembers the beating, he himself, took in New Orleans on a lousy team and was afraid to have history repeat itself. Maybe a combination of all three made him pull his Royal ‘Manning card’ to not have his son play for a franchise stuck in nine years of playoff futility.
In 1983, John Elway let everyone know he did not want to play in Baltimore, the reason being his family had no respect for then coach, Frank Cush. Jack Elway (John’s father) and Cush were not the best of friends. John Elway spoke for himself to the press and Baltimore Colts. I lost complete respect for Eli when he let his father do all his bidding.
In 2004 Ernie Accorsi, General Manager of the New York Giants, held the fourth overall picks.The Giants needed a quarterback. Accorsi, being famous in football circlesfor losing arguably the highest rated quarterback prospect ever. Elway was lost in a post draft trade to Denver made by the owner after selecting him number one overall. That pick was against the Elway family wishes. In 2004 Accorsi had his heart set on Eli Manning. Accorsi relayed this info to Archie early on and later let the press know of his desire to draft Eli Manning.
As the draft approached Charger General Manager, AJ Smith, was about to make his shrewdest and greatest move as an NFL executive.
AJ may have coveted Rivers all along. He did not cave to a pre draft trade proposal by New York. AJ held off until his price was met. He even went so far as to select Eli first overall. I still remember the constipated look on Eli’s face as he reluctantly held up the Charger jersey and cap with Goodell.
The Raiders selected offensive lineman Robert Gallery second overall and Arizona took wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald third overall, the Giants were on the clock and picked Rivers. No one in the Giants war room even had the courtesy to call Rivers about being their selection, reason being that a deal was being consummated with the Chargers. In order to obtain Manning number one overall, the Giants traded Rivers, who was number four overall, a third round pick in the current draft, a first round and fifth round pick in the following year. The Chargers turned those picks into kicker Nate Kaeding, outside linebacker, Shawne Merriman and offensive lineman, Roman Oben.
As for the 3rd QB taken in round one of 2004, Roethlisberger was drafted by Pittsburgh and has been very successful. He has two glaring negatives, these being durability and a questionable character at best.
Due to the Drew Brees hangover, Eli had twenty-one more career starts early in his career. This and the two playoff runs give the edge to Eli. You cannot take away the results. Most other remaining intangibles do go to Rivers. Completion percentage, yards per game, touchdown-interception ratio and quarterback rating are all in Rivers favor. Both quarterbacks have been durable and have yet to miss a start.
So, if the two Super Bowl wins are the benchmark, lets examine them. Does anyone think Doug Williams, Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer, or Brad Johnson are better than Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly or Warren Moon?
Eli’s Giants had a superior dominant defensive line. An ill-advised pass, and other bone headed decisions by Brett Favre led to crucial turnovers. A down field heave throw up for grabs followed by a fluke catch off a helmet? These plays led to Eli’s first Super Bowl win. A 49er fumbled a punt in the Red Zone and a crucial Wes Welker drop led to Eli’s second Super Bowl win. I understand a win is a win and that is the bottom line. However, there are always other factors that lead to wins and losses outside quarterback play.
So if Eli gets credit for these play-off wins, then is Rivers to blame for Charger playoff losses? Rivers played without his pro bowl tight end, A. Gates, and pro bowl running back, L. Tomlinson. Playing on a completely torn ACL factors in to. Kaeding missed three field goals in each of Rivers’ playoff losses. Not to mention, the cluster of Marty gaffes, (fumbled punt, dropped TD, several personal fouls, going for it on 4th and 11, etc.) in the 24-21 home loss to the New England Patriots.
Like I said, the comparisons may never end, but if I were building a team, I would start with Rivers. How about you?