The prevailing thought on Philip Rivers is that he started to show serious signs of decline in 2019.
The stats show it. The eye test seemed to confirm it. The Los Angeles Chargers never tried to re-sign him, announcing shortly after the Super Bowl they were cutting ties. They are currently taking the stance that they are happy with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback.
But that didn’t matter to the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts signed Rivers to a one-year, $25 million contract. Colts coach Frank Reich looked at the film and thinks every other indicator — numbers, age, the Chargers’ disinterest in bringing him back — is wrong.
He thought Rivers was the best available match for the Colts. That includes another quarterback he studied: Tom Brady.
Colts looked at Tom Brady and Philip Rivers
Reich made it clear that Rivers, 38, was the Colts’ target. And yes, that included Brady.
According to a transcript of Reich’s call with the Colts media this week, via 107.5 The Fan, Reich responded to a question about whether Indianapolis pursued Brady by saying Rivers was the better fit.
“We really felt like Philip was the right guy for us,” Reich said. “We did look at all the guys. I did look at [Brady’s] tape. The guy is incredible. I watched all of his tape from the last two years, I think he’s still playing a super high level.
“For us, we got the guy that is the right fit for us, but this is a guy [Brady] who I respect and admire immensely along with everybody else … I don’t know if I would say [Brady and the Colts] wasn’t a fit, there’s always a fit when you have a great player, maybe the best player of all time. There’s a lot of factors that go into these things.”
Many of the concerns about Rivers and Brady are the same, and most center around their age. Brady, 42, has the best NFL résumé ever, and Rivers has a good Hall of Fame case, but that doesn’t make them impervious to aging. Yet, the Colts feel good that Rivers is still the same player he was at his peak.
Rivers slumped in 2019
Rivers’ numbers were down practically across the board last season. He had more yards than he did in 2018 because he had more attempts, but that’s about it. His passer rating was 105.5 in 2018 and 88.5 last season.
Reich looked at the film and was unfazed.
“I was so confident that physically he was the right player and he had not lost anything,” Reich said, via 107.5 The Fan. “All the throws that I saw on film and as I go back and study them compared to previous throws, I really didn’t notice any physical gifts diminishing at all. I really didn’t.
“It wasn’t so much about what Jacoby [Brissett] wasn’t doing, it was about a unique opportunity to get who we feel is an elite, Hall of Fame quarterback and can help our team.”
The Colts have convinced themselves Rivers is still in his prime, the same way the Buccaneers feel Brady at age 42 has the “ideal arm” for their deep-passing offense. Perhaps the Colts are right. If they are, and Rivers plays like he did in 2018, Indianapolis could be the Super Bowl contender it looked like before Andrew Luck’s retirement.
It’s a high-stakes gamble, and Reich seems convinced it was the right one.
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