The 2019 NFL season was a dismal one for the Los Angeles Chargers, who posted a lowly 5-11 record. That poor showing caught many off guard, especially after the Chargers manage to compile a 12-4 record in 2018. Yet even their successful seasons have been something of a disappointment for the Chargers, who remain one of just a few teams never to win a Super Bowl.
The Chargers’ dysfunction recently reached a head, when the team announced that longtime quarterback Philip Rivers will become a free agent this offseason, rather than returning to the team next year. Here we take a look at Rivers’ time with the Chargers, the role that his relationship with coach Anthony Lynn played in the decision to let him go, and some potential landing spots for Rivers.
Philip Rivers’ career with the Chargers
The Chargers — then located in San Diego — drafted Philip Rivers with the first pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. Initially, the Chargers intended to draft Eli Manning, but after he announced that he would not sign with the franchise, they selected Rivers instead. Ultimately, Rivers would go on to star as the Chargers starting quarterback for 16 seasons.
Rivers racked up a lot of individual accomplishments in that time. As of January 2019, he was the eighth-highest-rated passer in all of NFL history. He was also number six all-time in touchdowns thrown, as well as in most years per pass attempt. Rivers is also in the top 10 in career pass completion percentages.
Records like those tend to indicate a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback. Yet in his entire tenure with the Chargers, Rivers never managed to lead the team to a Super Bowl win — or even a Super Bowl appearance, for that matter. Rivers won just five postseason games as an NFL starter, including only one AFC Championship Game appearance.
Relationship with coach Anthony Lynn
The Chargers hired Anthony Lynn as their new head coach in January 2017, following their poor 2016 season under then head-coach Mike McCoy. Oddly enough, the team announced Lynn’s hiring at the same press conference where the team announced their relocation from San Diego to Los Angeles.
The Chargers’ performance improved in both of the first two seasons with Lynn as coach. They posted a 9-7 record in 2017, and a 12-4 record in 2018, when they also made the postseason for the first time since 2013. Despite that positive progression, the 2019 season saw the Chargers slide back into mediocrity.
It wouldn’t be fair to place blame for the season on Philip Rivers, who completed 66% of his passes, racking up 4615 passing yards in the process — numbers on par with his most effective seasons. So why did the Chargers make the surprising decision to let their franchise quarterback walk away at the end of the season?
One of the most compelling theories holds that Rivers’ style of play just didn’t mesh with coach Lynn’s vision for the team. Lynn reportedly wants a more athletic quarterback, one who shows more on-field mobility. Conveniently, the Chargers have a perfect candidate moving forward in backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
What happens to Philip Rivers now
At 38 years old, Philip Rivers is nearing the end of his NFL career. It wouldn’t be a complete surprise if he decided to hang up his helmet and call it good. Yet most league analysts agree that Rivers still has plenty of game left in him. That raises the intriguing question of where he might end up next season if he decides to stay in the league.
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose to part ways with Jameis Winston, then Rivers would make a great fill-in while they search for their next long-term quarterback. Although Rivers likely doesn’t want to hang around in the AFC West, he could be an interesting fit with the Denver Broncos. Still, a lot of analysts agree that the Indianapolis Colts look like the most likely destination for Rivers.