The 2004 NFL draft changed the course of two NFL franchises on opposite sides of the country. The San Diego Chargers selected Eli Manning with the first overall pick, while the New York Giants snagged Philip Rivers at number four; a draft-day trade, however, would send each quarterback to the opposite club. With the 2019 season coming to a close, though, things are starting to change.
Manning has barely played this season, and, in California, Philip Rivers is about to hit free agency. That doesn’t mean the Chargers quarterback is ready to call it a career, though.
Philip Rivers’ career with the Chargers
Philip Rivers didn’t become the fourth overall pick by accident. The quarterback posted four strong seasons at North Carolina State, piling up 13,848 yards and 95 touchdowns with the Wolfpack. When the Chargers learned that Eli Manning had no intention of signing coming to San Diego, the organization tabbed Rivers as their franchise quarterback.
Lengthy contract negotiations, however, inhibited the start of Rivers’ career. By the time the young quarterback agreed to a deal, training camp was almost over; at that point, there was no way Rivers could overtake Drew Brees for the starting job. The fourth-overall pick remained on the bench for most of the 2004 and 2005 seasons, but he would eventually get his shot under center.
At the end of the 2005 campaign, Brees suffered a career-threatening injury; while he eventually returned to action, the quarterback left San Diego for New Orleans. Rivers finally got his shot at the top job. While his career has had its share of ups and downs, the quarterback has been a rock for the Chargers; he might not have gotten the franchise over the hump, but he has thrown for 395 touchdowns and almost 60,000 yards.
No matter what happens, it’s not time for retirement
On the surface, though, quite a few factors suggest that the quarterback could leave the Chargers. Rivers has spent the season struggling behind a porous offensive line; the 38-year-old might not want to subject himself to that sort of punishment when there’s no shot of winning the Super Bowl, let alone the AFC West. The veteran has also said that the Chargers’ new stadium wouldn’t motivate him to return to the club.
Even if both parties go their separate ways, Rivers isn’t ready to retire. “I’m capable enough physically and mentally, there’s no question,” the quarterback explained. “Yes, I do want to play football. I do, and that’s how I feel deep down as I stand here.”
Could Philip Rivers really leave the Chargers?
At the end of the day, Philip Rivers’ fate probably comes down to the Chargers’ organizational draft board. If the club doesn’t see an obvious heir—similar to how they picked Rivers to replace Drew Brees—they could work out a short-term deal to keep the quarterback under center. If they see a college QB they like and feel he can start immediately, then there’s no reason not to turn the page; if you’re going to flounder next year, you won’t gain anything by having a slightly better QB.
If the quarterback does hit the open market, the Oakland Raiders seem like they might be a sneakily good fit for Philip Rivers. The club is reportedly considering moving on from Derek Carr. They’re closer to competing than the Chargers, and Las Vegas could fit Rivers’ geographic requirements; while the city is a little over 300 miles from San Diego, it wouldn’t be impossible for the quarterback to continue taking part in family life.
Sunday might be Philip Rivers’ last game as a Charger, but his NFL career isn’t over yet.