Upon the announcement that Philip Rivers was calling it a career, sports media immediately jumped on the question of whether or not he belongs in the pro football hall of fame.
Thinking about Sunday’s without Phil Rivers pic.twitter.com/herbytS29P
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) January 20, 2021
Well my friend Mike Gilligan and I have been hard at it debating back and forth about Rivers’ merits to be enshrined as one of the greatest to play the game. And you can read his blog on Couch Guy Sports about why he believes Rivers does not belong in the hall of fame.
But this piece of literature is about why Philip Michael Rivers does indeed deserve a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame.
No Fluffing Rings
Rivers has never played in a Super Bowl let alone won one, that is well known.
He made it to one AFC Championship game on a hobbled knee and was beaten by the 18-1 Patriots.
From that point on, through five more trips to the post season, he never made it past the divisional round. How much blame falls at the feet of Rivers?
Well let’s just say that there is a reason The Manning’s forced Eli out of San Diego. Under the ownership of Dean Spanos the Chargers have known nothing but inconsistency.
He fired Marty Schottenheimer after Rivers first full season as the starter in 2006. After the best season season in franchise history going 14-2 and replaced him with Norv Turner.
Rivers has had four different coaches during his career. Schottenheimer, Turner, Mike McCoy and Anthony Lynn.
Imagine if you will had the roles been reversed. Brees stays in San Diego and Rivers goes to New Orleans and teams up with Sean Payton? I feel as though I would be writing a blog debating Drew Brees’ merits for the hall instead.
Spanos’ judgement in running a football team can be seen in his hasty move to Los Angeles where the Chargers have become a running gag in terms of attendance.
Rivers has had weapons sure. LaDainian Tomlinson was alongside him for a brief but productive time.
Antonio Gates is a sure fire hall of famer in my book.
Vincent Jackson and Keenan Allen while they may not be getting tan jackets at the end of their careers are certainly very talented receivers.
But yet the Chargers always had something missing. But is that on Rivers? He can only play with what is given to him.
And take it a step further. What if Rivers never gets drafted by the Giants and traded to San Diego?
Very real possibility. If Eli stays in in San Diego, the Giants actually preferred Roethlisberger. And the Steelers actually preferred Rivers. Imagine Rivers playing with the stability and weapons that Roethlisberger has enjoyed his entire hall of fame career?
I truly feel for Justin Herbert.
Elite In a Dadgummit Tough Era
Rivers was stuck in a tough era for quarterback recognition.
Bill Polian’s crocodile tears paved the way for offenses to attack through the air with unprecedented fire power.
Rivers in his own conference was butting heads with the likes of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
And while it was fun to make the joke on the internet of whether or not Joe Flacco is elite or not. To my memory we never asked the same question of Philip Rivers, the answer was always simply, yes.
And in diving into the stats, I looked at four main groups. Completion %, yards, touchdowns and interceptions.
Of those four stats Rivers during the 15 seasons he played, was in the top ten of completion %, yards and touchdowns all together eight years of those 15. He was in the top ten of interceptions five times.
And only once, during the 2007 season was he outside of the top ten in the three categories mentioned, while also being in the top ten for interceptions. Toss that year aside as an anomaly.
This was an era dominated by names like Manning, Brady, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Ryan and at the end Wilson, Mahomes and Watson.
Any quarterback can put together a decent season and land himself in the top ten of those categories for a year or two. Rivers did it consistently for almost 15 years.
That my friends is elite.
Golly Good Career Numbers
hall of fame numbers. pic.twitter.com/txStWkCeAg
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) January 22, 2021
Passing Touchdowns: 5th All Time (421)
This is one touchdown better than Dan Marino. It’s also the most touchdown passes among his peers of that 2004 quarterback draft class (Manning and Roethlisberger).
In fact Rivers is the highest player outside of the group of 500 touchdown passes (Brady, Brees, Manning, Favre).
Passing Yards: 5th All Time (63,440)
Again one spot ahead of Dan Marino. I know, I know, the rules and offensive schemes are much easier for Rivers to rack up yards compared to when Marino played but my next point will I think dispel that theory.
And again, Rivers finds himself behind only names like Brees, Brady, Manning and Favre.
Pass Attempts: 6th All Time (8,134) Pass Completions: 5th All Time (5,277)
You might be surprised to realize that Rivers is actually behind Marino in pass attempts and ahead of him in completions.
Despite Marino playing in an era where they didn’t throw the ball. Now you could argue that it was easier to complete a pass now a days. But still with fewer attempts than the stat king Dan Marino, Rivers has more yards, completions and touchdowns.
And yet somehow Mike Gilligan will try and convince you that someone who finishes their career inside the top five of these categories doesn’t belong in the hall.
Compared to Common Sons of Guns
Lets compare Rivers to some closer peers. Obviously he doesn’t have the clear cut resume of a Brady or Peyton Manning but who are some guys that could set a precedent for Rivers.
Dan Fouts (Hall of Fame)
Yes the guy who loves to talk on TV every Sunday without making any actual point is in the hall of fame. This is a fair comparison since he and Rivers are the two greatest Charger quarterbacks of all time.
Fouts was a lot like Marino in that he was well ahead of his era. He easily led the league multiple times in yards and touchdowns. Yet he doesn’t come anywhere close to Rivers on the all time career lists and Fouts much like Rivers also does not have a Super Bowl.
Pro Football Reference gives players a statistic called “Approximate Value.” Their value to the franchise during their years of service. Rivers by far and away is the greatest Charger of all time. His AV is 204. Fouts finds himself tied for second with Junior Seau (Also in the HOF) at 162.
You’re trying to tell me Rivers doesn’t deserve the same recognition as Seau and Fouts?
Dan Marino (Hall of Fame)
This is a quick summary from the previous section. Rivers in terms of all time stats leads Marino in yards, touchdowns and completions despite fewer attempts playing in a pass happy era.
Rivers also fits the Marino bill of not winning a championship, yet still being hall of fame worthy.
Honestly this one is still a debate for me. To me Eli wasn’t elite for a long time like Rivers was. Eli has two rings solely based on the fact that he got hot (lucky) twice.
Manning led the league in a prominent category three times. Care to name them? It was interceptions, thrice. In 2007, 2010 and 2013.
Ask yourself this, if Manning doesn’t topple the mighty Patriots twice including their run at a perfect season, do we view his super bowl wins the same way? If he beats Big Ben and the Steelers instead do we give it the same recognition? I don’t think so. I think the legacy of his championships is tied more to the fact that they came against Brady.
Personally I think Rivers has the better case to the hall than Eli does.
I think we might be making this same argument for Matt Ryan in a few years when the show is over for him. No rings, came close, but put up big numbers for an inconsistent organization.
What Ryan has going for him over Rivers is a MVP award from his 2016 season. Rivers has made eight pro bowls for whatever that’s really worth. But doesn’t have an All-Pro selection or a MVP.
Ryan currently finds himself in the top ten in the NFL in career yards, touchdowns attempts and completions. He could challenge Rivers for that tier of great numbers but no championships to solidify those results.
And if you ask me, yes Ryan is a Hall of Famer. He’s that same boat where he was considered an elite quarterback for an extended period of time despite going up against names like Brady, Rodgers and Wilson.
Kurt Warner (Hall of Fame)
This is an interesting choice for me. Warner has the tan jacket for basically two stints of greatness. He had a brief three year run with the “Greatest Show on Turf” where he took home two MVP awards. And led the league for three straight years in completion %, twice in touchdowns and once for yards.
Then injuries struck him in 2002 and eventually forced him out of St. Louis, and to New York. Where at 33 years old he looked washed up and eventually was replaced by Eli Manning half way through the campaign.
Only to rejuvenate his career in the desert with the Cardinals and make it to a super bowl. However as good as he was, he did not lead the league in any categories.
So looking back at Warner’s career, he helped orchestrate one of the best offenses in football for three years. Put up gaudy numbers only to fall off the wagon and journeyman his way to Arizona.
Warner has two MVP awards and one ring for about six years of real productive football and he’s in the hall of fame as one of the greatest to ever do it? Hmmmm.
As I said, players can have dominant stretches for a career, but sustained success over a long period of time is something to be admired.
If you can’t tell I’m using Philip Rivers curse words for my segment titles. I mean forget the numbers and wins, the dude has a hall of fame personality.
Get Phil to Canton
I end my analysis with this. Rivers has consistently put up impressive numbers year after year to create what was an incredible career despite the lack of consistency and support that surrounded him during his time with the Chargers.
When we think back to this era of football he will be remembered as one of the best during that time. No he is not a Brady, Manning, Roethlisberger or Rodgers. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a place in the hall of fame.
Rivers was statistically one of the best quarterbacks of his time and era. Unfortunately he was placed in an organization that never fully utilized his talents which is what ultimately drags down his Hall of Fame worthy resume.
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