The year is 2004, and the NFL draft is near for the San Diego Chargers. The quarterback position was a need as this Charger team just finished 2003 with a 4-12 record. Drew Brees, after starting 11 games, was coming off a really bad season, and the Chargers had talent and needed someone to make this talent work for wins. The Chargers had the first pick and a certain QB from Ole Miss, Eli Manning, was the top prospect at the QB position. There was a curveball, Eli was refusing to play for the Chargers even if they drafted him. Late at the midnight hour, the Chargers ended up drafting Eli, but because the New York Giants selected a guy the Chargers wanted all along they ended up working out a trade and this is how Philip Rivers out of North Carolina State became a Charger.
Rivers sat behind QB Drew Brees for a season and a half as the Chargers made the postseason in his rookie year, 2004. After a disappointing loss to the New York Jets in the Wild Card round, the Chargers franchised tagged Brees and brought him back for another year and see what would happen. Brees ended up playing terribly in ’05 and even ended up tearing his throwing shoulder which made the decision easier for General Manager AJ Smith to let Brees go and roll with Rivers as the future.
In 2006, Rivers’ first year as the starting QB the Chargers excelled like no other. Ladanian (LT) Tomlinson ended up topping the all-time TD record and winning the MVP. Rivers lead the team to a 14-2 record and earned the first seed in the AFC conference. Unfortunately, the Chargers ended up meeting QB Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. After a few missed field goals and a Marlon McCree fumble, the Chargers met their demise. The 2006 season was so special for me because my father was a die-hard charger fan and he was fighting chemo and eventually lost his battle to brain cancer before the season started. I felt like my father was watching this magical season with me even though he was gone. My dad loved when we traded for Rivers and told me these words… “He is gonna be special.” Unbeknownst to me at that time Rivers was special.
Rivers’ playing career is done as he will finish with a 134-106 record which puts him 8th All-Time in games won, 63,440 Passing Yards which puts him 5th All-Time, 421 Passing Touchdowns which also ranks him 5th All-Time, 64.9% Completion Percentage which puts him 14th All-Time, 95.2 Passer Rating which puts him 12th All-Time, and 5,277 Completed Passes which ranks him 5th All-Time as well. Rivers also is 10th All-Time in Fourth Quarter Comebacks with 29. He also owns the second-longest consecutive starting streak (244) of All-Time behind Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre (297). The postseason resume is a little weak which will hurt River’s chances of making the Hall of Fame first ballot, and no MVP or All-Pro. He finishes his playoff career with a 5-7 record, 59.4% Completion Percentage, 2,965 passing yards, 16 Passing Touchdowns, 10 INT, and an 85.3 Passer Rating.
Rivers chose this day, January 20th, because he played in the AFC title game in ’07 against the Patriots with no ACL and showed the world what type of courage he has. I will never forget his smack talk with no cursing, his will to win attitude, his leadership on and off the field, his faith, his slower than molasses style of running, his passion and love for this game, his bolo ties, his dadgummit, and of course his throwing mechanics. Through all the adversity with failed postseasons, incumbent organization choices and deals, relocation from San Diego to LA, Rivers remained loyal to the soil here in San Diego where he thanked God every day that this was his home for so many years.
There will never be another #17 like Philip Rivers. Thank you for everything you have done for the city of San Diego, and for putting the Chargers on your back for so many years. From a young teenager to a 31-year-old man who watched you every Sunday “Thank you #17!”