NBC 7's Derek Togerson looks at the possibility of the Chargers trading Philip Rivers in this commentary.
Since it apparently this whole, “The Chargers should trade/are going to trade/might trade/are thinking about trading Philip Rivers” thing is going to be a weekly occurrence, I suppose we should address the issue as it pops up.
I’ll go ahead and tell you I think it’s the dumbest idea since letting George Lucas have ANYTHING to do with the fourth Indiana Jones film (did we learn NOTHING from the prequels, people???) and right on par with Crystal Pepsi, but that’s not important right now.
This week the Chargers front office and offensive coaching staff did go to Oregon for a private workout with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Instead of offering an emotional reason for why trading Philip Rivers to acquire Mariota is akin to jumping off a roof and landing on a bicycle with the seat missing, let’s look at some facts.
FACT: Philip Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
I’ve seen the Facebook comments from all you folks who dislike Philip or say he’s not a winner or say the Chargers are better off without him. You all are probably the ones who don’t realize his career completion percentage is better than Steve Young and Tom Brady. His career touchdown to interception ratio is better than Drew Brees and Joe Montana. His career passer rating is better than Kurt Warner and Dan Marino. The Chargers have not won a Super Bowl in spite of having Philip Rivers, not because they have Philip Rivers.
FACT: Drafting a quarterback in the first round is, at best, a crapshoot.
Since Rivers came in to the league in 2004, there have been 31 quarterbacks taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. Here’s the list:
1) Eli Manning
4) Philip Rivers
11) Ben Roethlisberger
22) J.P. Losman
1) Alex Smith
24) Aaron Rodgers
25) Jason Campbell
3) Vince Young
10) Matt Leinart
11) Jay Cutler
1) JaMarcus Russell
22) Brady Quinn
3) Matt Ryan
18) Joe Flacco
1) Matthew Stafford
5) Mark Sanchez
17) Josh Freeman
1) Sam Bradford
25) Tim Tebow
1) Cam Newton
8) Jake Locker
10) Blaine Gabbert
12) Christian Ponder
1) Andrew Luck
2) Robert Griffin III
8) Ryan Tannehill
22) Brandon Weeden
16) E.J. Manuel
3) Blake Bortles
22) Johnny Manziel
32) Teddy Bridgewater
On that list we see five true superstar QB’s (Rivers, Manning, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Luck), five solid starters who can take a team on a deep playoff run (Smith, Ryan, Flacco, Stafford, Newton), two guys who make you go, “Meh” (Cutler, Tannehill), two guys who have been injured and not really let us see their full potential (Bradford, Griffin III), three guys we don’t know about yet because it’s only been one year (Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater), a proven winner playing out of position (Tebow), the biggest bust in NFL Draft history (Russell), and by far the largest category: 12 outright failures (Losman, Campbell, Young, Leinart, Quinn, Sanchez, Freeman, Locker, Gabbert, Ponder, Weeden, Manuel).
FACT: Rivers keeps himself in tremendous physical shape and has, as Chargers general manager Tom Telesco himself has said, a number of good years left.
Since Philip is 33 years old, and Tom Brady just won a Super Bowl MVP award at 37, let’s say that number is four. Well, Rivers is under contract for one of those years. He’s said he does not want to sign an extension until after his current contract is up, which makes sense. There’s plenty of time for negotiating after the season ends and Rivers would probably like to see which direction the team is heading before committing to another multi-year deal.
Keep in mind, the Chargers have the option of using the Franchise Tag on Rivers for 2016, so he’s really under their control for two more years unless he decides to retire (a possibility, but not a probability), so that gets us through two of those four years with a proven NFL QB. The rookie contract for first round picks runs four years plus a team option for a 5th. If the Chargers have the option of sticking with a proven commodity like Rivers, or moving on to an unknown variable like Mariota, over the same time frame, why would they not choose the former?
FACT: The Chargers do not have many pieces in place to help Mariota succeed.
It would be difficult to find two more diametrically contradicting styles of QB than Rivers and Mariota. Philip is a pocket passer in the truest sense of the phrase that has never run a sub-5.0 second 40-yard dash in his life. Mariota is a physical freak with speed to burn who best knows a pocket as, “that area I just ran out of.” If the Bolts are going to try and force Mariota in to their system, it’s going to take at least a couple of years to see if he can handle it. During that time they say adios to Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, and possibly Keenan Allen, because his rookie deal is up after 2016 and if he’s not getting the ball enough he’ll be long gone.
But, if they’re going to let him roam and add some spread option to the attack, they have the wrong offensive linemen in place. Typically you’re looking for guys who are a bit lighter and quicker for that kind of system. The massive King Dunlap, Orlando Franklin and D.J. Fluker do not exactly fit the description.
If the Chargers do decide to pull off a deal of this magnitude, it signals a complete overhaul of the franchise. Now, I’d like to think that’s not in the cards, although it is hard to think a team picking 17th in the Draft would fly to Oregon to see a guy widely thought to be a top-10 pick if they were not at least entertaining the thought of making a play for him.
Now, perhaps that’s what Telesco is thinking. Maybe he sees all their salary cap space in 2016 and 2017 and views it as an opportunity to build a champion from scratch with Mariota as the lynchpin.
Or, maybe he’s thinking about adding Mariota and keeping Rivers. It’s simply assumed the Chargers would only bring on the Heisman Trophy winner if they cut ties with their veteran leader. However, if the Chargers see Mariota start slipping in the Draft and have a chance to go up a few picks and get him without sacrificing their Pro Bowl quarterback, having Mariota play the role of Rivers’ padawan for a year is not the worst idea in the world. It would set the kid up to have a much better chance of a successful jump to the NFL.
Or, maybe he’s just been in San Diego too long and wants to see some rain.
All I know is Tom Telesco has forgotten more about building a football team than the rest of us will ever know. The last two years he’s been building the talent around Philip Rivers, understanding he has a Super Bowl-caliber passer in place, and he’s getting closer to having a roster with enough talent to truly contend.
Suddenly pulling the plug on that and starting fresh because that QB isn’t sure he wants to move to Los Angeles, which might not even happen, is borderline insanity.
The NFL is a business. Good businesses know the concept of supply and demand. The supply of impact quarterbacks is not enough to fill the demand. If you have an Ace, why on earth would you trade it away for a Wild Card?