Philip Rivers answered questions in a bolo tie after knocking the Cincinnati Bengals out of the playoffs this afternoon. He’ll receive jokes about his unique selection of post game attire, just like he’s been the brunt of jokes about the fact he married his junior high sweetheart and they have seven children; but Rivers is used to it. He’s been criticized and questioned for years. Despite the jokes and the questions, he’s quietly become one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. While sports writers joke about his style, both throwing and in fashion, it seems the only ones trying to vindicate Philip Rivers in the eyes of the world are the writers themselves. Philip Rivers is fine with himself.
Rivers’ journey started years ago, when he went against the grain and chose to play football at North Carolina State instead of school’s ripe with football tradition in Auburn and Alabama. Rivers’ four year career at North Carolina State was nothing short of terrific. He led NC State to four bowl games, earned four bowl MVPs, became one of the ACC’s most prolific quarterbacks, and was named the ACC Player of the Year. Everything about Rivers screamed elite. Despite Rivers’ great career and accomplishments, despite his 2003 season, he went uninvited to the Heisman Trophy presentation.
For Philip Rivers, his career became forever overshadowed by the draft’s drama. For those who don’t remember, Rivers and Eli Manning became one of the most memorable draft day trades in the history of the NFL.
The Chargers sought Eli. It was not a secret. But Eli, in an epic hissy, declared he would not sign with San Diego. From that moment, Rivers’ career was laid out before him. He and Eli were traded, Rivers to San Diego from New York and Eli from San Diego to New York.
Stuck behind Drew Brees and Doug Flutie, Rivers waited. He spent his first two seasons watching, learning, and waiting. When Brees left for New Orleans for bigger money, doubt filled the San Diego organization. Rivers responded; and has been responding for seven seasons. Throwing at least 20 touchdowns, completing at least 60 percent of his passes in each season as a starter, and acquiring a career QB rating of 96.0, Rivers has been one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated quarterbacks in the NFL.
Bluntly said, Philip Rivers is one of the best QBs in the league. His 2013 season is a perfect microcosm of his career. He has led the San Diego Chargers into the playoffs by the slimmest of margins. He threw for 32 touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 105.5, the second highest in his career. Another great year and the Chargers are slide into the playoffs, and again, it was overshadowed by a Manning.
Having led the Chargers over the Bengals on the road, Rivers now sets his sights on what would be one of the biggest upsets in playoff history. Having defeated the Broncos in Denver once already, there is no shortage of confidence in San Diego. Rivers will be ready for the game. He’ll lead Danny Woodhead, Ryan Mathews, and Keenan Allen, a bunch of underdog Chargers into the frigid Denver air.
The Broncos will be heavy favorites. Peyton Manning’s play is nothing short of amazing. There is still a lot of doubt surrounding the Chargers and Philip Rivers. After all, his postseason track record isn’t nearly as stellar. But I’ll be one of the first ones to say, don’t be surprised if Denver is silent next Sunday night. And Philip Rivers will be a big reason.
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