Krasovic: What should the Chargers do with Rivers?
By Tom Krasovic
Monday, November 12, 2012
What should the Chargers do with Philip Rivers?
Let s start with the easiest answer.
They should keep giving him the ball.
In my mind, it s not a question who the quarterback should be -- but
I ve heard from several Chargers fans who want either to plug in Charlie
Whitehurst or draft a quarterback next April.
Sorry. Unless it s a mustache contest, Charlie isn t as good as Chatty Phil.
And unless Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III returns to college soon, I
doubt any draft-eligible quarterbacks are close to becoming as capable
as Rivers should be over the next few years.
At 30, Rivers is six years younger than Peyton Manning and five years
Tom Brady s junior. He should have many good seasons ahead of him.
That s not to say his athleticism and arm strength are firm assets as
age is creeping up on him, as we ll touch on below.
Another easy one is that the Chargers should surround Rivers with better
talent. Of course they should. Let A.J. Smith know that it s OK to draft
a blocker in the first or second round. Sure seems to be working for the
49ers and Broncos. Find Rivers a second tight end who is a downfield
threat. Hoodie figured that one out a few years ago.
Another good receiver or two? Sure, why not. As Vincent Jackson, Darren
Sproles and Laurent Robinson have reminded us, keeping them makes sense too.
Let s not forget that Vincent Brown should be catching passes next year,
if not next month.
Now let s get to the hard part: the interceptions.
They ve plagued Rivers for the last two seasons. For all his good work,
they were critical in defeats this year against the Broncos and Bucs.
They ve dropped Rivers into the middle class of quarterbacks.
Interceptions, above all, are why Rivers is now dead-last in
fourth-quarter passer rating.
Let s not overly blame the offensive line. It's far from stout, but
there are worse blocking units. I ll name three: the Cardinals, Bears
Let s not trash the other skill players, even if Robert Meachem s work
needs a garbage disposal, even if the Chargers are still waiting for
Ryan Mathews to become a franchise back.
Look around. Luck has the Colts (6-3) ahead of the Chargers (4-5) in the
wild-card race despite not having much help beyond the great Reggie
Wayne. Russell Wilson has the Seahawks (6-4) in playoff contention.
Those two are rookies, not seven-year starters. Sure, the defense and
running game are Seattle s strengths, but Wilson, throwing to a so-so
receiving corps, has only eight interceptions. Luck has nine. Rivers has
12. Griffin has III.
Don t think about blaming the schedule that the Chargers still tell us
was among the toughest entering the season. According to
football-reference.com, the Chargers have played the NFL s easiest slate.
Mediocre or bad pass defenses have been the norm. Rivers was magnificent
on Sunday for most of the game. He was aiming against a Bucs team that s
last in pass defense and lost its best cornerback, Eric Wright, in the
Now that we're seeing a bigger picture, what, then, should Rivers and
Turner do to fix the problem?
Here are two keys: 1) Be smarter about the whole game before the ball is
snapped; 2) Be more aware of one's own physical limitations, especially
when throwing on the run.
I loved how Rivers played in the season opener, and to some extent the
second game. Against the Raiders, he never put the ball in harm s away
because that s what the game s circumstances dictated. The Raiders
lacked big-play ability on offense because the Chargers took away Darren
McFadden as a run threat. Nor were the Raiders able to negate the short
I hated the recent interception against the Chiefs, and the killer
interception against the Bucs, because Rivers didn't seem to have his
mind right before the ball was snapped.
Those were Code Yellow situations. Or Code Red. But he acted like they
were Code Green, gunning the car through the stoplight.
It s a throw you can t make, Turner said of the ball that became a
game-turning interception for the Bucs. Obviously, he should have
thrown the ball away.
Obviously it wasn t obvious enough.
Rivers has a governor over his profanity switch, never once uttering a
curse word in a game, no matter how heated he or the game was, teammates
But in the hurly burly of trying to make a play, his football switch is
failing him. A better grasp of the game s ever-dynamic risk-reward ratio
seems needed, and that means taking stock before each snap, when the
adrenaline is less insistent.
How much time is left? Who s leading? How well are both defenses
performing? Should the offense be confident if it gets other chances?
What's the result of a sack or a throwway? What would an interception mean?
Part of winning a game is not losing it.
A quarterback holds not only the ball, but the ballgame.
Rivers, to be sure, knows all of this. He just seems to need a refresher
course, or for someone to train or remind him in a new way.
He also may benefit from a more critical look at his own limitations.
They can change.
On the run, he s challenged. He s not able to get the ball out as fast
and with as much zip as perhaps his eyes tell him.
On rollouts right this year, he s making a habit of substandard throws
in the red zone.
Rolling right in both Chiefs games and against the Bucs and Saints, he
made poor throws into the end zone (one of which cost Meachem a touchdown).
The silly interception against the Falcons was off a scramble to his right.
Of course, Rivers should continue to roll right and throw the ball. He's
done so well at times this year.
Rivers didn t enter the NFL with a very strong arm or good
out-of-the-pocket mobility. Nearly a decade later, playing on a surgical
knee, it s possible he's less able in those areas now.
Defenders will let a quarterback know what he can and can t do, or if
he's slipped, however imperceptible it may be to him.
What Turner and Rivers do with the feedback will play a big role in how
the season plays out.