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Should Philip Rivers’ consistency earn him the opportunity to be the Colts’ starting quarterback in 2021?
From the rushing attack failing to replicate the success it enjoyed in 2019, to the defense morphing into a championship-caliber group, and star wideout TY Hilton disappearing for the first 11 games of a contract year, the Indianapolis Colts have been full of surprises this season.
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Perhaps the most shocking development, however, has been the dependability (especially in big games) of Philip Rivers, and it might be time for fans and the media to admit that we were dead wrong about him being an ineffective stopgap option under center for Indy.
If his latest clean performance in Sunday’s demolition of the Raiders didn’t prove that, then we’re honestly not sure what will.
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Rivers has been everything they’ve needed at the QB spot. https://t.co/Y4oMLcATRa
INDIANAPOLIS — Colts coach Frank Reich said Monday that he believes quarterback Philip Rivers can continue to play in the NFL beyond this season if that’s something he chooses to do.
Reich put a lot on the line when he suggested to general manager Chris Ballard and owner Jim Irsay that the Colts sign Rivers, who was coming off one of his worst seasons with the Chargers in 2019, because he believed the 39-year-old quarterback would be an upgrade at the position for Indianapolis.
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Reich was right, as Rivers has thrown for 3,507 yards and 20 touchdowns with just nine interceptions for the Colts (9-4), who are currently the sixth seed in the AFC playoff race.
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“At the way he’s playing right now … if he wants, he has multiple years of good football ahead of him,” Reich said.
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There’s no guarantee Rivers even wants to play an 18th NFL season. He and Jacoby Brissett will both be free agents this offseason, leaving rookie Jacob Eason as the only quarterback on the roster.
Rivers thought about retiring last offseason before deciding to hold off on it for at least another year. He has already agreed to become the head football coach at St. Michael Catholic (Alabama) High School once he retires. The Colts signed Rivers to a one-year, $25 million contract back in March. He was coming off a season where he committed 23 turnovers, including 20 interceptions, and where the Chargers felt like it was time to move in a different direction after 16 years.
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“Never been a doubt in my mind the kind of football Philip Rivers could play and would play this year and has played,” Reich said. “Had that much confidence in him, so it wasn’t a hard decision. Yeah you’re putting your neck on the line for somebody, but OK, this is the kind of guy you want to put your neck on the line for.”
The Colts needed to try to upgrade the quarterback position after Brissett struggled late in the 2019 season after he became the starter following the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck in August 2019.
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Reich spent three seasons as Rivers’ position coach or offensive coordinator with the Chargers. Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni was also on staff with the Chargers, giving some familiarity with the three.
“Mr. Irsay was a huge Philip Rivers fan before he ever got here,” Reich said. “That was not a hard conversation to have, either. Mr. Irsay is always committed to give our team whatever we need to win a championship and so when we had the discussion in the offseason about Philip and he’s going to be 39 years old and all that stuff, this was about helping our football team get better and Mr. Irsay is totally committed to that.”
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) December 14, 2020
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We’d be the first to admit that we overreacted to Rivers’ discouraging start to the campaign, when he threw more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four) over the Colts’ first five games, but who didn’t? He came up short in the clutch numerous times and was committing the same back-breaking mistakes that made him such a polarizing figure among Chargers fans for 16 years.
In the eight weeks since, however, Rivers has been nothing short of revelation under center. For the season, the 38-year-old gunslinger is now completing 68.1% of his passes for 3,507 yards (7.7 YPA) and 20 touchdowns compared to just nine interceptions, helping the Colts average 28.6 points per game in the process.
For those wondering, three of those statistics — completion percentage, passing yards and yards gained per completion — rank in the top 10 among qualified quarterbacks. You mean to tell us that Indianapolis shouldn’t re-sign a quarterback who’s proven to still be a borderline top-10 player at the position in their offense?
Philip Rivers in #Colts last eight games:
• 67.1 COMP%
• 16 TDs
• 4 INTs
• 6-2 record
Rivers has been exactly what Indy needed at QB. pic.twitter.com/PgUN3IdBtL
— Locked On Colts Podcast (@LockedOnColts) December 14, 2020
We obviously aren’t saying that Rivers is the long-term answer at quarterback, and Indy shouldn’t think twice about drafting their guy if he falls to them next April. However, if we had to choose between retaining him on a reasonably cheap one-year deal or giving up draft compensation to roll the dice on an unproven commodity (like Carson Wentz or Sam Darnold), we’d side with Rivers in a landslide.
The eight-time Pro Bowler has simply been everything the Colts could’ve asked for and more, and deserves the opportunity to run it back under center in 2021 prior to a draftee or Jacob Eason taking over.