The last two Super Bowls have featured quarterbacks considered among the league’s elite at that position, but still on the fringe as far as career ‘greatness’ is concerned. Now that both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers have the title of Super Bowl champion to add to their respective resumes, Chargers' signal caller Philip Rivers has been dubbed the best quarterback without a ring in the NFL.
Fair or not, the overall evaluation of a quarterback’s success is inevitably tied to the question of whether or not he has won a championship. The man under center is arguably the most heavily glorified yet scrutinized position on the field. Like it or not, the quarterback is often given too much credit when teams win and conversely burdened with an excess of blame when things don’t go so well.
For Rivers and the Chargers, both his statistical accomplishments and win/loss record since taking over the starting gig in 2006 are commendable. Unfortunately that huge ‘but’ still resides out there when it comes to his record in the postseason at 3-4 while the team missed the playoffs altogether in 2010.
Rivers and the Bolts may have an impressive 55-25 mark over the course of the past five regular seasons with him under center, but both he and the team have to be feeling the pressure to obtain their ultimate goal sooner rather than later. Gaudy statistics such as Rivers’ 135 touchdowns during those previous five campaigns mean very little when the team’s postseason win total has decreased in each of the last four years.
Plenty of players around the league play with an attitude and bring a heightened intensity to the table when it comes to game time, but very few quarterbacks possess that dynamic. Rivers has often been labeled as an edgy character with a tremendous amount of bravado and plenty to chat about with opponents during games, but his teammates have always had his back as a leader in the locker room.
If his teammates back him up as an emotional guy who plays with his heart on his sleeve then you have to take their word for it, but the question remains whether or not this feisty demeanor is a good or bad thing. Rivers has often been shown yelling at opponents, officials, and even teammates at times, but these types of altercations are a normal thing in the NFL world.
Perhaps the questioning of Rivers’ ability to get his team to that next level comes in part due to the fact that he is the only remaining member from that infamous 2004 draft class left without at least one ring. The Eli Manning saga played out well for San Diego ultimately giving them a motivated Rivers and some additional picks as well, but Manning has already won a title with the New York Giants. Ben Roethlisberger was taken just outside of the top ten in that draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers and despite his off-field issues has taken his club to three Super Bowl appearances and won twice before the age of 29.
Staring 30 in the face, Rivers isn’t exactly on borrowed time as far as his biological quarterbacking clock is concerned, but the pressure to win a ring with the offensive weapons around him has to be mounting. Tight end Antonio Gates has had a spectacular career to this point, but he will be 31 this summer and has already battled a number of injury issues during his time in a Bolts uniform. It is expected that the Chargers will franchise tag wide receiver Vincent Jackson for the 2011 season, but that will put all of the emphasis on this year and winning now before he likely departs via free agency.
There are still plenty of seasons for Rivers to overcome these hurdles and win that elusive ring, but the comparisons to Dan Marino’s quick release could quickly turn to the former Dolphins’ ring-less finger. Having had a future Hall of Fame running back behind him when his tenure as the starter began in LaDainian Tomlinson, Rivers has already enjoyed more of a balanced offensive attack than Marino ever had in Miami.
Leadership certainly isn’t an issue with Rivers and neither is the ability to handle big moments as he so aptly illustrated during his time at North Carolina State where he played in five bowl games winning the MVP award in every one of them.
As fans we are always so quick to place monstrous expectations on certain teams or players, but it seems like these aspirations for Rivers and the Bolts are more than reasonable. Chargers fans have to hope that this recent trend of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks getting the proverbial monkey off of their backs continues with Rivers and the Chargers in the upcoming football season.
Now let’s hear from you. How much blame for the Chargers recent decline in postseason prowess do you place on the shoulders of Rivers? Is the fiery behavior from Rivers out on the field a detriment or a benefit? Comparing the quarterback class of 2004 as of right now, which quarterback has had the best career? Is the Chargers’ championship window closing with the inevitable aging of superstars and free agency losses or does the team still have what it takes to win for years to come? Are the comparisons of Rivers to Marino way out of bounds or are the frightening similarities too glaring to ignore? Please give your input in the comments section below!
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