[editor's note: This is an entry from a friend of mine, Dallas McLaughlin. He's emailing with his friend Nicholas McCann. Nick writes for Fantasy Sports Warehouse. As for Dallas, in addition to writing, as he's done many times on LobShots... he does stand-up comedy, and other neat things. Here's their debate about one of my favorite people on earth, Philip Rivers. - bp]
I’ve missed your letters. I’m writing to you today because I’m finally ready to assess the Chargers after what happened in Miami. The Chargers reached rock bottom, losing 0-37 on the road to a team they should have at least been competitive with. This season so far has been up and down. The Bolts lose a tight one in Arizona, go on a five game tear, then lose three straight going into their bye, looking progressively worse. They are 5-4 with a week off to think about it and so are we.
Where are we on Philip Rivers?
To me, the Rivers era starts at the 2007 AFC championship game. Phil plays hurt, LaDainian pouts like a spoiled brat, and even though the Chargers lose, Rivers emerges from the aftermath the unassailable leader of the team. Seven years later, it’s time to take our emotional inventory. Where is Phil? Where are we as a fan base forced to confront the consequences of his achievements and failures? More importantly, where are we: two guys who’ve gone from our late twenties into our mid thirties rooting for #17?
Your continued correspondence means more than you know.
To me the Rivers Era began much earlier when we drafted him in 2004. Well, we traded Eli “Sourpuss” Manning for Rivers in probably one of the strangest draft day scenarios in recent memory. Because of that circus I have to look at him from day one. He was a 3rd stringer with a huge contract who was prepared the correct way. He was a backup for two years before becoming the starter - a lost art in this day and age. He handled it all perfectly.
However, I’ve been out on Rivers since Brees left. I was a huge Drew Brees fan. Was more than upset the Chargers let him walk, and did not trust the weird noodle side-arm this kid from Alabama holstered. He has never gained my trust or my favor. Even though he undoubtedly made an impact, he was playing QB on a team that Brees and Shottenheimer built, and was already supposed to be a contender. Rivers just needed to not suck. He didn’t. They played well. Then in 2007 he became the defacto ‘jersey’ when, as you mentioned, LT cried on the bench. Everyone loved the noodle-armed warrior who played (and lost) hurt. I was fine with it.
However since then it’s always been something other than Rivers to blame. I’ll give you Norv. That was an awful and strange decision by an owner who lost interest in football around 1993. But every year since 2007 (‘cause again I’ll grant you Norv) it’s been we have no O-Line, we have no D-Line, we have no Corners, we have no one to throw the ball to, we have no O-Line, we have no Linebackers, we can’t stop the run, we can’t run the ball, we can’t stop the pass, we have no Safeties. It could never be St. Phil, and his trusty flat-footed decision making under Center. It couldn’t be that a lot of his completion success is due to two freak of nature receivers in Antonio Gates (who redefined the position) and Vincent Jackson. The fact Rivers could toss it in five feet in the air, where only those 6’5″ receivers could reach it had nothing to do with “how good he was”. I call shenanigans! Then came Rivers’ demise to the point where last year people thought he was done. But, somehow we managed to pull it together and lose in the playoffs yet again. But, the loss had nothing to do with Rivers. How could it? HE PLAYED HURT IN 2007!
It’s always someone else’s fault, and no one has bought into this more than Rivers himself. He yells at everyone on the field. Whether good or bad, he screams when the catch isn’t made, or a block isn’t thrown. He acts like a bitch. Over the last two seasons he’s thrown some real junk balls for bad McCown-esque interceptions. I’ve enjoyed it every time, because the only person he can yell at is himself – but it’s not his fault. It never is. It’s McCoy’s fault. Duuuuuhhhh… Worst part is, McCoy isn’t a great coach, so once again Rivers can’t be held accountable.
I’m sure you disagree. You’ve probably been drunk on the Kool-Aid!
Dree Brees was blamed for all the offensive problems in the 2003 season, and this last month of football in San Diego has brought up of the fear of the front office making the same mistake. Brees was running for his life the entire season and AJ Smith (the angriest human to ever consistently wear Hawaiian wedding shirts in public) decided he needed a new QB. Brees comes back, has two stellar seasons as the Chargers’ quarterback, and the Chargers trade him because they were paying Rivers first round draft pick money. Brees goes onto become the focal point of one of the scariest offenses of all time and rescues New Orleans from the aftermath of Katrina. This year, the offensive line isn’t as bad as it got in 2003 (yet), but it’s not good and there are no real signs of it getting better anytime soon. I don’t know where we go from here.
Before the Chiefs game, I did get drunk on the Kool-Aid. The national media was ready to give him the championship belt as the greatest quarterback in the league and I was all in. He was making Antonio Gates look 27 again (which makes me feel 27 again), and Eddie Royal was looking like Steve Young era Jerry Rice. But the Seattle win doesn’t look as significant now and the winning streak they went on was against some of the worst teams in the league. They beat the Raiders, but it wasn’t convincing. DJ Fluker is a mess, the running back situation isn’t great, and the defense is falling apart. It’s hard not to make excuses for him, but I don’t know what else to do. This could just be a season where the injury cloud is too great to avoid. It happens and it’s frustrating.
Philip might be the most unlikable in-game athlete in America. But what is the alternative? He has all the tools to win a Super Bowl. He can make all the throws, and has always held up physically. When you get a guy like that, you don’t just draft somebody else (see: Drew Brees in 2004). Like it or not, we are going to ride this out. For at least the next three years, Rivers will be our QB. Even though his demeanor is difficult to watch, I don’t think another San Diego athlete has mirrored our frustration as San Diego fans. In the last 45 years the people of San Diego have built two publicly funded stadiums and there have been no championship banners. I yell in anger about that for the same reasons Phil yells on the field. When he unloads on King Dunlap I feel like he is raging at the dying light of my childhood. I never saw myself in Tony Gwynn. Not really. Junior was never really a person to me. Trevor Hoffman was amazing, but I was never able to identify with the hyper specific scenario he always excelled in. Rivers understands the urgency for his own legacy and the fans that are in need of a parade in the Gaslamp. We scream together.
The rim around my month is stained red. I don’t have a choice. I’ve never had a choice.
That’s just it though, Nick. You said it and probably didn’t even realize it: HE’S making Antonio Gates look 27 again. Rivers is doing it. But, I’m sure Gates also has a lot to do with it. Sure, he can’t make the circus catches if someone isn’t throwing him the ball on a semi-accurate basis, but HE’S MAKING THE CATCHES!
It’s ALWAYS, “Look what Rivers is doing. Look how he makes everyone better.” We always forget that football is a team sport. Don’t believe me? You have too, because it’s the basis for everyone’s argument on why Rivers is never to blame! Now, let me clarify I don’t think Rivers is a bad QB. I think he is a good QB with flashes of greatness. This alone consistently puts him in the top 10 in the league. He can lead a good team down the field. At the beginning of the season we had a good team. Injuries destroyed us, Brandon Oliver was NEVER going to be what he hoped he was, and now we’re seeing what having a good QB means – not a whole lot. You called him a Super Bowl caliber QB, which he is not. Why? He’s never proven he can handle pressure situations. Play in them – yes. Play in them hurt – of course. Win them – no.
You also raised a great point that his fiery, off-putting, bitch-like attitude reflects the frustration we feel as fans. I can’t argue with that. However, he’s the millionaire QB paid to lead a team to a championship, and I’m the fan who just watched “The Blacklist” and drank 3 beers. I don’t want him to reflect my feelings, I want him to change them. And his fiery attitude does nothing for him in big-game situations. Exhibit A: Jake Peavy.
As far as you saying you relateto him more than any other San Diego athlete, including Tony Gwynn, is insane and should be the topic of another e-mail chain.
I meant that my experience as a fan has a higher connection with Philip Rivers, because of the nature of the position. Tony Gwynn was constant and incredible, but a quarterback in football is just more important to the success of a football team than a right fielder is to a baseball team. Sadly, Tony Gwynn’s batting titles are our titles. Rivers’ goal is to change that.
When I’m watching as a fan of the Chargers, I view Philip’s rage as an expression that he knows he is in the same class of other Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. I think he is better than Eli, Big Ben, and Joe Flacco and so does he. While Phil was wasting his prime during the Norv Turner Era, those players put together spurts of brilliance at the right times.
I blame Dean Spanos for this entirely and I think you would agree. Marty earned another year after 2006, and AJ Smith didn’t like him personally. Because the national perception was that the Chargers had drafted well under AJ, Dean took Smith’s side, allowing him to hire Norv. Philip and Turner didn’t work. Norv should have always stayed in his lane as an offensive coordinator. (Seriously, did that dude help somebody bury a hooker? How many chances do you get?). Vincent Jackson should have been Philip’s Marvin Harrison, but AJ wouldn’t budge. The hostile GM and Norv both should have been gone after 2011, but Dean’s stance was always, “I hate confrontation.” He was afraid of AJ, even though he was AJ’s boss. I imagine the front offices at that time being like an episode of OZ.
The State of Phil is that he plays like he can see a life of regrets coming towards him. He is on his way to somewhere between Warren Moon and Boomer Esiason and he knows it. Regardless, he signed the contract and he has done his best to honor it. I’m tired of excuses. I’m tired of hearing them come from me. I’m tired.
I couldn’t agree more about Spanos. He’s an idiot owner even down to the ridiculous notion that he refuses to let the team wear the uniforms EVERYONE wants them to wear. He has no interest in team success or keeping the Chargers in San Diego. If they are, they are. If they aren’t, they aren’t. Firing Marty took the team back 3 steps, hiring Norv took them back 55 steps. And, yes Norv has buried many, many bodies. Like, a lot.
The AJ debacle stemmed from John Butler. The wizard of a GM who pulled off the Vick for Brees/LT/Tim Dwight deal. Brilliant move, and he was a well-liked, if not beloved football figure. AJ was Butler’s protégé, and I think a lot of people, Spanos included, held on to that fact for too long.
I’ll end my rants about Rivers by replying to something you mentioned a couple times and people talk about a lot: Philip Rivers is a Super Bowl caliber QB. I think that’s great to assume, and nice to think. The truth of that statement though is two-fold: 1) You don’t need to be a great QB to win a Super Bowl. Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson ring a bell? They both have rings. You need a good team. This is where it IS a lot of people’s faults when we don’t win and that includes Rivers. He can’t (and no one should be expected) assume others will figure out how to play with HIM. He should figure out how to play with the TEAM. His tantrums make me believe that has yet to happen. Marino was always bigger than the Dolphins. 2) He has yet to show me he could handle the pressure of being in a Super Bowl. Every big game he’s been in he looks like he tenses up. He pushes to hard. He can’t get it together. I have never, and will never trust Rivers with two minutes left in a game. Big Ben, and unfortunately Eli Manning, are better QB’s than Rivers when it matters, and they have the rings to prove it. Eli may look pouty and sad, but he and Ben are always loose, and aware. They sit back and let the game unfold. It’s refreshing.
We have Rivers for a few more years, and I’m fine with that. If injuries didn’t wipe us out in the first few weeks I doubt we’d be having this exchange. But, the team is losing its swagger, and confidence, and a screaming, frustrated QB is never going to solve that. He’s not the answer, but he’s part of the equation.
I’d invite you to my house to watch the Chargers host Oakland after the bye, but you would have to drive by the stadium and I don’t want your car to take a bullet.
It’s exciting that you’re a Dad now. My father just turned 69. He and I both suck.
Love your roommate that moved in with you the month Philip Rivers was drafted,
Editor’s note: There it is, folks. Who are you siding with? Nick or Dallas?