Quarterbacks were a hot topic coming out of the 2019 NFL season.
Free agency offered a wealth of former Pro Bowlers and playoff-experienced passers.
Teams leaked trade rumors about other great options.
Four or more quarterbacks are still expected to be drafted in the first round.
The 2020 NFL quarterback market is going to truly be a game of musical chairs. So many free agent QBs, so few starting jobs open. Will go fast.
— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) February 10, 2020
Fans couldn´t wait to see who their favorite teams would pick up.
Colts Nation was excited to see Chris Ballard beat everyone to the punch.
Ballard leaped into the fray, grabbing his 2020 quarterback barely 24 hours into free agency.
He came away with a 48-year-old passer coming off a 20-interception season.
“A Crazy, Unique Opportunity”
In many ways, the signing of Phillip Rivers makes sense.
Rivers is familiar with Reich´s offensive system after three years together in San Diego.
— Dan Sileo (@DanSileoShow) March 31, 2020
Reich was Rivers´ quarterback coach in what is still the veteran´s best statistical season (2013).
With Reich installed as offensive coordinator for the next two seasons, Rivers did not tail off.
He ranked in the top five in passing yards, touchdowns, and completion percentage.
Rivers was coming off another down season when Reich joined the Chargers.
In fact, 2012 was bad enough that Rivers won the Comeback Player of the Year award.
Phillip Rivers was QB5 that year (2013) w/ 4478 yds 32td 11 int 69% comp. All despite having only 13th most attempts in NFL. Wow.
— Joe Paeno (@Paeno) July 6, 2016
After watching the game film of Rivers´ 2018 and 2019 seasons, Reich felt Rivers still has the tools.
He called the chance to sign Rivers a “crazy, unique opportunity.”
“What does he have left in the tank at 38? Just having been there on the inside for the three years I was and knowing the quarterback position like I do, I was so confident that physically he was the right player and that he had not lost anything. All of the throws I saw on film and as I go back and studied him compared to previous throws, I really didn’t notice any physical gifts diminishing at all. I really didn’t.”
What the Statistics Tell Us
Critics quickly point to Rivers´ touchdown-interception ratio in 2019.
Indeed, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions don´t get a quarterback invited to the Pro Bowl.
It doesn´t get many teams to the Super Bowl, either.
But Reich says Rivers´problems had nothing to do with fading ability.
Certainly, injuries to the Chargers´offensive line played a role.
— LoL (@Rey_4x) April 1, 2020
Rivers admitted he took more chances than he should have.
When a team loses 9 games by less than one score, desperate measures are taken.
But fans would hope a veteran like Rivers would make more of those chances work out.
Death, Taxes and Phillip Rivers throwing a game ending interception late in the 4th quarter are all guaranteed in life
— Hank (@DeionHD) November 19, 2019
Overall, Rivers´ statistics were not bad.
He finished with 4615 yards and a 66-percent completion rate.
Both are higher than his career averages.
But interceptions are always a risk for a quarterback with a gunslinger´s mentality.
Rivers matched his second-worst interception percentage in his third year with 20 or more picks.
Can Physical Skills Reverse Statistical Weakness?
It is up to Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni to make the Rivers signing work in Indianapolis.
The Colts want someone who will take more chances than the conservative Jacoby Brissett.
According to Pro Football Reference Philip Rivers ranked 10th in the NFL in on-target percentage, far better than Brissett (18th) or Brady (22nd). Given that number, it’s fair to say that Rivers gave his receivers better chances. @Colts
— RJ (@ryanjacobsonla) March 29, 2020
Rivers will be supported by a top-tier offensive line and running game.
Ballard spent a lot of revenue so far building the Indianapolis Colts defense.
But the team has done nothing to bolster Rivers´ receiving corps.
Colts have their QB in Philip Rivers. But who will he throw the ball to? Colts still need to add wide receivers https://t.co/w167uRdtjP
— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNFL) March 26, 2020
Zach Pascal and the pack of young backups have promise.
But fans might feel better with a second, accomplished veteran among the receiver ranks.
Rivers is a risky signing that could pay off with the veteran´s first Super Bowl run…
Or it could lead Ballard and Reich down a shaky career path.
What Reich saw on film needs to show up on the Lucas Oil Field well into the winter.