Nothing is Wrong with Philip Rivers
What is wrong with Philip Rivers? Nothing.
What most casual football fans do not understand or appreciate is the value of talented linemen. Fans understand the line is at fault when they see a sack, they’ll curse the linemen when they see a holding call, but few fans understand how it effects an offense for a full game and not just one disaster of a play. In Philip’s case it has affected him for almost two full seasons.
Let’s put it in real-world perspective (warning: this verbiage may get a little complicated so put on the thinking cap):
Imagine your employer assigns you projects and gives you two days to complete them. All of a sudden after 5 years of spectacular work, your employer starts occasionally asking for the completed work after one day without warning. After having nothing to show on the unpredictable one day requests you start to rush and sloppily finish your projects to get them all done in one day. Now even if your employer gives you two days all of your projects look like one day garbage because you are constantly worried that he may show up after a day looking for your work. While your co-workers and clients understand why you turn in a subpar project after one day, they don’t understand why when given the two days your projects have diminished in quality. They’ll start to think you’re washed up. When in reality your skills have not worsened you are just constantly rushing under the one day time crunch whether it’s necessary or not. Philip Rivers is turning in one day garbage because his lineman aren’t consistently giving him time to get the job done, and fans can understand his struggles when they see pressure in his face but they don’t understand his struggles when he appears to have time…
In 2010 the Chargers may not have made the playoffs, but Philip Rivers had a stellar season. He was a Pro Bowler, he threw for 4,7110 yards, 30 TD 13 INT, and a QB Rating of 101.8. In 2011 things changed. While his yards were still well over 4,000 he threw 20 INTs, and his QB rating dropped to a pedestrian 88.7. Don’t blame the change in productivity on Philip, look at the five guys in front of him.
From 2006 until 2011 the Chargers left side of the line had for the most part had stayed the same. Marcus McNeill at left tackle, Chris Dielman and left guard. They also had the talented blocking tight end, Brandon Manumaleuna until 2009 to help out on the line if need be. In 2011 that all changed. Marcus McNeill barely played half of the season due to nagging injuries and Dielman retired after suffering a seizure on the team plane on the way home from the sixth game of the season. They were replaced by scraps that AJ Smith found laying around on the streets. It’s no coincidence that the game Dielman got injured was the first loss in what would eventually be a six game losing streak after a 4-1 start.
So why is the line, in particular the left side, so important? Because the quarterback needs to be able to trust that the protection will be there in order to make last minute protection changes, read through progressions and make intelligent decisions without worrying about his backside. If a quarterback can’t be comfortable in the pocket his performance will suffer.
Philip has not been able to relax at all the last couple of seasons. He is even rushing throws when he appears to have time because he does not trust the guys in front of him. Take a look at this play from the Chargers game at Denver this season:
That’s Rex Hadnot at left guard, he appears to be confused with either the play, or the adjustment at the line.
This forces an uneasy Philip Rivers to look directly at Hadnot after receiving the snap, causing him to start reading through his progressions late.
Even though the protection help up on this play the damage was done. On this play Rivers missed a wide open Malcolm Flyod on a 10 yard curl because he rushed through his progressions to hit Ryan Mathews for a 3 yard gain.
While this play didn’t result in anything catastrophic, it is the exact reason why Philip has been struggling. Even on plays where the protect holds up he is so accustomed to pressure that he can’t focus on his job, settle down, and think clearly. He is constantly worried about the line and getting the ball out often times quicker then he needs to.
When Philip rushs through plays like he did on this particular one it gives off the impression to fans that his skill have diminished because they don’t see any physical pressure from the defense. It’s the metal pressure caused by the subpar line that is the problem.
Lineman go unnoticed because it is easy to praise and blame the quarterback because at the end of the day he is the one with the one who’s name shows up on his stat sheet. In football an individual’s statistics are a result of a team effort. Chargers fans need to understand that Philip is still the same quarterback he was a couple years ago he just needs the pieces in front of him to improve for fans to realize it.