Does Philip Rivers deserve to be in the NFL Hall of Fame? The case for the Chargers QB
- Philip Rivers threw touchdown No. 301 in Week 10, putting him among the NFL's elite. But does the Chargers QB have the stats and the success to be considered for the NFL Hall of Fame?
In the midst of a brutal loss to the Dolphins (one brought on by his own miscues at the end), Philip Rivers threw career touchdown passes Nos. 299, 300 and 301. In doing so, the 34-year-old Rivers pulled past John Elway for eighth place all-time in that category.
While it is safe to assume that Rivers has multiple years left in the tank, he already has taken up permanent residence among the greatest statistical quarterbacks in league history.
So, what does that mean for his Hall of Fame odds? A look at the key factors:
This is where Rivers’s remarkably consistent career really solidifies his case for Canton induction down the line. Since becoming the Chargers’ starter back in 2006, his third NFL season, Rivers has not missed a single game and has never finished a season with fewer than 3,000 yards passing or 21 touchdowns. He already has thrown 20 TDs this year, and he sits just 114 yards away from the 3,000-yard barrier again.
Here’s where Rivers stands in the big-ticket categories:
- No. 11 in career completions (3,691), with a chance to move into the top 10 by year’s end—he is 96 back of Vinny Testaverde and 148 behind Drew Bledsoe. (Ben Roethlisberger currently sits at 3,681.)
- No. 8 in career passing touchdowns, as mentioned above.
- No. 13 in career passing yards (44,333), yet No. 5 among active QBs: Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Eli Manning and Roethlisberger all are above him. He is 1,900 yards back of Testaverde, who holds the 10th position overall.
From those standpoints he is right where he needs to be. Assuming he plays even three more seasons, his completion and yardage marks will be in closer lockstep with the likes of Elway and Dan Marino than Testaverde. Every quarterback in NFL history to reach 47,000 career yards has thus far reached the Hall, once eligible: Brett Favre, Marino, Elway, Warren Moon, Fran Tarketon. Peyton Manning, Brees and Brady are all past that benchmark; all will be inducted eventually.
Rivers led the league in touchdown passes in 2008 (34), in yards in ’10 (4,710) and in completions last season (437).
He does have 146 interceptions to his name, including the game-winning pick-six he tossed to Miami’s Kiko Alonso Sunday, but that doesn’t figure to hold him back. Favre, with 336 INTs, holds the league record by a massive margin, yet he was a shoo-in inductee.
The “QB wins” argument is flawed, no doubt, but it can matter when it comes time for making a Hall of Fame case. While the lack of a Super Bowl win didn’t hold back Marino, for example, it could be a strike against Rivers if he is a borderline candidate or if he is matched up against someone like, say, Eli Manning, who has multiple titles. (Those two are set to be linked in NFL history forever as it is, because of the 2004 trade that sent each QB to his current team.)
Rivers has 96 career regular-season wins, which ties him with recent Hall of Famer Ken Stabler for 18th all-time, two ahead of Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Bart Starr and Len Dawson. All of those QBs won at least one Super Bowl; Rivers is just 4–5 in the playoffs, with just one postseason win the past seven years. The Chargers have one AFC title-game appearance during the Rivers era, a 21–12 loss to New England back in the 2007 season.
The franchise has not been able to match its prosperity from the early stages of Rivers’s career—San Diego was a combined 46–18 from 2006–09 but has gone 50–56 since, counting a 4–6 mark so far this season.
That’s obviously not all on Rivers, just as the success was not all because of Rivers. But when everything is put under the microscope come time to pick a Hall of Fame class, this extended streak of mediocre team play could work against Rivers.
There is no surefire method for determining which players reach the Hall, so often this question is asked: Was he a dominant player in his era? The answer in Rivers’s case is ... sort of.
Again, in terms of stats and durability, Rivers is up there with the greatest to ever play the game. He also has played alongside QBs like Favre (at the tail end of his career), Brees, Brady, both Eli and Peyton Manning, Brady and Roethlisberger. Favre’s already in the Hall; the rest, save for Eli and perhaps Big Ben, will be locks when their time comes.
Rivers has been a Pro Bowler five times (last in 2013), but he has never—not once—been an All-Pro. And while was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2013, the awards stop there. No Offensive Player of the Year trophies, no MVPs. When Peyton Manning was active, Rivers probably was no better than the third-best quarterback just in the AFC (Brady also above him). Fourth, if you’d rather have Roethlisberger.
This, and not the lack of playoff success, is where it gets stickiest for Rivers. If he is going to make it to the Hall, the wait likely will be a lengthy one, depending on when all of these quarterbacks step away. The 2017 list of Hall nominees at the QB position consists of Drew Bledsoe, Randall Cunningham, Doug Flutie, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Phil Simms and Kurt Warner. Odds favor Warner’s imminent induction—he was a finalist last year—but how long will the backlog be when Rivers is eligible?
Aaron Rodgers is 33, Roethlisberger is 34, Eli Manning is 35, Brady is 39. Players must be retired for five years before they can go on the ballot, so Rivers’s timing could be of critical importance to his initial chances.
The best news for Rivers, as it pertains to the Hall, is that he does not have to finalize his résumé tonight. His current contract runs through 2019 and considering that he now has played 170 consecutive games (all starts), it’s reasonable to think that Rivers could push age 40 before hanging ’em up.
If he walks away with 50,000-plus yards and 400 or so touchdowns to his name, keeping him out of Canton would be difficult and foolish, regardless of how the Chargers fare in the coming seasons.
If he were for whatever unforeseen (and highly unlikely) reason to call it quits at the end of this season, he’d face a far more nerve-wrecking Hall of Fame fate. He deserves to be in Canton because he has been so good for so long, despite arguably never being among the top two or three active quarterbacks. He could help cement his legacy with a strong close to his career, however far off that end date is.