If you looked around at the great lengths some franchises have gone to remind you that a really good quarterback has played there, Monday’s unceremonious breakup between Philip Rivers and the Chargers is the equivalent of a floppy office sheet cake that was purchased at the last minute and featured the wrong spelling of Philip (Phillip, Philippe?)
That said, Rivers is free from the grips of a franchise that was never quite sure what it wanted (even if Rivers’s last head coach, Anthony Lynn, did an admirable job maximizing his final years in Southern California). He can leave for a team that is 100 percent sure they can win with Rivers. This is a fascinating offseason for quarterback movement, and the 38-year-old Rivers is a solid fit for ready-to-win rosters and good-but-also-may-be-drafting-a-rookie-to-groom rosters. Where will he land? Let’s take a few guesses …
1. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts’ confidence in Jacoby Brissett seemed to flounder a bit at the end of 2019, and with a talented roster already primed for what was supposed to be Andrew Luck’s golden years (particularly on the offensive line), it would make sense for the team to lean on some previous relationships and give Rivers a call. Colts head coach Frank Reich was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Rivers in San Diego and Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni also coached Rivers while with the Chargers. It would take the stress off learning a (completely) new offense and pair Rivers with another coach like Lynn; forward-thinking offensively, with the quarterback at the forefront.
2. Tennessee Titans
With Rivers relocating to Florida, the Titans are nearly as close to his new locale than any of the teams actually in that state, as our Albert Breer mentioned recently. If the Titans end up parting ways with Ryan Tannehill, Rivers is an interesting player for them to evaluate in a pros and cons analysis. He can bootleg well and will be gifted a decent number of completable mid-range passes assuming the Titans continue to play a version of their successful wide zone offense. Mike Vrabel is establishing himself as one of the more prominent player-coaches in the NFL and is likely at the point where he could be a draw for end-of-career free agents. The Titans were, obviously, not far away from being in the Super Bowl and have a sound group of personnel going into 2020. Nashville is also not far from where Rivers grew up, north of Atlanta. So there is some familiarity there.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In Bruce Arians’s book, The Quarterback Whisperer, he talks about his hatred of rookie quarterbacks and the time it takes to break them in. In this way, Rivers’s arrival on the free agent market feels like kismet. The Buccaneers are not in Rivers’s backyard, but he’d likely be met with some enthusiasm and an enticing offensive game plan. With the NFC South potentially breaking open, the Buccaneers are in a decent place to contend in 2020 with a quarterback. That said, one has to wonder if Arians would simply be lusting after a quarterback who, while not Jameis Winston level irresponsible with the football, is not winning any turnover margin awards.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Far down the list, not only because the franchise is rebuilding but because it will be a logistical nightmare to oust Nick Foles and add another top-tier passer on a high-end, short-term contract. This is a match that seems two years too late, though the Jaguars may surprise some teams in 2020 and have opted for continuity by retaining Doug Marrone. The addition of a well-respected offensive coordinator like Jay Gruden could be a bargaining chip there.
5. Chicago Bears/Miami Dolphins/Carolina Panthers/New England Patriots
All of these fit into the “what if” category given that they could theoretically have a good frontrunner for the starting job already (or are too stubborn to admit they don’t). If the Patriots lose Tom Brady to the Chargers, Rivers could be an option. If the Panthers decide Cam Newton is not their quarterback of the future and would like more time to develop their young players, it’s not insane to imagine Rivers heading to the state where he played his college ball and working with one of the most sought after offensive coordinators in the sport. If the Bears are ready to admit that it would be difficult to win multiple playoff games with Mitch Trubisky, they could pair well with Rivers Matt Nagy’s ties to the Andy Reid tree will never pay off the type of returns they will now; it might be time to cash in. If the Dolphins are not ready to draft a quarterback but are ready to accelerate their rebuild, Brian Flores is a rising head coach and new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is a fellow Georgian with a wealth of football knowledge.
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