Tom Telesco Keeps Door Open for Philip Rivers' Return to Chargers
Jason B. Hirschhorn
COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Though Philip Rivers' future with the Los Angeles Chargers has yet to be determined, general manager Tom Telesco left the door wide open for the longtime signal-caller to return in 2020.
"I think Philip would say the same thing, there are some plays that he probably definitely wants back, but there are also some throws that he makes still that a lot of quarterbacks in this league can't make," Telesco says. "It doesn't matter how old you are. I think he can still compete at a top-starter level."
Telesco noted that the Chargers' 5-11 overall record and last-place finish within the division forces the team to consider all avenues. However, he defended Rivers' fit within head coach Anthony Lynn's offense and praised his value to the organization.
"In a perfect world, No. 17 is your quarterback forever," Telesco says. "I hope that I'm not offending Dan Fouts when I say that. [Rivers] has meant everything to this organization. You work with different players differently. He has been here for a long time. When I talk with him, he's a joy to work with. Nobody has a better perspective on what goes on -- not only just with him, but with the football team -- than he does."
Rivers, whose contract expires at the start of the new league year, endured a difficult 2019 season. The 38-year-old quarterback turned over the ball an AFC-worst 23 times, including seven interceptions during a two-game stretch in November. But despite the disappointing performance, Rivers intends to continue his playing career into 2020. "If one of 32 teams wants me and it's the right situation, and I can start that 225th game in a row, I'll be running out there," Rivers said during his final press conference of the season.
Though Telesco repeatedly said he does not yet have a timetable for a decision, the general manager says he and Rivers have talked about the future. "We've had discussions," Telesco says. "I think I know where he stands. I think he likes it here and likes playing football. You'll have to ask him that."
If the Chargers do decide to retain Rivers, that won't necessarily prevent them from acquiring a successor in the offseason. The team holds the No. 6 overall pick in a draft expected to include several potential franchise passers, putting the front office in a strong position to select a quarterback of the future. Doing so would mirror the way Rivers sat and developed for two years behind Drew Brees. "It's something that we've been looking at for years," Telesco says. "Yeah, I have no problems with that. It's certainly feasible."
With free agency still more than two months away, the Chargers have plenty of time to fully evaluate their roster and make their personnel decisions. In addition to Rivers, the team must determine whether to engage in contract talks with free agents Melvin Gordon, Hunter Henry, Michael Schofield, and several others. Los Angeles might also need to work on a longterm extension for defensive end Joey Bosa, who enters the final year of his rookie contract.
Still, Rivers' situation looms over the entire organization. Until the Chargers determine whether to bring him back for 2020 or opt for a clean break, everything else remains on the backburner.
"We need to get removed from the season a little bit," Telesco says. "Even, right now it's just way too early. I've been out at a couple of games. We just finished the season. We need to take a step back for a little bit of time. We have time. The first day of the league year is March 18. Our players come in April 20. Camp starts in July. We'll know before July, obviously, but you need some time to kind of let things decompress a little bit."
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH