Changes that rescued Rivers

Offensive adjustments have played to Chargers QB's strengths

Originally Published: November 23, 2013
By Louis Riddick | ESPN Insider

Philip RiversDonald Miralle/Getty ImagesThe Chargers' offense puts a premium on Philip Rivers' pre-snap smarts.

There's no escaping the fact that in the modernized, pass-happy version of the NFL, no position is more discussed, scrutinized, sought after and financially compensated than the franchise quarterback. And to find one, so much is allocated to both in terms of scouting and development, and cap dollars spent by front offices. And as much as we like to believe we know smart personnel moves from bad ones, in the end, if you find yourself lucky enough to inherit a great QB from a previous regime, or in a position to draft a once-in-a-generation prospect, you will end up sleeping much better at night -- your legacy in better shape -- as you tackle the task of building a 53-man roster.

Then there's a mixed bag scenario.

Look at the case of the 2013 San Diego Chargers. New general manager Tom Telesco, along with his newly hired head coach Mike McCoy, found themselves lucky enough to have a proven QB left behind for them. Philip Rivers was there when they took over in January 2013. And Rivers has some great seasons under his belt. But if you were to poll a wide range of football experts before the season began, you would have questioned just whether "lucky" was the right description.

Start on the surface. By looking at some of the universally accepted statistical measures when evaluating quarterbacks (yards, completion percentage, yards/attempt, touchdowns, interceptions, passer rating) over the past four seasons, Rivers was a QB who'd been producing numbers that put him in the discussion in terms of top passers in the league. But many of those surface numbers were trending in the wrong direction. Yards per attempt, TDs, passer rating -- they were all down. Interceptions and sacks were up. What happened?

The scouting report

Players can change, but sometimes struggles bring you back to the core strengths of the QB, the ones he has when he comes into the league. Some traits just stick. And on the personnel side, you try to match up or adjust the offensive system in such a way that it enhances and showcases the strengths of the player, and minimizes his weaknesses. In analyzing what was happening with Rivers, some adjustments needed to be made in order to get him trending in the right direction again. And it reminds me of what I saw in Rivers coming into the league.

Looking back at my notes when I evaluated Rivers prior to the 2004 NFL draft, they said the following: