“Indy would be perfect for Philip Rivers.” “From Bolts to Colts!” “Rivers flowing to Indianapolis.” We’ve heard it all during the first few days of rumor mongering at the NFL Scouting Combine. None of it makes any sense.
The combination of media, agents, free time, and cocktails in Indianapolis causes the occasional odd rumor to gather momentum, and Rivers to the Colts is being repeated through the convention center like it’s a done deal.
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Colts GM Chris Ballard has been on the job for only three years, but there has not been one move or comment from Ballard during that time to suggest he would give serious consideration to making Rivers a serious offer to become a stop-gap starter while they groom a long-term replacement for the retired Andrew Luck.
National media embrace the rumor because it’s plausible for some surface reasons – Rivers is a free agent, the Colts are open to an upgrade at QB, the Colts have at least $86-million under the cap, and coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni have both worked with Rivers before. That’s the math that has led to Rivers signing with the Colts.
Here are six reasons Rivers to the Colts makes no sense:
- Ballard didn’t build his bankroll by spending like Pacman Jones making it rain in Vegas. He’s very cautious with Jim Irsay’s money, and Rivers is likely to cost $20-million per year. Brissett’s cap hit for 2020 is $21,375,000, according to spotrac. His dead cap number is $12,500,000. Only one quarterback at a time can play. The Colts would go from fiscally responsible at QB to utterly wasteful by signing Rivers and retaining or cutting Brissett.
- Rivers is going to turn 39 during the 2020 season. Drew Brees and theat other guy with six rings notwithstanding, NFL quarterbacks at that age are normally in decline. Rivers’ performance took a step back in 2019, and that decline is very unlikely to reverse itself.
- Colts goal is a championship. While Rivers’ play was good enough to lead the Chargers to the playoffs six times, they never made the Super Bowl. If the Colts wanted to sign Rivers as an Earl Morrall-esque back-up, that would be a fun fit. But Rivers is in a financial position where carrying a clipboard while he misses his family for 22 weeks is unnecessary.
- Twenty interceptions in 2019. Evidence of Rivers decline is in his picks. Some can be explained through the injuries to offensive linemen and resulting poor protection, but many were caused by Rivers. That number of interceptions weren’t an anomaly for Rivers either. In 2014 and 2016, Rivers threw it to the other guys 18 and 21 times respectively. The Colts mantra under Ballard and coach Frank Reich is to take good care of the football and force turnovers on defense. Rivers doesn’t fit their model.
- Chargers have been mediocre for a decade with Rivers starting every game. Over the last 10 seasons, the Chargers record has been 77-83. Rivers has never missed a start over that period.
- Rivers does not represent much of an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. Last season, Rivers had a passer rating of 88.5 and a QBR of 48.9. Brissett’s passer rating was 88.0 and his QBR was 52.1.
Given any knowledge of Ballard’s operational thought process, signing Rivers is not a move he would not make.
There is another veteran QB option – an option that makes some sense – an option I cannot in good conscience name. If Ballard wants to dig deep into his owner’s wallet to hire an old man as a stop-gap gunslinger, there’s a 43-year-old still playing at a really high level despite not having much in the way of weapons at his disposal last season.
That guy would be a definitive upgrade whose team won 12 games last year. He might be worth whatever it would cost to sign him.
Rivers is not that guy – not close.