“Does Philip Rivers make sense for the Steelers?”
That might have been the title and premise of this article if I didn’t think it was absurd thanks to Pittsburgh having both quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his $33 million price tag for 2020. It would also be absurd even without Big Ben, given the $25 million in dead cap money the team would be saddled with even if he does have to call it a career.
Of course, Rivers, who announced on Monday that he has decided to become a free agent and ply his trade with another team next season, would make sense for the Steelers. Rivers, with over 59,000 passing yards and 397 touchdowns, would make sense for a lot of franchises.
Let’s be honest, how many quarterbacks in today’s NFL even come close to matching the overall skill-set of Rivers, who just turned 38 in December?
Any franchise that lands his services—presumably one that is no worse than on the cusp of contending—would immediately be thrust to the head of the line as a Super Bowl favorite for 2020.
Yes, but it wouldn’t guarantee anything.
How do I know that? Rivers is the second Hall of Fame quarterback (I think it’s safe to assume Rivers will wind up there at some point) the Chargers have had over the past four-plus decades, and all they’ve managed to do is make it to one Super Bowl...with Stan Humphries leading the way in 1994.
That’s right, years before Rivers put up his Hall of Fame stats with the Chargers, there was Dan Fouts, a man who played 15 years in San Diego and passed for over 43,000 yards and threw 254 touchdowns in a much different era. But while the NFL wasn’t quite as pass-happy in the 1970’s and 1980’s as it is today, make no mistake, Fouts was one of the premiere signal-callers of his era.
And the Chargers were considered one of the top Super Bowl contenders during the late-’70s and early-’80s. But much like the modern Chargers, the Bolts of yesteryear only dreamed of making it to the Super Bowl—they never actually got there.
Some teams are lucky to find one Hall of Fame quarterback, the Chargers have had two and, again, no Lombardi titles.
What’s it all mean? As I alluded to already, it means that having a franchise quarterback is worth a lot—it is by far the most important ingredient—but it’s far from a license to print Super Bowl tickets.
It’s like what Terry Bradshaw said to Dwight White many years ago, when the Mad Dog hit him a little too hard in practice: “You might lose with me, but you’ll never win without me.”
Rivers is a member of the famed quarterback draft class of 2004. Two of those guys—Eli Manning and Roethlisberger—were able to bring their teams a combined four titles. Rivers only took his to one AFC title game.
Is that an indictment of Rivers?
Maybe, but probably not.
The Dolphins never won a title with Dan Marino as their quarterback, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more respected and revered man that has played the position.
Sometimes, it just is what it is.
You may not win with a franchise quarterback, but you certainly need one to have a chance.