With the Colts recent loss to the Bills knocking them out of the playoffs, its that time of year when we wonder if the aging quarterbacks in the league hang up the cleats and retire. The majority of fans and the media seem to think we've seen the last of Phillip Rivers in the NFL and I tend to agree. What I don't agree with is the sudden narrative that Rivers is a sure-thing, future inductee into the Hall of Fame. What am I missing here?
First, lets look at the numbers for Rivers. If Rivers retired right now he would finish ranked 5th in the NFL in all time passing yards and passing touchdowns. These numbers do need some context though. Obviously, Rivers played in the modern NFL that passes the ball more than any other generation, and Rivers' Chargers teams always ranked among the league highest pass play rates. You would have to go all the way down to #76 to find Hall of Famer Joe Theisman on the passing yards list and #76 on the passing touchdown list is Hall of Famer Troy Aikman. Not too mention, players like Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson aren't far from overtaking Rivers top 5 position already, and don't even get me started on the young guys in the league such as Mahomes or Watson who are going to blow away the current passing records. I'm not saying the numbers aren't impressive, but just having solid numbers doesn't get you into the NFL Hall of Fame.
Next, lets look at Phillip Rivers ranked against the other players in his generation. One of my big problems with putting Rivers into the Hall of Fame is that he arguably was never a top 5 quarterback in the league. Certainly, we can all agree that in no point in Rivers career was he better than older players Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, then when Manning retired we can agree Aaron Rodgers filled that spot. Now I don't think many would argue that Ben Roethlisberger, who was drafted the same year as Rivers, has had a better career than Rivers, and when you throw in other quarterbacks during Phillips era like Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, etc, there is no way Rivers was ever a top 5 quarterback. The numbers agree. During his long career, Rivers only led the league in two statistical categories, touchdown passes(34 in 2008) and interception(20 in 2019). Does that scream Hall of Fame?
Lastly, lets look at Rivers team success. As I previously mentioned, Rivers was drafted in 2004 with Ben Roethlisberger. Another quarterback drafted that night was Eli Manning. Manning will most likely wind up a Hall of Famer because of his two Super Bowl rings. If Eli didn't have those two victories, there is no way he would even get a single vote for Canton. Eli also had big wins over other top generational player, like ending Tom Brady's perfect season bid in Super Bowl XLII then beating him again in Super Bowl XLVI. What has Rivers done against Brady? I'm glad you asked. Rivers has never beaten Brady, he is an astounding 0-8 including a crucial loss against Tom and the Patriots in the 2007 AFC Championship game. Rivers also has a sub .500 playoff record as a starter, only winning 5 postseason games in his 17 year career. So not only has Philip never made it to the Super Bowl, he's had virtually no postseason success to speak of. There are only a few quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era that have made it to Canton without a ring. Do you really put Rivers in the same class as Dan Marino or Jim Kelly? And he cant even use the excuse of not having the talent surrounding him. Rivers has played with LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, and Kellen Winslow to name just a few.
I don't mean to be hard on Philip Rivers and I think he was a really good quarterback, but to say he's a sure-thing Hall of Famer is silly and doesn't make sense. Lets not turn this Hall of Fame into a joke like baseball has....