At age 36, Philip Rivers is still playing at a high level, but Father Time is undefeated and within the next few seasons, his career will come to an end. While he is certainly one of the best quarterbacks in Chargers history, his resume screams Hall of Very Good – not Hall of Fame.
Last week, Rivers became just the ninth quarterback in NFL history to throw of 50,000 career yards and his 342 touchdown passes rank sixth all time. He has made the Pro Bowl seven times, led the NFL in passing yards, touchdowns, passer rating and completion percentage once.
On the face, those numbers are impressive, but look further and you will see that Rivers has never made an All-Pro team, never made it to the Super Bowl and has only led the Chargers to the playoffs five times during his 12-year stint as a starter. At no point was he ever considered the best quarterback in his own conference, let alone the league, and that’s significant since the Hall of Fame is supposed to be the best of the best.
Of the five people ahead of Rivers on the all-time passing touchdown list, four people have played at the same time as Rivers and two of them are still active. Not to mention, Eli Manning only has three less career touchdowns and sits right behind Rivers at seventh all-time. Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers are also right behind Rivers in the all-time touchdown list.
Rivers’ resume also pales in comparison to his contemporaries. Tom Brady, Rodgers, Eli and Peyton Manning, Roethisberger and Drew Brees have all won a Super Bowl, all but Rodgers and Brees have won the big game multiple times and all but Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have made at least one All-Pro team. Peyton Manning owns just about every major passing record and Brady could very well surpass him when all is said and done. Brees owns a slew of records as well while Eli Manning was named Super Bowl MVP twice. Brady and Peyton Manning were also named to the 2000s All-Decades team and Brady will likely get the nod for the 2010s team.
And while yes, consistency has marred the Chargers, Rivers did have the benefit of a Hall of Fame running back in LaDanian Tomlinson as well as a Canton-bound tight end in Antonio Gates. In 2006, Rivers’ first year as the full-time starter, the Chargers went 14-2, and undefeated at home, only to squabble an eight-point lead with less than five minutes left in a Divisional Round playoff loss to New England.
Bad luck played a role too. In 2007, the Chargers made it to the AFC Championship, but faced a 17-0 New England Patriots team without Tomlinson, who missed nearly all of the game due to a knee injury and Rivers played on a torn ACL.
The Chargers would made it to the Divisional Round in 2008 and 2009 also, but failed to win both times. Rivers has never made it to the AFC Championship Game since and while it isn’t necessarily his fault, it’s hard to discount it when guys like Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco have found ways to get to the Conference Championship multiple times.
To date, 28 quarterbacks are in the Hall of Fame. All of them have either won a Super Bowl (or a NFL Championship for those who played before the Super Bowl era), made at least one All-Pro (most have made multiple) or won at least one MVP award – and most have a combination of the three. Again, Rivers has none of these accolades.
The NFL Hall of Fame is a notoriously backlogged club. A maximum of five players across all positions are enshrined on an annual basis and there are plenty of players who have been stuck on the outside looking in. While I do not see them as Hall of Famers, Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason, Randall Cunningham and John Brodie arguably have more impressive resumes, albeit their numbers may not look as impressive as they played in a less pass-heavy era.
At the end of the day, Rivers will have to compete with Brady, both Mannings, Brees, Roethlisberger, Rodgers just at his own position along with plenty of other guys across the league for his spot in the Hall of Fame. And that’s before he enters the backlog and other potential Hall of Fame candidate become eligible. Unless he saved the best of his career for last, he will be on the outside looking in once his career is done.