After 16 years in San Diego and Los Angeles with the Chargers, Philip Rivers found himself as a free agent for the first time in his career at the end of 2019. The Chargers had been his life since landing in San Diego as part of one of the most memorable draft day trades in NFL Draft history. The two had become synonymous with each other, their separation unthinkable.
Over his career with the Chargers, Rivers has held various passing titles in the NFL, such as passing touchdown leader in 2008, passing yards leader in 2010, and completion leader in 2013.
Despite this, the biggest prize of all has eluded him. Often the surrounding cast has let him down, a combination of a lack of talent or an apparent injury curse on the Chargers depriving Rivers of the chance to lift the Lombardi Trophy.
During the 2019 season it became increasingly obvious that Rivers was both frustrated and bewildered. At the same time, it became apparent that the feelings were reciprocated by the franchise at their star quarterback. The Chargers cut ties with Rivers at the end of the season, eventually replacing him in the 2020 NFL Draft with a younger, more agile model in Justin Herbert.
Rivers on a collision course with the Colts
2019 had been a bewildering year for the Indianapolis Colts at the quarterback position too.
They had been expecting to have Andrew Luck return behind a league leading offensive line to help return them to the glory days of Peyton Manning. However, Luck’s shock retirement left a void to be filled with the exciting but often exasperating Jacoby Brissett. They limped to a 7-9 record, finishing third in the AFC South.
From the moment that Philip Rivers became a free agent, it became obvious that the Colts would be a probable landing spot. On the 17th March, it was announced that Rivers had signed a one year, $25 million deal to become the new quarterback of the Colts.
It was a deal that made sense for the both parties. The Colts would get an experienced signal caller to help command their offense, and Rivers would have the opportunity to play behind a league leading offensive line in a system that wouldn’t demand him to extend plays with his ageing legs.
Free agency moves help Rivers to succeed
Since signing Rivers, the Colts off-season moves appear to be geared towards giving Rivers, and therefore the franchise, the best possible opportunity to land a Super Bowl in a limited window.
The Colts plans began to take shape with their other free agency moves.
Firstly, securing a key piece on that league leading offensive line. There had been rumours over the off-season that offensive tackle Anthony Costanzo would depart Indianapolis, but he was re-signed on a two-year, $33 million deal. His return, alongside that of Le’Raven Clarke ensures continuity on an offensive line whose consistency will be imperative to Rivers success.
They also used free agency to help build on a solid defensive foundation that was extremely strong against the run in 2019 but was found wanting in the passing game. Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Barrie were added to provide competition at defensive back.
The biggest sign that the Colts are committed to a “win now” approach with Rivers came as the 2020 NFL Draft approached.
The 13th overall pick had long been slated as a possible spot for Utah State quarterback Jordan Love to be taken by the Colts. However, they traded it away to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for DeForest Buckner, further strengthening the defensive front. It was the clearest sign to date that the Colts were preparing to furnish this team with everything Rivers will need for a run at the Super Bowl.
Adding offensive weaponry in the 2020 NFL Draft
The Colts sought to further equip Rivers with the weaponry he will require to succeed in 2020 during the NFL Draft.
Their first two picks, both in the second round, were used to provided offensive pieces that should provide immediate returns.
With the 34th overall pick, they selected Michael Pittman Jr, the wide receiver from USC. Pittman racked up over 1250 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final year at USC. He is a physical threat at the receiving position and has the ball skills to give Rivers an immediate go-to chain mover. He will fit perfectly in the Colts offense as a wide receiver who likes to get after it as a blocker in the run game.
It’s clear that the Colts are committed to the ground game after finishing in the top ten for rushing yards in the NFL, and top five for rushing attempts in 2019.
They leaned on Marlon Mack in 2019 but added one of the most successful running backs in college football history in Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor with the 41st overall pick. Taylor can be the workhorse back for the Colts, whilst bringing speed to the position as well. There had been doubts about his ability as a pass catching back heading into 2019, but he appeared to erase some of those concerns.
With Mack, Taylor, and free agent addition Roosevelt Nix, the Colts offense is once again set to have a "ground and pound" mentality, behind a nasty offensive line led by Quenton Nelson.
With a strong defense, league leading offensive line for protection, and a solid running game to ease the pressure and remove the focus from him, the ingredients are all there for Rivers to succeed with the Colts.
With no more excuses to hid behind, Rivers’ best chance for a run at the Super Bowl may well come with his final rodeo in the NFL.