Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Quarterback Quiz: San Diego Chargers

So yes, I am actually spending an entire evening writing about Phyllis... er, Philip Rivers, possibly my least favorite QB in the NFL. I even managed to do it without being too snarky, although if one or two zingers slip in, I swear that isn't my fault. For the last few days, I've been reading combine news like a madwoman (the Dolphins will probably take Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long first overall, Boston College's Matt Ryan may be the first quarterback picked, I do not care about Glenn Dorsey's injury, Darren McFadden may already be turning into Travis Henry, De'Cody Fagg may have had the worst result a player can imagine in possibly suffering a career-ending injury (aside from his last name, which is also a problem) Joe Flacco is nice to little children, and will you people stop bashing Colt Brennan already? It's not his fault he was dying of flu at the Senior Bowl, so he gains weight like you want him to and you grumble some more. Notice to sports reporters: Brennan did have an NCAA career before the Sugar Bowl, and one of the best in a while, too. Fortunately, his passing performance on Sunday was one of the best -- 20 of 21, but since his only incompletion was a perfect chest-high laser that bounced out of the wide receiver's hands, they gave him a perfect 100% accuracy rating anyway. They have complained about his lack of arm strength -- several completions went for 40+ yards. Okay, off my high horse now, but I have a fondness for the former Hawaii Warriors QB and would like to see him do well).

Now, do I have a fondness for the former NC State Wolfpack QB? Not so much.

San Diego Chargers (11-5): Philip Rivers

The Chargers, after going 14-2 last year under the stewardship of Marty Schottenheimer, took the #1 AFC seed into the playoffs but lost to the Patriots 24-21 in San Diego, courtesy of one of Tom Brady's patented late-game comeback drives, and consequently bitched about the Patriots celebrating too much by dancing on their field. (It's kind of a habit). They fired Schottenheimer and thought it would be a brilliant idea to hire Norv Turner, which they did, and finished 11-5 as the third seed in the AFC, beat the defending champion Colts 28-24, and then ended their season by losing to the Patriots again 21-12, this time in Foxborough. Coming into this year, they sadly didn't have much competition, as the Broncos were in rebuilding phase, the Raiders are owned by Al Davis (the Peter Angelos of football) and the Chiefs, well, took a little tumble this year. Which meant that Marmalard, as Kissing Suzy Kolber so adeptly calls P. Rivers (and if I keep plugging that blog, it's because you need to go and read it, especially the Adventures of Marmalard) was able to lead the Chargers to the AFC West title, or at least sit back and take credit while LT continued to do the grunt work. Boo. (I told you I wasn't being snarky. I swear. It ends here. I'll try).

Philip-spelled-with-one-i-after-the-Apostle-Rivers was born in Decatur, Alabama, on December 8, 1981, but evidently he's yet to make such an impression as to get a day named after him. (There is no Philip Rivers Day, as far as I know, so at least we have been spared that horror). If you want a really terribly corny story, young Phil, who was the waterboy for the football team his father coached, made a project in fifth grade that showed his head pasted over the body of a Vikings player on the cover of Sports Illustrated. (Too bad the jinx couldn't kick in by association). Attending Athens High School, Rivers played quarterback and free safety, got named Alabama Player of the Year, and graduated with a 3.70 GPA, all of which he carried off to North Carolina State. There, he led the Pack to four bowl games (two Tangerine, one Gator, one Citrus) won three of them and got named MVP, and was also named MVP of the Senior Bowl in his last year as he went about setting just about every NC State record for quarterbacks. His won-loss in his time at school was 34-17 out of a NCAA-record 51 starts, he is second all-time with 13,484 yards, fifth all-time with 95 TD passes, seventh in Heisman voting his senior year, the 2003 ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) Player of the Year, first ACC player with 3 3,000-yard seasons, and second-team All-America as a senior. He graduated with his degree in business.

(YOINK! Now that I've just said plenty of good things about Rivers....) Coming into the 2004 draft, Rivers was rated as the third-best quarterback available behind Ole Miss's Eli Manning and Miami University's Ben Roethlisberger. Interestingly enough, a number of draft prognosticators had Rivers, not Roethlisberger, taken by the Steelers at the eleventh overall slot, but of course, that didn't happen. The Chargers took Eli first, the Giants took Rivers fourth, and the two teams swapped young, promising QBs, along with New York flinging a pair of draft picks San Diego's way. The Chargers made good use of these, selecting outside linebacker Shawne Merriman and kicker Nate Kaeding, and until recently, the trade looked like total highway robbery. (Eli's Super Bowl MVP may herald his emergence as a totally different player, or it may herald him getting on the mother of all lucky streaks. Time will tell). Rivers eventually was signed to a 6-year, $40-million deal, but this took so long, and he was off holding out, that the Chargers gave recently-profiled Drew Brees the chance to start another season while Rivers was counting zeros and cackling diabolically, probably calling Brady Quinn and giving him advice on what to do when he hit the big-time. Either that or since his signing bonus was $14.5 million, Rivers was too busy selecting a personal yacht and would not be bothered until this delicate operation had concluded. Naturally, this didn't do wonders for his playing time, as he saw action in only two games, neither starts, in 2004, in which he completed 5 of 8 passes for 1 TD and 0 INT, resulting in a TEH AWESOME passer rating of 110.9.

Philipotamus again only saw 2 games, no starts, in 2005, completing 12 of 22 passes for no TD and 1 INT, rating a 50.4 and getting most of his action after Brees suffered the season-ending shoulder injury against Denver. Since the Chargers didn't re-sign Brees after that, Rivers finally took over the starting quarterback job in 2006 and did (ulp) quite well, completing 284 of 460 attempts (a 61.7 percentage) for 3,388 yards, 22 TD, 9 INT, and a 92.0 rating. But since he had the 2006 MVP LT on his team, you have to wonder to whom all the offensive credit really goes. Rivers did indeed play well, and showed that he could back up his big NCAA numbers with success in the NFL, but as of February 4, 2008, both Roethlisberger and the much-maligned Manning have won a Super Bowl, leaving him the only member of the highly touted Class of '04 that has not. (Get on that! No actually, don't, definitely don't, it's all right if you never do). Rivers didn't exactly improve on his strong showing this year, however. While he still threw for 3,152 yards and 21 TD, he added 15 picks and a 10-points-lower rating (82.4) while listing his hobbies as jawing at everybody from Jay Cutler to old ladies, mailboxes, and vending machines, along with promoting celibacy and AAAAASSKING SOMEBOOODAAAY. However, to give credit where credit is due, he did play the AFC Championship Game on two bad knees (and supposedly without an ACL in one) so although he may not be able to walk when he is 45, he is doing his best at staking a claim to Brett Favre-like Tuffness. He is undergoing surgery this offseason and hopes to be ready for an all-new campaign of blinding Bolting awesomeness this 2008, coming to a Qualcomm near you.

All right, I've had enough of writing about Marmalard. My favorite team tomorrow, and my favorite player! Expect a novel. If I can get up the ambition, and the memory, to actually get down everything I want to say, which can always be an issue.

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