Few NFL players offer more thoughtful answers than Philip Rivers.
As he stood talking for 11 minutes and 37 seconds before a room full of reporters, number 17 was even more insightful than usual on Wednesday.
It began with the expected question about facing off against Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
Rivers will forever be linked with the team that initially drafted him fourth overall in the 2004 NFL Draft. He’ll also forever be compared to the quarterback he was traded for in one of the most famous transactions in league history.
It may seem like a tired storyline at this point after 14 years, yet the same questions get asked every four years when the teams square off.
Truth be told, Rivers and Manning have authored remarkably similar stat lines throughout their careers in what was a win-win for each team. Since Rivers became the starter in 2006, he’s gone 97-83 in the regular season while Manning is 96-84.
As such, Rivers has a deep appreciation getting to go up against the QB he’ll forever be associated with.
“It’s something you appreciate,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. You’re not playing the other quarterback, but this could be the last time we’re both out there playing each other.”
Perhaps it was reflecting on being a 22-year old kid when the trade took place, but the 36-year old Rivers opened up about where he is at this stage of his career.
From never missing a game in any competition dating back to little league to how his skills compare to when he was younger, the quarterback’s answers were particularly profound.
For instance, take this assessment of his physical and mental acumen at this point in time.
“There was probably a time if we just did a longball competition, I could probably throw it a little further. Probably not a lot (further, but) things like that. I don’t know that there’s, ‘Oh, I could’ve made that throw five years ago but I can’t make it now.’ I don’t think I’ve hit that point yet. I think I’m better mentally. I think each game you grow as a player, see more and more looks and more things. It doesn’t always translate every Sunday, but you feel better equipped. You have more tools for how you can handle the attacks of coverage.”
Still, Rivers knows a time will come where his game will dip. That’s only natural. So, how will he react when it starts?
“I don’t look forward to that day,” he explained. “I think it’ll gradually start showing up. I imagine that you just go, ‘Golly, I’ve thrown that in route a million times and I can’t. What happened?’ I think that’s how it’ll show up. Thankfully, other than a handful of poor decisions and our record, nothing’s showing up yet. There’ve been quite a few plays where I’ve (thought), ‘Shoot, you’re still hanging in there alright.’”
Then there’s the record the quarterback alluded to. As one of the game’s fiercest competitors, it’s been a tough couple years as the Bolts have endured 4-12 and 5-11 campaigns. Equally difficult is starting off the 2017 campaign 0-4.
However, Rivers believes he’s better equipped to handle that adversity than had he faced it earlier in his career. Experience has also taught him to remain optimistic.
“I’ve never dealt with 0-4. I’ve never dealt with 0-3. All the way back, I can’t remember 0-3 in anything. This is new territory for all of us. There’s probably a lot of guys who haven’t had to handle this. I do think the 2008 season, those 10 and 11 years fighting back to 8-8 and not getting in, the last two years, certainly (have been tough). It’s a touchy deal. You don’t ever want to get good at handling it because what does that mean? It means you’re dealing with it a lot, which isn’t good.
“You have to know to fight your way out of it. For me, it’s mentally having perspective on it and that approach to not be miserable. It could be. It really could drive you to go crazy. You’re going to allow that to and lose the fifth game? Or are you going to let that kick start…It’s a pretty awesome week. It’s staying in the moment like that…. The thing I’m fighting right now is that we haven’t won a game since the Houston Texans last year. That’s nine games. That’s a lot. That’s rough. That’s hard. But then someone sent me a message to say the last team to be 0-4 and make the playoffs was the ‘92 Chargers. It’s the 25th anniversary. Sounds like a good time to change that. You just start grasping for things to get fired up.” Read