After the Indianapolis Colts lost to the Buffalo Bills 27-24 in the 2020-2021 AFC Super Wild Card Playoff game at Bills Stadium, starting quarterback Phillip Rivers may have had his swan-song-sung for his 17-year career. Over the years, Rivers has been known to be a great regular season quarterback leading his teams to winning records each year. His shortcoming has been in the playoffs, including a blow out loss to Tom Brady and the then undefeated New England Patriots in the 2007-2008 AFC Championship game. So the question remains, will Rivers come back and finally hoist a Lombardi Trophy? Or will the longtime quarterback continue to crack and continue to deal with the same narrative that he only performs in a 16 game (17 starting next year’s) regular season? Don’t talk about retirement to Frank Reich though.
2020 Regular Season
In the first season of the Reich-Rivers show, the Indianapolis Colts looked like a team of destiny, even scoring a home upset against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers 34-31 in OT in week 11. Rivers had another good regular season, throwing 24 td’s and 11 int’s. His completion percentage was 68% and he threw for over 4,000 yards once again as an NFL quarterback. Since taking over for the Indianapolis Colts in 2020, Reich had early success with former #1 overall-pick Andrew Luck going 10-6 in the regular season, and making the 2019 AFC Divisional Playoff Round. Last season, due to the unexpected retirement of Andrew Luck, the Colts relied on Jacoby Brissett who was drafted in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. Oddly enough, Brissett was drafted out of NC State where Rivers was drafted in 2004. Because of the change at quarterback, Reich and the Colts took a step back going 7-9 and missing the playoffs. Needing to make a win-now move, Rivers signed a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts in 2020, after a 16-year career with the San Diego/LA Chargers.
Former Chargers’ QB Philip Rivers and the Colts reached agreement on a 1-year deal, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2020
Super Wild-Card Playoff Game against the Buffalo Bills
On Jan 9, 2021, Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts traveled to Bills Stadium in Orchard Park New York to face a Buffalo Bills team trending up and looking to win their first playoff game since 1995. The seventh-seeded Colts under Rivers were looking to change the narrative about Rivers failing in the playoffs. Trailing 24-10 in the fourth-quarter, the Colts scored on a touchdown, but missed a two-point conversion to cut the Bills lead to 24-16. The Bills then drove the length of the field where rookie kicker Tyler Bass drilled a 54 yard field goal to put Buffalo up 27-16 with 8:08 left in the game. With 6:21 left, Rivers found a wide open Jack Doyle for a td to cut the lead to 27-22. This time the Colts capitalized on the two-point conversion and Indy was within three-points.
— NFL (@NFL) January 9, 2021
After failing to run out the clock, the Bills gave the ball back to the Colts where they drove down to midfield. With 0:04 left, Rivers tried to stun the Bills again with a game-winning hail Mary attempt, but the ball was batted down by safety Micha Hyde. Once again, the narrative is the same as Rivers is still yet to finally win a Super Bowl in his career.
Rivers was born on Dec. 8, 1981 in Decatur, Alabama. His dad Steve Rivers was the head coach of Decatur High’s Football team, while his mom Joan, (not the late comedian) was a teacher. He originally went to Decatur, then transferred to Athens where in fifth grade, he made a poster project about his dreams and aspirations. In 1994, Rivers made his first football start as a seventh grader. In ninth grade, Rivers selected the #17 jersey because of his father Steve, who also wore #17. After rejecting offers from Auburn and Alabama, Rivers decided to attend NC State and became the Wolf Pack’s starting quarterback as a freshman.
NC State Wolf Pack
In his freshman season, Rivers led the Pack to an 8-4 record and a victory over Minnesota in the 2000 MicronPC.com Bowl in Miami, Florida. Rivers best season came during his senior year in 2003, where he threw 34 td’s, and 7 int’s, and led the Pack to an 8-5 record and his third bowl win over Kansas 56-26. Rivers declared for the 2004 NFL draft after his senior season.
2004 NFL Draft
The 2004 NFL draft saw the rookie-quarterback class as being one of the most talented classes since 1983. It was headlined by Ole Miss’s Eli Manning (Peyton Manning‘s little brother) who was projected to go #1 overall to the San Diego Chargers. Rivers was projected to be an early first-round pick. What ended up occurring turned out to be one of the wildest draft day trades in NFL History. Eli Manning was selected number 1 overall by the San Diego Chargers, whereas Rivers went number 4 to the New York Giants. There was a slight problem with the Manning Camp as he and his father were not interested in playing for San Diego. As a result, Giants GM Ernie Accorsi and Chargers GM AJ Smith pulled off a trade that sent Manning to the Giants and Rivers to the Chargers. Early on, it looked as if the Chargers won the trade as Rivers led the Chargers to a 14-2 regular season record and the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs. They would meet the New England Patriots where they would lose 24-21 after missing a game tying field goal attempt. The next season, Rivers led the Chargers to an 11-5 record and a berth in the AFC Championship where they would lose to the Patriots again, but this time in blowout fashion.
Meanwhile, Manning and the Giants went 8-8 in 2006, but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Round. In 2007, Manning led the Giants to a 10-6 record and were the final seed in the NFC Playoffs. They pulled off upsets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, and Green Bay Packers all on the road. They would meet the undefeated New England Patriots once again after they had already lost 38-35 at home during the regular season finale. NYG pulled off the most incredible upset in Super Bowl history, winning 17-13 and ending the Patriots run of a perfect season. The Giants would go onto winning the Super Bowl 46 against the Patriots again, but this time as NFC East Champs at 9-7. Now looking back, the Giants won the trade as Manning has won 2 Super Bowls and Phillip Rivers has none.
Now, reports are going back and forth that Rivers wants to either retire after just one season with the Colts, or listen to Frank Reich’s narrative that he wants to come back and play for him again. Rivers told Zac Keefer of The Athletic on Jan.1, that he was leaning toward playing in 2021 but didn’t “want to speak in absolutes because there is still dust to be settled.”
What will Phillip Rivers do next? Well, for one thing Rivers is a very smart guy who has had many ups and downs in his career. While he has yet to win a Super Bowl, he has been in the NFL for 17-years, and this is a league where a very small percentage of college players even make it to the pros.
I wish Phillip Rivers good luck in the next steps of his life.