Back in the first decade of this century, Philip Rivers was a very good QB. He had a weird, semi-sidearm motion which convinced some other coaches that QB mechanics don’t really matter, and soon he could it throw a mile with accuracy.
With a younger Antonio Gates, a semi-functional Vincent Jackson, some quality veterans on the offensive line, and a good defense, they were cast yearly as the AFCW favorite. In 2009, they painfully drafted Northern Illinois University’s Larry English in the first round - he just contributed four tackles last season and 24 over the last three.
I went to NIU and taught a year there - there’s a reason I never talk about my college football team. They’re trying to become a program - they aren’t one yet, and English has gone on to prove why. He’s washed out, although he takes up a roster place still.
In that same 2009 Draft, San Diego took Louis Vasquez for the Broncos to later poach, and in the fourth round took bust OL Tyronne Green to help hasten their own demise.
A few years of Ryan Mathews have done nothing to help. Incidentally, as I'm writing this, Mathews just had a play that should be put on a continuous loop and shown to Ronnie Hillman for about a week - it was the textbook way to protect the ball when you’re neither big nor unusually strong, from one young fumbler to another.
These problems, among others, all added up to A.J. Smith and Norv Turner losing their jobs last winter.
But nothing has loomed larger for San Diego than the regression of Rivers.
It was late 2010 when Rivers started a long series of late game meltdowns, mistakes, fumbles, interceptions, and other errors too numerous to list. It’s gotten worse since then.
He showed today why that’s still the case.
The Titans - who had lost nine straight to the Chargers coming in - provided 10 penalties in the first half.
In the second quarter, Tennessee turned the ball over at their own 30, setting up what has become an all-too typical meltdown from Rivers.
The Chargers drove to the Titans five-yard line, where a blatant illegal pick by rookie WR Keenan Allen resulted in a pass interference call and nullified what would have been Eddie Royal's sixth touchdown catch of the season. Rivers completely lost his mind and ran towards the official, screaming at him until another zebra came out and shooed him off, tacking on a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct flag.
That put him back out to the 30-yard line, where they'd first taken over on downs. A nice run was followed by an easy sack when Akeem Ayers got King Dunlap on skates and put Rivers back far enough to force a field goal.
The Chargers would go on to lose seven-point leads in both the second and fourth quarters, against a team that shot itself in the foot enough times to make them the official team of the NRA.
The Titans today often looked like roadkill - their roster resembles Swiss cheese, and they provide mistakes nearly on demand - but Jake Locker outplayed Rivers all day long and led Tennessee to a rousing comeback.
It was the Titans' first-ever win over the Chargers.
Rivers may eventually get his head back on straight, but for now, he’s still making the mental errors that have marked his play over the past three seasons.