Editorial: Philip Rivers Should be Headed to the Hall of Fame

Zachary Grover, Sports Editor

   The circumstances surrounding the night of the 2004 NFL Draft, when up and coming Quarterback Philip Rivers became a member of the then-San Diego Chargers Team, were definitely different compared to the normal pre-draft drama. Coming into the night, the top question was “Which of the top three quarterbacks in the draft, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger would be drafted first?” Manning was selected first by the Chargers but was able to force a trade to the Giants by refusing to play for the Chargers, making him public enemy number one in San Diego. Charger fans were wondering if Rivers, who they had just traded for and who wasn’t as flashy as Manning, was any good. Football fans still had their heads spinning over what had just taken place.

   Ever since that night of the draft, Rivers has given everything he has to the game of football, including 16 years in a powder-blue Chargers jersey. Including playoffs, Rivers had started 252 consecutive games, which gave him the longest streak in the NFL before his retirement, and the third-longest consecutive games streak in NFL history (nbcsports.com).

   A common topic of discussion throughout Rivers’ career was whether or not he was worthy of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Skeptics say the fact Rivers never won a Super Bowl or the fact that he could never win the most important games he played in should keep him out of the storied halls of Canton, Ohio. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, the Hall of Fame celebrates “football excellence,” “the heroes of the game,” and “individual excellence” (profootballhof.com). With that criteria for a Hall of Famer, let’s take a look how Rivers stacks up among the sport’s greatest.

   According to a football statistics website, Rivers ranks fifth of all time in passing yards (63,440), ahead of notable Hall of Famers John Elway, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Joe Namath. Rivers is also fifth in passing touchdowns (421). He was fifth in all time completions, had twelve 4,000 yard passing seasons, and was selected to eight Pro Bowls (profootbalreference.com). The advanced statistics also tell a fascinating story. Rivers’ Expected Points Added (EPA), which measures the value of an individual player in terms of points, ranks sixth in the NFL. Notable quarterbacks to rank lower than Rivers in EPA are fellow 2004 draft picks, Roethlisberger and Manning (who are both considered to be Hall of Famers). The Hall of Fame is for the best players in the sport, and Rivers is top five in the two main statistical categories for quarterbacks. Not to mention he hasn’t missed a game in fifteen years; this included playing a full game with a torn ACL in the AFC Championship Game in 2008 (usatoday.com). There are only thirty-two starting quarterback spots available in the best football league in the world. To have a spot for seventeen years, you have to be very good at what you do. To not miss a game in fifteen years is nothing short of mind blowing.

   If stats weren’t enough to confirm Rivers’ Hall of Fame status, skeptics should consider just how fun he was to watch and his impact on the game. Rivers was a fierce trash talker, but always kept it PG, never cursing but resorting to using “gosh dangit” and his famous “dadgummit” instead. People asked questions every time he threw the ball because of his unorthodox throwing motion. “How could he throw it that far when it looks like the ball weighs fifty pounds the way he throws it?” jokingly questioned ESPN Analyst Domonique Foxworth, who played against Rivers in college and the NFL. Foxworth also stated, “That man was far too good… and would talk trash in your face after throwing a touchdown” (sandiegouniontribune.com). Rivers also had an impressive talent of being able to see the game incredibly well. NFL Star JJ Watt shared a funny story about Rivers when news of his retirement broke. “I’ll never forget lining up for a  play and Phil pointing to one of our linebackers and telling him he was lined up wrong based on the blitz we were about to run and being 100 percent correct about it,” shared Watt before complimenting Rivers’ competitive nature (usatoday.com). 

   Football is a team sport, and yes, some would say that the quarterback position is the most important, but it is not the only piece of the puzzle. Stats prove Rivers has done his job. It isn’t his fault the Chargers made some questionable decisions during his time with the team and could never get him to the Super Bowl. He isn’t the only reason the Colts came up short this past year. Say what you want about his errors or the plenty of interceptions at the end of games, but they were a byproduct of that competitive fire that never went out of the country kid. Junior Brady Martin shared his thoughts on Rivers’ career. “Growing up a Chargers fan, I’ve always loved watching Rivers. He was super energetic and a great quarterback…. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame.” Furthermore, there are plenty of Hall of Fame players that never won a Super Bowl. Plenty of great quarterbacks even. Quarterbacks Dan Marino, Warren Moon, Jim Kelly, and Dan Fouts are all Hall of Famers that never lifted the Lombardi. Simply winning a championship or even multiple doesn’t make you great. Plenty of players have won multiple Super Bowls that you have never heard of. Are people calling for them to have a plaque in Canton? No.

   Philip Rivers was a fierce competitor, was great at what he did, and did it for a long time. Denying him access to a club that celebrates the best the game has to offer because the team he was playing for couldn’t get their act together and get over the hump is absurd. Rivers was a class act on and off the field and was a great role model, showing sportsmanship and athleticism. It could be seen even in the way he made his retirement announcement. He didn’t just tell ESPN to have his time in the national spotlight. He gave the story to San Diego Union-Tribune Columnist Kevin Acee, who covered him for years. It spoke volumes about who Rivers is as a person; he acts the ways parents want their children to act. “Remember where you came from,” people always say. Philip Rivers did. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, for all the reasons listed above and probably for many more. He brought joy to a city and a franchise, and gave the game of football a new type of flare. Philip Rivers deserves a gold jacket, and was truly one of a kind, dad gummit.