The mountain less traveled


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Jan 22, 2006
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The mountain less traveled
By Clint Muhe on June 29, 2006 03:34 PM

After two years of patiently waiting, Philip Rivers has finally received the call he had been waiting for.

Few quarterbacks drafted in the Top 5 of the NFL Draft are ever asked to wait. Quite the contrary; very few drafted that high have the luxury of being groomed and gradually working themselves into the starting lineup. In fact, had he not stood strong on his contract demands he may have replaced Drew Brees as the starter Week 1.

I would be foolish to proclaim that Rivers, an unproven third-year quarterback, will make an instant impact for the San Diego Chargers . It is well documented that few end up as a Roethlisberger, or better yet, a Culpepper-type phenomenon (Daunte also sat the bench initially). Even the quarterback Rivers was traded for, Eli Manning, had his struggles early on and San Francisco's Alex Smith did even worse. So what makes Rivers different? Why should he perform well early on, when so few have done the same? The reason his future looks so bright may lie in his past.

Just because he sat for a few years many more doubters have come out of the woodworks, as if the reason he was drafted so high has already been forgotten. While college credentials don't always translate to success in the NFL, they must be noted in this instance because they are so impressive. Rivers finished his career at NC State as the second-leading passer in NCAA history. He threw for the fifth-most touchdown passes (95) in NCAA history and started all 51 games in his four year career, which is again the NCAA record. He was also the first quarterback in ACC history to throw for 3,000 yards in three different seasons.

Probably the most important stat, and one of the biggest reasons Drew Brees was let go, he excels in the most pressure-packed situations. He completed 110 of 161 passes in four bowl games for 1,200+ yards, 10 touchdowns, and only three interceptions, receiving MVP honors in all of those games. When it came down to make-or-break moments for the San Diego Chargers , more often than not, it was Brees that broke. Never having won a playoff game in his career, coupled with the severe shoulder injury - the seriousness of which Drew Brees and his agent were not forthright about - left A.J. Smith and company with the difficult decision of moving on without him.

In the smooth Southern drawl he has always spoke with, Rivers shows no signs of concern for the future, "I'm confident that I can succeed at this level as well and I'm excited about the opportunity to get out there and show not only what I can do but, more importantly, what this team can do with me in there."

As good as Drew Brees was, there must have been a pretty strong reason for the San Diego Chargers to let him walk. The injury to Brees certainly weighed heavily on A.J. Smith, but that wasn't the reason why. Rivers was, quite simply, the preordained leader for the up-and-coming Chargers and Brees' injury just made it easier for Smith to finally start his man. Smith has cemented himself as one of the best general managers in the NFL, but if Rivers is as good as advertised, Smith may want to run for Mayor of San Diego in the upcoming elections - he'd win in a landslide.
I think the biggest problem for the rest of the West is the fact he sat for 2 years. He got to learn how to be a pro without having the pressure of leading his team to victories. There will certainly be an adjustment period for him, but he's not stepping on the field with a whole collection of new experiences to worry about. He's in the same offense he's been learning for 2 years. He knows how to prepare in the off-season. He knows how long the season is. He's had time to learn the speed of NFL players.

The benefits to his having sat are tremendous. But the pressure isn't exactly off the kid. Why? He has very few excuses. Sure he'll have to make the adjustment to game speed. Sure he'll have to get used to being hit. But decision-making? No excuse. Making all the throws? No excuse. So there's pressure on the kid. I'm excited to see how he handles it. And I'm excited to see us give him a big-time-football-hero's welcome to the NFL on opening day.
LOL Rupert....I keep telling Charger fans, I hope Rivers is the next Ryan Leaf :p
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