2017 Grade: .495

2017 3rd Down: .362

Week 1 at Denver: After a tumultuous start, Rivers had a hell of a night. Eight of his first 12 attempts came on third down and just one of his final 31 attempts came on the money down. It was a strange game for a number of reasons, but Rivers pinpoint accuracy and penchant for big plays late in this game gave his team hope when all seemed lost. He protects that bad offensive line from being even worse, by getting rid of the football just before chaos ensues.

Week 2 vs. Miami: Phil Rivers is such a star. Pairing anticipation with a quick release makes him a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback (in my book.) His intimate knowledge of the Chargers passing concepts and ability to put the ball exactly where it needs to be, on time, is truly a joy to watch. Through two games, he has just five negatively graded plays out of 69 registered drop backs. The GIF below is a great display of his release and anticipation.

Week 3 vs. Kansas City:Phillip Rivers has two or three games a year where it just doesn’t go well for him – this was one of those games. Each of his three interceptions were terrible throws and or decisions, he missed open targets throughout the game, and couldn’t deal with the Chiefs tough pass rush. Burn the tape and move on.

Week 4 vs. Philadelphia: Rivers’ game was saved by a perfect throw, splitting two Eagles down the middle of the field for a 75-yard touchdown. Outside of that, Rivers is having a difficult time with the poor pass protection in front of him. No one throws the ball away more than LA’s newest quarterback, and his propensity to gamble is increasing with each loss the Chargers endure.

Week 5 at New York Giants: In a game with an over-the-hill-quarterback on the other side, Phil Rivers might be joining his fellow 2004 classmate. Rivers missed two WIDE OPEN touchdowns and had another horrendous pick in the end zone. He doesn’t trust his protection (and who could blame him) and his once flawless accuracy seems to be slipping. I’m not used to seeing Rivers play this poorly.

Week 6 at Oakland: Rivers sparkled on the last series of the game. Starting inside his own five-yard-line, Rivers led the Chargers into field goal range. Two dimes to Hunter Henry (one on a smash concept against cover-2, another on a wheel in man-coverage), got the LA offense rolling. Rivers had some misfires early, but his ability to step out of pressure was the difference.

2016: Good ‘Till the Last Drop

Phillip Rivers had one of the more enigmatic seasons for a quarterback in 2016. His offense was ravished by injuries and its fair share of bad luck. Rivers tossed 21 interceptions, but at least half of those were tipped-balls or late-game heaves. He is the best example of stats meaning very little when evaluating a quarterback’s impact. That being said, his consistent greatness was undone by the crippling-mistake last season.

Rivers has started every Chargers-game for the last 11 years and the experience shows. He is the conductor of an orchestra predicated on timing, precision and anticipation. Few quarterbacks make better pre-snap reads and anticipate receivers coming off their breaks and cuts better than Rivers. He rarely passes up an open downfield-target and is exceptional at avoiding sacks despite being one of the least-athletic quarterbacks in football.

That lack of athletic-ability does not mean he has no ability to scramble. A veteran presence within the pocket, Rivers is adept at subtle-movement and finding open-lanes to create a throwing platform. He will stand in a secure spot until the very last moment to let his route develop and he often pays the price, yet never shies away from the contact. One of his greatest qualities is his ability to anticipate where the free-rusher is coming from. He carved up the Falcons zone-blitzes with check-downs to Melvin Gordon and had a field-day doing so.

Although one of the most unusual, his release is as quick as they come as he can get the ball from his resting-position to out of his hand in a millisecond. The short-arm release also benefits his downfield attacking style as he throws with sensational touch and accuracy to the deep areas of the field.

His short-game is automatic and the Chargers receivers drop more balls under five-yards than Rivers has misfires.

He does sail some throws and gets the best of himself with too much of a gun-slinger like mentality. He was completely undone in a couple of games by massive, costly mistakes in 2016. The interceptions came in bunches and Rivers melted in some fourth-quarter situations.

Like a true gamer, nothing rattles this guy. He can make a crippling-mistake and come back with a gorgeous 50-yard dime on the very next snap. He will, however, press at times in these situations which is the derivative of his late-game meltdowns.

The Chargers offense is built around him with a lot of deep drops, two-man route combinations with bail-out options that take advantage of Rivers’ quick-release. They love to work in around and under the linebackers with the backs and tight ends, jam quick-slants into their big-bodied receivers and use the flag-route with Rivers’ precision touch-passing.

Rivers excels at throwing receivers open in tight-coverage situations and throwing well before the receiver makes his break.

The Charger quarterback could’ve been one of the highest-graded passers if not for those devastating mistakes. A cleaner bill-of-health for his surrounding cast and some better luck could put the Chargers offense in a position to be dominant in 2017.

Stat Sheet

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