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Philip Rivers: A Legacy That Will Weigh Shortcomings Over Success

The not-so-unexpected news of Philip Rivers’ retirement has social media swirling up the same conversation that happens every time a longtime quarterback retires: Is he going to make the Hall of Fame? In this situation, numbers tell one story while history tells another. Rivers is a prime example of why we need to reject the “Film vs Analytics” argument and judge a player by their full scope of work.

Simply looking at the numbers would make you think that Philip Rivers is a lock for the Hall of Fame:

Fifth in yards
Fifth in passing touchdowns

Eighth in wins
Fifth in passes completed
Tenth in yards per attempt
Twelfth in passer rating
Fourteenth in completion percentage

On the surface, that appears to be enough to get into the Hall of Fame. But the glaring weakness is his lack of Super Bowl success. The Chargers always seemed to be ready for the Big Dance but never made it.

His teams in 2006 and 2007 were dripping with talent.

LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, Michael Turner, and Lorenzo Neal coming out of the backfield. A young Vincent Jackson and an in-prime Antonio Gates catching balls. A defense with superstars like Shawne Merriman, Antonio Cromartie, Eric Weddle, Jamal Williams, and Quentin Jammer.

Two years with this squad, a 25-7 record, and no rings. This loaded roster came up short of even making the Super Bowl in back-to-back years. Unfortunately, this is how Rivers’ legacy will be remembered.

In his final season as an NFL quarterback and first with the Colts, we saw the same old story; Philip Rivers in the playoffs with an 11-5 record, losing a game by just a few points. A tale as old as time and a fitting sendoff for a quarterback who will consistently be measured by his shortcomings.

The craziest thing about that playoff loss: It wasn’t a shock.  It was practically expected by anyone that’s watched Rivers throughout his career. Philip Rivers was an accumulator. He would rack up stats and touchdowns seemingly every week but never had that ability to push deep into the playoffs.

Rivers was known around the league as a fierce competitor and a world-class “shoot-talker” but that never translated to playoff success. Overall, Rivers has a regular season record of 421–209. Of those 209 losses, 66 of them were within one score by the game’s end. That included this year’s Wild Card loss in what is now his final game.

What’s important about those 66 one-score losses? Well, that’s another record by Philip Rivers, and the one people will be most likely to remember.

So does Philip Rivers make the Hall of Fame?

We often hear the argument of “Film vs Analytics” and Philip Rivers is a perfect example of why both are needed to properly evaluate a player. On the surface, Rivers has all of the stats accumulated over his 17-year career to justify a bust in the Hall. His legacy will likely have a different tone though. I do not expect to see Philip Rivers in the Hall of Fame as a player. He’ll be remembered for his great regular-season records, his hilarious trash-talking banter, and his unfortunate inability to win it all.  

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