SAN DIEGO -- Quarterback Philip Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in today’s game and one of the best quarterbacks in Chargers’ history. But he turns 36 in December, and the clock is ticking on his career.
But for how much longer?
I posed that question to him this week at the Chargers’ last practices before they move to L.A., and Rivers – one of the game’s most candid, passionate and accommodating interviews – shook his head, laughed and threw up his hands.
“You know,” he said, “I said four or five (years), but I can’t put a number on it. I still really enjoy the heck out of it. I enjoy the practices and going to the meetings -- the preparation part of it. And, obviously, I still enjoy playing.
“I’ve gotten to where I say, ‘As long as I can contribute and help the team win … and enjoy it.' And, more importantly, as long as they (the Chargers) think that, why would I shut it down early? Because you can’t come back and do it later.
“I’ve got many years of coaching high-school football down the road, but I can’t come back and say, ‘You know, I think I’m going to go back and give it a shot.’ “
For that reason, New England quarterback Tom Brady reportedly told team owner Robert Kraft he could play six or seven more years … or until he’s in his mid-40s. But stay tuned. Quarterbacks historically don’t play into their 40s, though there are aberrations – with Brett Favre having one of his best seasons at 40 when he appeared in an NFC championship game and a 43-year-old George Blanda quarterbacking an AFC championship game.
So Brady would be doing the improbable ... which, of course, would be nothing new.
“I could see him playing that long,” Rivers said. “Obviously, he takes great care of himself. And the way he gets the ball out of his hands … I shouldn’t speak for him, but it doesn’t seem like he gets beaten down week after week after week. I’m sure he’s certainly had those games, but I don’t know.
"Now that he’s right there, I don’t see him where it's like, 'He’s about done.' I don’t see it.”
Neither does anyone else. Brady last year not only had one of his best seasons – with 28 touchdown passes, two interceptions and a 14-1 record – but he scored his fifth Super Bowl victory, the most of any NFL quarterback.
Rivers, on the other hand, had one of his most disappointing seasons. His interceptions were up (a career-worst 21), his passer rating (87.9) was his lowest in nine years and the Chargers finished out of the playoffs for the third straight season. Nevertheless, I asked if he could see himself pulling a Brady and trying to play until he’s 45.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ll be 36 in December this year, and I have three (years) left in my current contract. Unless I don’t play worth a hoot, I don’t see any reason definitely not to get that done. And then just see.
“My children still enjoy it. They’re really enjoying it now. They enjoy coming to the games, and they're into the seasons.
"I told my son, Gunner … he’s 9, and he's all football ... I don't know, this was about two or three months ago, and the move’s happening and we’re talking through all the things ... and I go, ‘Shoot, Gunner, this first year, why don’t we just go up there (to Los Angeles), win the Super Bowl and call it quits? And just be done. What do you think? Do you think we should do that?’
“And he looked at me like, ‘I can’t believe you said that.’ And he goes, ‘No. If you win the Super Bowl you should come back and win it again.’ So it’s not like I have a household at home going, 'Gosh, Dad, when are you going to stop?' They enjoy it.”