The most admirable trait that I see from Philip Rivers is his ability to play every single week. That is probably something that is overlooked, because when you look around the league, there are some prominent quarterbacks that have missed games and suffered major injuries: the newly-retired Peyton Manning (neck), Tom Brady (knee), Drew Brees (shoulder), plus it seems like Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo re banged up just about every other week.
Since Rivers took over for Brees as the new face of the Chargers, which was back in 2006, he has played in all 16 regular season games for a straight decade. Drafted in 2004, but out of his 10 seasons as a starter, Rivers has thrown for over 4k yards seven times and made the postseason five times. Often an afterthought when it comes to elite quarterbacks, Rivers has usually been that borderline guy between elite and great, but definitely one of the next few names that comes up in conversation after the top guys. Everyone understands that he’s a franchise QB. As much as I hate the front office for not getting him the necessary top-talent protection, before looking at his career statistics I would have guessed that he threw for 30+ touchdowns more than 4 times.
I will say, I do believe Rivers to be a better QB than the guy that the Chargers and Giants flip-flopped him for on draft day, Eli Manning. I’m just not the right person to read or converse with when it comes to rings, if that’s your main point in this discussion. It certainly takes a team and coaches, with some luck, to fire on all cylinders at the right time where players are rising to the occasion. That’s exactly what Manning did during those two spectacular Super Bowl runs, one in which they defeated the undefeated and history-seeking Patriots. Winning definitely holds weight here, let’s not neglect any of those accolades. As Manning’s numbers compare, he’s thrown for over 4k yards 5 times and 30+ touchdowns 3 times. Yes, Manning was drafted in the same year, but he also started mid-way through his rookie campaign and has been the starter ever since.
Much to Manning’s credit for also never missing a game, his individual statistics are less impressive than Rivers, even with a season and a half of more games played. Like Rivers, Manning has made 5 postseason appearances. Unlike Rivers, he has 2 rings. Manning has led the league in interceptions a couple of times, tossing over 20 turnovers in 3 seasons. The guy does take chances, but he also has an ugly side that goes through these horrific struggles, reminiscent of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. By the way, that was published back in 1886 and filmed in 1931.
You can’t really say that Manning had better offensive lines than Rivers throughout their careers, although both had some great years with elite O-line groups. Their divisions have almost mirrored each other, they haven’t been the greatest, teams that usually hover around .500. Early on the NFC East was strong, but recently it has been the AFC West that has been stronger. Most would agree that the Chargers were viewed as one of the talented teams in the league for a few years, but they could just not get over the hump to win the AFC. Controversial, and what I thought this entire was a big mistake, was to move on from Marty Shottenheimer after a 14-2 season did not result in a trophy. I’m not a fan of coach Mike McCoy but it is a good thing to have Ken Whisenhunt back in San Diego. The Giants’ front office has been credited over the years, especially when you win one Super Bowl, let alone a pair. Just now, with the front office still in tact, they have elected move on from coach Tom Coughlin. Ben McAdoo came over from the Packers, spent a couple of seasons as the QB coach, getting groomed for his first head coaching opportunity. Apparently, Eli made the right decision not to play for the Chargers’ front office.
Heading into the 2016 season, I can’t tell you which backfield or O-line is better, I honestly couldn’t. It was just be an opinion based on what I watched last year, but I would lean toward New York’s line because they have made it a priority as of late. Odell Beckham Jr. has emerged as a star wide receiver in just two seasons. Other than that, everyone else in the offense is going to have to step up and contribute. Rivers has developed chemistry with Keenan Allen, who is on his 2nd contract in the league, and Antonio Gates played pretty well last season. Some may point to his age (36), but if a guy can still play like Tony Gonzalez was once capable of, or like Jason Witten (34) is still doing, don’t try to push those special players out the door sooner than you have to.
The supporting cast is so important, as evidenced by each QB’s 5 postseason appearances but separated by Manning’s two rings, and you can also look at LeBron James and the Cavaliers bringing Cleveland their first NBA Championship. Defensively, the Giants hit free agency hard and paid the big bucks to improve their D-line, a strength of theirs when they hoisted the Lombardi. The Chargers on the other hand, they finally believe that the combination of talent of health will take their defense to a the higher level that they’ve envisioned after each draft. Even then, I couldn’t tell you that one team has a better defense than the other. If I’m basing my comparison off of last year’s stats, the Giants gave up the 3rd most points in the league. The Chargers gave up the 12th-most. Yardage is so difficult to compare heading into a new season, with running game improvements and better 3rd down efficiency, that could really help the defense out big time so we won’t even dive into those numbers.
Rivers will face one of the tougher divisions in football. He’s got to face the elite defenses in Denver and Kansas City, and I’m one of those people that believes Oakland will thrust their defense into that realm as well. The good thing for Rivers, if his defense is just solid enough, the other teams aren’t expected to light up the scoreboard. Manning faces a weaker defensive division, but one that believes it has improved, especially in terms of the Redskins and Eagles. The NFC East has also shifted their focus to slowing down the game by running and protecting their defense, so they’re not really known for scoring a lot of points either.
I can’t blame you for wanting to roll with Eli because of the bling, that we can’t argue and I won’t. When all is said and done, the hardware will likely point in Manning’s favor as having the more successful career. As far as the individual comparison goes, Rivers has performed statistically better while Manning has led the league in picks. Manning has the more drastic lows, although I do like that he’ll take shots downfield to try to make something happen, while Rivers has reverted to be a check-down king. If I have to split hairs and pick between the two, give me the leader that has learned to live another play and that’s Rivers over Manning any on given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday).