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Staying True to Form, Chargers botch Rivers’ farewell

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Philip Rivers announced on Feb. 10 that he is leaving the Los Angeles Chargers after 16 years to test NFL free agency. 

Rivers and the Chargers provided a joint statement in a press release that was posted to the team’s official website. In the release, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said the team talked with Rivers after the conclusion of the 2019-20 NFL season, and after discussing several scenarios, both parties agreed it was time for Rivers to move on. 

“I never took for granted the opportunity to lead this team out on the field for 235 games,” Rivers said in the release. “We had a lot of great moments, beginning in San Diego and then finishing in Los Angeles. I wish my teammates and my coaches nothing but the best moving forward.”

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Rivers holds franchise records in several categories. Among them are most passing yards (59,271) and passing touchdowns (397). He has been to eight Pro Bowls and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2013. 

So, if Rivers is the most accomplished Chargers quarterback since Dan Fouts, why only give a brief farewell through a press release? The answer is simple: It’s just the way the Chargers do things. 

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The Chargers bid farewell to a franchise great the same way they bid goodbye to a city that was their home for 56 years. They quietly posted a press release on their website. No talking directly to fans. No press conference. Just a simple press release. 

On the day the Chargers were gearing up to make the move to Los Angeles from San Diego, the team refused to allow local media to enter the team’s facility. Media members were told to stand outside while the front office met with team personnel to announce the decision to move. A short time later, a press release announcing the move was posted to the team’s website. 

That’s not to say that the same thing happened on the morning of Feb. 10. Media members were not barred from entering the facility.  But that’s only because there wasn’t a reason for the media to be there. There was no press conference. There was no farewell. Just a press release. 

This is the same franchise that didn’t give Rivers much of a chance to succeed. According to Pro Football Focus, the Chargers were below-average in pass protection for 12 straight seasons. They finished 30th and 31st, respectively, in this category the past two seasons. 

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Rivers’ first year as a starter was under Marty Schottenheimer. The team finished with a 14-2 record. After that, Rivers spent the majority of his career playing for Norv Turner and Mike McCoy. Neither has found a job as a head coach after being fired by the team. 

Despite these deficiencies, Rivers never missed a start. He played with a torn ACL against the New England Patriots in the 2008 AFC Championship Game. He played with back pain during the 2014-15 season. He made 224 straight starts. 

Rivers will now test free agency. Who he signs with next is yet to be known. People can only hope that he goes to a team that gives him a better chance to succeed. Looking at strictly his numbers, Rivers is all but a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He ranks ahead of other all-time greats in several passing categories. 

As for the Chargers, they find themselves at a crossroads. They will begin their fourth season in Los Angeles this fall and have yet to build an identity in the city. They struggled to fill a 24,000-seat soccer stadium, and most of the people who attended the games were opposing fans. 

The team will now play in SoFi Stadium, a venue they will share with the Los Angeles Rams, owned by Stan Kroenke. No one knows who will be the starting quarterback Week 1. The top quarterback on the depth chart is Tyrod Taylor. 

NFL free agency begins on March 13. The 2020 NFL Draft begins on April 23. The answers to these questions will be answered soon, including where Rivers will end up next season.

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