INDIANAPOLIS – The short-term allure of potentially upgrading at the most important position in sports was too enticing for the Colts to pass up.
Frank Reich’s close relationship with Philip Rivers, plus Jim Irsay’s involvement in the monumental quarterback decision, has led to the Colts going in a different direction for their starting QB.
What the Colts are hoping for with Rivers, who turns 39 years old in December, is him playing behind a solidified offensive line, and a better run game, will lead to a team capable of making a playoff run in 2020.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the deal is 1-year and around $25 million for Rivers.
When the chatter of the Colts and Rivers picked up earlier this offseason—once the Chargers said they were going to move on from Rivers—the Reich connection was the biggest reason why Indy was a serious option.
Simply, Frank Reich loves Philip Rivers.
“Philip is an elite quarterback in this league,” Reich said this past season when the Colts were getting ready to take on the Chargers. “He has proven that year in and year out. He is a tough competitor. (It’s) a great test for our defense. He is everything you want in a quarterback. He is elite – elite accuracy, elite toughness.”
Reich worked with Rivers and the Chargers for three seasons (2013: Quarterbacks Coach; 2014-15: Offensive Coordinator).
Seeing Rivers work up close gave Reich an even greater appreciation for the Hall of Fame caliber quarterback.
“His mental preparation for the game and his love for the game is second to none,” Reich says. “I just know, the three years I was there, I learned so much from him. I learned X’s and O’s stuff from him. I learned a lot. A lot about how he prepares…about how he handles protections that has really influenced me in a lot of ways.”
Obviously, any signing of a 38-year-old quarterback doesn’t solve the long-term answer that the Colts face under center.
But does the signing of Rivers improve the Colts in the short-term, while also allowing them to use a draft resource at quarterback in looking towards the long-term? That young quarterback could be developed while learning behind Rivers for the next year.
Such a move would mean that Jacoby Brissett is a backup, at best, in Indianapolis this fall, with the Colts having to make a decision on that somewhat soon. Releasing Brissett in the coming weeks would save the Colts $8.8 million. Trading him would save $15.8 million.
The debate over who is the ’20 backup in Indy is for another time though.
In 2020, Rivers now enters an offense he knows very well (which could be key if the spring offseason program is limited in any way due to coronavirus). He will play behind a vastly better offensive line and with a better run game than he had with the Chargers.
Now, the pass catching group waiting in Indy doesn’t have the same high level of talent that the Chargers put around Rivers.
And even with a roster carrying multiple Pro Bowlers, Rivers led the Chargers to the playoffs just one time in the last 6 years. Since 2015, the Chargers had a 35-45 record with Rivers under center.
Certainly, there are pros and cons with this move, as those debate how big of an upgrade Rivers is over Brissett.
Playbook familiarity, a quicker rhythm passing game and an advantage in handling things pre-snap reads are some of the pros. Wouldn’t Rivers bring some needed ‘friction’ to the Colts, too, something Chris Ballard and Frank Reich feel the team needs?
Questions remain though on does Rivers have enough in the tank to be that big of an upgrade, knowing that his mobility is a weakness and this signing doesn’t answer the long-term questions at QB?
For Irsay though, if Rivers improves the Colts at all, an Owner that is used to stellar quarterback play and not missing the postseason in 4 out of 5 years is going to want to pursue that upgrade.
The ball should come out quicker with Rivers and give the Indy playmakers more chances with the ball in hand. Rivers also has a propensity to test things vertically, which offers a give and take that led to him throwing 20 interceptions last season (3rd most in the NFL). Still, the Colts have stressed this offseason the focus on creating more big plays in the passing game.
Will what the Colts have in Indy lead to Rivers getting this team back into the playoffs in 2020?
That’s the question, as the Colts have made a huge splash at quarterback in moving away from Jacoby Brissett, and onto Philip Rivers.
This deal cannot become official until the new league year begins on Wednesday at 4:00 PM eastern.