Sunday’s AFC divisional-round playoff game features two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, right?
Clearly, New England Patriots signal-caller Tom Brady is a shoo-in. He’s widely regarded as the greatest quarterback of all time with five Super Bowl wins and a slew of other accomplishments under his belt.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is a trickier candidate. Rivers, 37, has yet to win a Super Bowl and is 118-90 as a starter with just six postseason appearances in 13 seasons as a starter.
Of course, that’s not entirely on him. Rivers has had four different head coaches, the longest tenured of whom was Norv Turner, and he had just seven winning seasons in 15 years as a head coach.
A lack of rings isn’t a death knell for a quarterback’s Hall of Fame candidacy, as Warren Moon, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Dan Fouts and Fran Tarkenton can attest. Rivers ranks higher by Pro Football Reference’s “Approximate Value” metric than Moon, Kelly and Fouts. He’s 19th all-time in that metric regardless of position, which admittedly seems way, way, way, way, way too high. So, feel free to disregard it.
An interesting comparison to Rivers who is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, however, is ex-Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson. Anderson was a four-time Pro Bowl selection, one-time All-Pro, one-time MVP and one-time offensive player of the year. Rivers is an eight-time Pro Bowl selection who has never been named MVP, offensive player of the year or to the All-Pro team.
Rivers also was a fringe top-five quarterback during the course of his career. In the early part of his career, Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers all were considered better than Rivers, who fought with Ben Roethlisberger for that No. 5 spot. Since Manning retired, players like Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck have emerged.
Looking at other Hall of Fame quarterbacks, however, Rivers should be a no-brainer. If Kurt Warner is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, then so should Rivers. If Joe Namath is a Hall of Fame, then so is Rivers. That’s not always how it works, however. Just ask Anderson.
Ultimately, it feels like Rivers will get in, though it might take longer than guys like Brady, Rodgers, Manning and Brees. It usually comes down to name recognition and feel. And Rivers, throughout his career, has felt like a Hall of Famer.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame also seems to value stories, which is why guys like Warner and Namath were inducted. The story of Eli Manning forcing Rivers to the Chargers and Rivers forcing Brees to the New Orleans Saints might be one they feel is worth telling.
And it’s not crazy to think six or more quarterbacks from this era will make the hall of fame. Kelly (1986-96), Moon (1984-2000), Marino (1983-’99), Joe Montana (1979-94), John Elway (1983-99) and Steve Young (1985-99) all played in roughly the same era. Brett Favre and Troy Aikman also overlapped with that era. Warner overlapped with the current era of quarterbacks.
Of course, a Super Bowl win, or even appearance, would strengthen Rivers’ case. But regardless of where Rivers ranks historically, Sunday’s matchup will feature two of the best quarterbacks in NFL history still amazingly playing at a high level at 41 and 37 years old.
That’s worth appreciating no matter who winds up in Canton.
Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images
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