Time for Colts to Move on from Philip Rivers
Updated: Jan 11
The number 2 seed Buffalo Bills defeated the number 7 seed Indianapolis Colts 27-24 in the NFL’s first game of Super Wild Card Weekend. While the Bills’ first postseason win since 1995 had Bills Mafia crying in excitement, Philip Rivers witnessed the end of his team’s season, and potentially the end of his career.
The Colts signed Rivers prior to the beginning of the season to a one-year, $25 million contract. Rivers, 39 years old, still has some game left. He knows where to go with the ball and brings a steady presence for the Colts at the game’s most crucial position. Rivers will give whatever team he plays for a solid floor, that floor being a playoff berth.
Rivers’ ceiling seems rather limited at this point in his career. He gives his team the potential to win one, maybe two playoff games at best. Rivers’ arm strength is not there anymore. Rivers couldn't even hit the end zone from the Bills’ 47-yard line at the end of the game for the Hail Harry. The CBS broadcast even mentioned the possibility of bringing in quarterback Jacoby Brissett to throw the ball, citing the team’s similar management of late-game scenarios earlier this season.
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 09: Philip Rivers #17 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass during the first half of the AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium on January 09, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
While the ability to throw the ball 50+ yards down the field is not the most important skill for a quarterback, Rivers’ inability to do so is symbolic of where he is at in his career; he is a good quarterback with limited upside. For the Colts, it should be time to move on.
The Colts’ depth chart is solid all around the field. They possess one of the best offensive lines in the game, and their backfield is diverse. Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor emerged as the bell-cow back late in the season, and Nyheim Hines is an effective change of pace back with tremendous abilities in the pass game. Wide receivers include T.Y. Hilton, Zach pascal, and rookie Michael Pittman, a more than serviceable group. Tight ends Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, and Mo-Allie Cox are all effective as well.
The Colts have talent in all three layers of their defense. DeForest Buckner headlines the defensive line, and Darius Leonard leads the linebacking core. Julian Blackmon had a solid rookie season for the Colts in their secondary.
The Colts have a mixture of talented young players and established veterans, a recipe for immediate and long-term success. The Colts should upgrade at quarterback to someone who gives them a higher ceiling. I think the Detroit Lions will hang onto Matthew Stafford this offseason, but that would be a great fit in Indianapolis. Stafford hasn’t had any more postseason success than Rivers, but Stafford was stuck in, well, Detroit.
The Colts will have a pick in the early 20s in the 2021 NFL Draft. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones may be available at that spot in the draft. Jones will fit right into an NFL system. Alabama’s offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has Jones making NFL level reads in the collegiate game. Alabama does have dynamic offensive weapons, making it hard to evaluate Jones’ play, but his accuracy speaks for itself. Expect another article soon on a more detailed analysis of Jones.
FAYETTEVILLE, AR - DECEMBER 12: Mac Jones #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide warms up before a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on December 12, 2020 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Crimson Tide defeated the Razorbacks 52-3. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
There are plenty of good quarterbacks in this year’s draft, and some intriguing options in free agency and the trade market exist. It would be wise of the Colts to find a quarterback with a higher ceiling. Rivers’ career was summed up perfectly in his most recent playoff loss, with Rivers frantically yelling out calls to his offense at the line of scrimmage in a game of catch-up, only to fall short by one score. If the Colts want to be serious contenders, they’ll have to find a different quarterback.