NFL Draft

Time to Target Philip Rivers’ Replacement?


It’s never easy transitioning from one franchise quarterback to the next. For proof, look no further than San Diego’s division rivals in Denver.

The Broncos spent a second-round pick on QB Brock Osweiler back in 2012, tabbing him as the heir apparent to Peyton Manning. However, by the time Manning was ready to ride off into the sunset, Osweiler had completed his rookie contract and was ready for the next chapter of his journey, as well.

Now, it’s Tom Telesco’s turn to answer the delicate question: When do I start looking to the future?

Philip Rivers has started every game the last 10 seasons, but he’s 34 years old and that durability won’t last forever. The fact that he’s an immobile quarterback playing behind a consistently subpar offensive line doesn’t help, either.

There is a reason there were so many rumors floating around this time last year about the Chargers trying to swap Rivers for the No. 2 overall pick (Oregon QB Marcus Mariota). It’s not that the team lost faith in Rivers (although a back injury in 2014 raised concerns), it’s that there are questions inside Chargers Park about whether the franchise can build a championship-contending roster before Rivers starts his descent.

Coach Mike McCoy still believes the Chargers can win a Super Bowl with Rivers under center. In fact, he used that as part of his sales pitch when talking with free-agent targets this offseason.

“The No. 1 thing really for any position on the football team, when you have a quarterback like Philip Rivers, week in and week out you have an opportunity to win football games,” McCoy told Jeff Dotseth and Judson Richards of Xtra 1360 Fox Sports Radio. “And the teams that don’t have that guy, it’s a lot tougher to win. So that’s a huge focus.”

Betting on Rivers has paid off more often than not. However, it may be time to start hedging that bet.

We raised this question earlier this offseason, when we discussed the possibility of the Chargers spending a mid-round pick on Ohio State QB Cardale Jones, a raw prospect who could do well after spending a couple years watching and learning. With seasoning, Jones could end up looking like one of Rivers’ draft classmates: Ben Roethlisberger.

Paxton Lynch. Photo by Marvin Gentry, USA TODAY Sports.

There are other intriguing prospects, too.

The Chargers will have a tough time passing on Memphis QB Paxton Lynch if he’s on the board with the No. 35 overall pick. Lynch (6’7”, 240 lbs.) completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,778 yards with 28 TDs and three INTs last season. He’s still needs development (which won’t be an issue in San Diego), but has a live arm and underrated athleticism.

There is also a chance the Chargers go back to the NC State well and take a flyer on Jacoby Brissett, who over the last two seasons completed 60 percent of his passes for 5,006 yards with 42 TDs and 11 INTs. Rivers, who is fiercely proud of his alma mater, would love to mentor Brissett.

There are some late-round possibilities, too, such as Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld and Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty, but the Chargers are not looking for the next Brad Sorensen … they’re looking for the next Russell Wilson.

There are some talented QBs available in the middle rounds of this year’s draft. With uninspiring backup Kellen Clemens on a one-year deal and Rivers drawing ever closer to the dusk of his remarkable career, don’t be surprised if Telesco decides there is no time like the present to start looking towards the future.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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