Philip M. Rivers (born December 8, 1981, in Decatur, Alabama) is a professional American football quarterback for the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League. He was one half of the Manning-Rivers draft trade which sent him to San Diego and the 1st overall pick, Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning, to the New York Giants. Rivers played college football at North Carolina State University. Rivers’ career passer rating – at 95.8 – ranks second-best all time, one point behind Steve Young (96.8) among NFL quarterbacks with at least 1,500 pass attempts. Also, among active QBs, Rivers’ regular season starting quarterback winning percentage (.719) ranks second-best behind Tom Brady (.764).
After starting Chargers quarterback Drew Brees went to the New Orleans Saints following the 2005 season, Rivers came off the bench to lead the Chargers to a 14-2 record in his first season as a starter. In 2007, he helped the Chargers win their first playoff game since 1994 after beating the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round of the 2007 playoffs and eventually leading them to the AFC Championship game. He has a career total of eleven 4th quarter comebacks, his most recent being on November 8, 2009, when he led the Chargers to a 21-20 win over the New York Giants with less than 30 seconds left.
Rivers worked as a waterboy at Decatur High School, in Decatur, Alabama, where his father Steve was the head coach of the football team. As part of a fifth-grade project, he had to make a poster about his dreams and aspirations. On the poster, he pasted his face over that of a Minnesota Vikings player who had appeared on a cover of Sports Illustrated. He has worn the number 17 since ninth grade; it is in honor of his father, who wore the same number in high school. After his dad, Steve, got the head coaching job, Philip played high school ball at Athens High School in nearby Athens, Alabama.
After high school, Rivers attended North Carolina State in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he played for coach Chuck Amato. During his collegiate career, Rivers shattered almost every NC State and Atlantic Coast Conference passing record. His career culminated with a record 51st college start. The Wolfpack went to four consecutive bowl games under the leadership of Rivers, winning three of them, including a New Year’s Day victory over Notre Dame in the 2003 Gator Bowl.
Rivers was named ACC Athlete of the Year in 2004 and was also named the game MVP of four bowl games, two Tangerine Bowls, a Gator Bowl and the 2004 Senior Bowl. Rivers was even named the “Offensive MVP” for NC State in a losing cause to Pittsburgh in 2001′s Tangerine Bowl. He was considered a Heisman candidate by some journalists, but he was not invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation. Rivers finished his career with 13,484 passing yards, 4th all-time among Division 1-A quarterbacks (he was 2nd at the end of his collegiate career). He also threw 95 touchdown passes, which ties him for eighth all-time with Kliff Kingsbury and Brady Quinn. His career YPA (yards per attempt) average (9.55) is still the best in college football history. Rivers’ number was retired before his final home game at North Carolina State.
2004 NFL Draft
Rivers was projected to be an early first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. But despite Rivers’ record of success in college and remarkable accuracy (72% completion percentage for his senior season), questions about his lack of arm strength and his unorthodox side-arm throwing motion were concerns for some NFL GMs. The pre-draft consensus was that Rivers could be selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 8th pick. The Chargers coveted Eli Manning and wanted to select him with their first round pick, which was also the first overall pick of the draft. However, after Eli Manning indicated before the draft that he would not sign with the San Diego Chargers, the Chargers were forced to adjust their plans. Rivers was their first alternative to Manning because the Chargers head coach at the time, Marty Schottenheimer, had coached Rivers at the Senior Bowl and he liked what he saw from Rivers. The Chargers agreed to a trade on draft day with the New York Giants, who possessed the fourth pick of the draft. Manning was selected by the San Diego Chargers then later in the draft traded to the New York Giants for Rivers and the rights to draft picks used to select future Pro Bowlers Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding.
Quarterback class of 2004
Rivers was one of three quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft along with Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. Each of the three players have been voted to the Pro Bowl since becoming starters, none have produced a season with a losing record (although each has had an 8-8 season), and Roethlisberger and Manning have each won a Super Bowl. They have been compared favorably to the Quarterback class of 1983, which included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino, John Elway, and Jim Kelly.
San Diego Chargers
In August 2004, Rivers signed a six-year, $40.5 million contract with the San Diego Chargers that included $14.5 million in signing bonuses. However, due to a protracted contract negotiation with the San Diego Chargers, Rivers only reported to the team during the last week of training camp. As a result, the Chargers gave incumbent quarterback Drew Brees the opportunity to retain his starting job at the beginning of the season. With almost no training camp time under his belt, Rivers was unable to wrestle the starting position from Drew Brees during the 2004 preseason. Rivers began the season as the Chargers’ third QB option, behind Doug Flutie, but ahead of the #4 QB Cleo Lemon. Unfortunately for Rivers, Brees went on to have by far the best season of his career up to that point. By the end of the season, Drew Brees was named to the NFL Pro Bowl and won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Rivers received very limited playing time in the 2004 season, playing in only two games. He only threw passes in the second half of the last game of the 2004 season (a win over Kansas City), by which time the Chargers had already clinched a home playoff spot and the AFC West division title.
Rivers was promoted to the #2 on the quarterback depth chart after the Chargers released Doug Flutie, who later signed with the New England Patriots.
Rivers was unable to beat out Drew Brees for the starting quarterback job in the Chargers’ 2005 training camp and preseason. In the Chargers’ final game of the 2005 season, at home in Qualcomm Stadium, Rivers entered the game after Brees dislocated his right shoulder late in the second quarter due to a hit from Denver Broncos safety John Lynch. Rivers completed 12 of 22 passing attempts for 115 yards with one interception and two fumbles. The Chargers lost to Denver, 20–7. However, Rivers led the Chargers on their only scoring drive that game, which culminated in a 4-yard TD run by RB LaDainian Tomlinson.
After the 2005 season, Drew Brees was not re-signed (partly due to the injury suffered in the Denver game) by the Chargers, instead signing a large contract that included sizeable guaranteed money with the New Orleans Saints during the 2006 free agency period. Many doubted the Chargers’ decision to change quarterbacks as they were a Super Bowl contender, believing that Rivers’ inexperience would hinder them. Rivers was named the Chargers’ starter going into training camp. Expectations were high for Rivers due to the large amount of talent on the San Diego Chargers’ offense and the performance of his peers from the 2004 draft (Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger) as starters.
Football Outsiders projected that Rivers would become an NFL star before the 2006 season due to his spectacular completion percentage in college (72% as a senior). After just 5 NFL starts, Rivers was named the second best NFL quarterback under 25 years of age by Sports Illustrated and drew numerous comparisons to Dan Marino for his quick release and pocket presence..
On September 11, 2006, Rivers made his NFL start against the Oakland Raiders. Rivers managed the game well despite only passing 11 times, but completed 8 passes, one for a touchdown, in a 27–0 rout of the Raiders. After his first game, Rivers led the NFL in QB rating with 133.9.
The fifth week of the season, the reigning Super Bowl-champion Pittsburgh Steelers came to town, and Bill Cowher‘s defensive game plan revolved around stopping LaDainian Tomlinson. This game marked a turning point for Rivers, who aided by head coach Marty Schottenheimer‘s opening of the playbook, led the team in a come-from-behind victory throwing 24-of-37 for 242 yards and two TDs, winning 23–13.
On November 12, 2006, Rivers had the best game of his short career and led the San Diego Chargers to an improbable comeback against the Cincinnati Bengals. Down 28–7 at halftime, Rivers led the Chargers on six drives culminating in touchdowns. After driving in for the Chargers first touchdown after halftime, Nick Hardwick, Rivers’ center, reminisced about Rivers, mimicking his southern drawl, “He’s yelling ‘Y’all don’t think we’re out of this’ to the Bengals. When he said that, I said, ‘Shoot, I guess we ain’t out of this. Right on.’” Rivers threw for 337 yards and three touchdown passes, while LaDainian Tomlinson scored three of their four rushing touchdowns. San Diego outscored Cincinnati 42–13 in the second half winning the game 49–41, matching the biggest comeback in 23 years for the Chargers.
Then following week against what was considered at the time to be a strong Denver Broncos defense, the Chargers became the first team in history to win back-to-back games after trailing by 17 or more points and also the first team to win four straight when allowing at least 27 points in each game. Rivers led several 4th quarter comebacks in 2006, and posted the league’s highest 4th quarter quarterback rating. His performance over the season led to a selection to the 2007 Pro Bowl. After a 14–2 season the Chargers were set to play the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Patriots won that game, and Schottenheimer lost his job. The Patriots went on to the AFC Championship where they lost to the Indianapolis Colts 38-34.
Norv Turner took over as the head coach of the Chargers in 2007. After a 1–3 start, the Chargers found their groove finishing 11–5 and winning the AFC West for the second straight year. The Chargers also won their first two playoff games since the 1994 season, beating the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts before falling to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game 21–12.
Following the playoff loss, Rivers revealed that he required surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury he had played through during the Chargers’ playoff run – this operation would require 6 months recovery. However, Rivers promised to be back in time for training camp before the start of the 2008 season and he was.
In 2008, Rivers had the highest quarterback rating in the NFL with a league leading 34 Touchdown passes, 105.5 Passer Rating, and a league best 8.4 yards per pass attempt. On December 28, 2008, Rivers set the Chargers team record for touchdown passes in a season with 34, a record previously held by Dan Fouts, who had 33 in 1981. After a 4–8 start, Rivers threw 11 touchdown passes and only 1 interception to win the final four games of the season, winning the AFC West division against the Denver Broncos with the score 52–21 leading them to the playoff against the Colts. Despite having good stats in 2008 Rivers was only able to lead his team to an 8-8 record and they were able to win the division over Denver by a tie-breaker. On January 3, 2009, the San Diego Chargers defeated the Indianapolis Colts 23–17 to advance to the AFC Divisional Playoff. Rivers led the Chargers down the field down 3 points with under 2 minutes left. He set up Nate Kaeding for a game-tying field goal that would lead to overtime, where the Chargers would go on to win 23–17, thanks to a Darren Sproles touchdown. In the divisional round versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rivers played well throwing for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns but was sacked 4 times and threw an interception. Despite his efforts, the team fell short and lost to the Steelers 35–24. They possessed the ball for only 17 seconds during the third quarter and had only 15 yards rushing.
On August 24, Rivers signed a 6-year,a $92 million dollar contract extension with the Chargers, with approximately $38 million guaranteed. Rivers was voted into his second career Pro Bowl on December 29. He ended the season with a passer rating of 104.4, the 3rd highest in the entire NFL, after passing for 4,254 yards, 28 TD’s with only 9 interceptions. He led the Chargers to the second seed in the AFC with a 13-3 record, tied for second best in the NFL. In the divisional round of the playoffs, Rivers was 27-40 for 298 yards while rushing and throwing for a touchdown and was intercepted twice. The Chargers lost 17-14 to the New York Jets, who moved on to play the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship, which they lost 30-17.
Rivers and his wife, Tiffany, began dating in the seventh grade and married in 2001. They have four daughters and one son. Rivers is good friends with Chicago White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, who is also from Alabama and up until 2009, also played in San Diego with the Padres.
On January 31, 2010, Philip’s newest daughter, Sarah Catherine was born. He was supposed to be the starting quarterback for the AFC Pro Bowl team the same year, but did not make it to South Florida because of the upcoming birth of his daughter.