It’s not every offseason a team gets a chance to sign a potential future Hall of Famer at quarterback.
We saw two teams make such a move this offseason, first in Tampa with the Buccaneers‘ signing of future first-ballot Hall of Famer Tom Brady. Indianapolis is feeling just about as good about signing Philip Rivers, too.
“This was a crazy, unique opportunity,” Reich said on a conference call Tuesday, via The Athletic’s Stephen Holder. “Philip, I think, is a Hall of Fame quarterback. … Went back and watched his play from the past two years and didn’t see any physical drop-off.”
Statistically, there was a legitimate difference between Rivers’ 2018 and 2019 seasons. The quarterback went from a 32-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 105.5 passer rating to 23-20 and 88.5 in 2019, and his Chargers dropped from an AFC wild-card winner to a 5-11 squad. It’s not all on the shoulders or arm of Rivers, though, as 2019 was filled with team-wide struggles, multiple significant injuries on the offensive line and a start to the regular season that didn’t include running back Melvin Gordon. The 2019 campaign also included nine losses by a single possession.
All of that is in the past now, and the Colts are ecstatic to welcome the 38-year old to town for what they hope will be a memorable 2020 season. A big part of the acclimation process will involve Rivers learning the offense, which typically would be a sizable undertaking. But Rivers knows this offense already, because he ran the bulk of it with the Chargers when Frank Reich — now the Colts‘ head coach — was Rivers’ offensive coordinator from 2014-2015.
“It won’t take long,” Reich said of the process for Rivers, whom he considers one of the smartest he’s ever coached, per The Athletic’s Zak Keefer.
The more difficult part might be finding a comfortable familiarity with Rivers’ fellow quarterbacks, most notably Jacoby Brissett, the incumbent starter ousted from his job by Rivers as Brissett approaches a contract year. With NFL teams unable to meet in person for an undetermined amount of time, there isn’t exactly a chance for the two to handshake and hug it out.
“Obviously he wasn’t happy,” Reich said of Brissett when he learned of Rivers’ signing, again via Keefer. “But he’s a good teammate and will handle it.”
The Colts, like many teams, are navigating the current landscape by using video chat services. Since Rivers has a jump on the team’s offense, he might end up spending more time watching footage of the man he’s replacing than he will getting to know that fellow signal-caller, at least for now.
There might be a role for Brissett, though.
“Jacoby is tough to bring down,” Reich said, again via Holder.
In 2020, this is the veteran’s team. We’ll see where that river flows.