On the first official day of the offseason, Philip Rivers wasn’t in the Chargers’ locker room during the hour it was open to reporters Monday.
His cubicle also had been largely cleaned out, the team’s longtime starting quarterback and franchise icon facing his most uncertain future yet.
On Sunday, following a 31-21 loss at Kansas City, Rivers broke down during his session with the media while answering a question about his fondest memories with the Chargers.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen called the idea of Rivers not being on the team in 2020 “weird.”
He likened the situation to the one involving tight end Antonio Gates, who spent 16 years with the Chargers before not returning this season.
“It’s weird without Gates,” Allen said. “It’d be five times more without Phil. I don’t know. It’s hard to think about.”
Rivers, 38, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. He wants to continue playing and would like to remain with the Chargers, though he has left open the possibility of signing elsewhere.
The Chargers have not publicly committed to Rivers, with coach Anthony Lynn saying Monday that it was still too early in the roster-wide evaluation process to make any determination official.
“I’m sure it’s going to happen sooner than later,” he said about deciding what direction the team will take at quarterback. “But right now, there’s no rush.”
Rivers has spent 16 years with the Chargers and hasn’t missed a game since taking over the No. 1 job in 2006. On Sunday, he started his 224th consecutive regular-season game and 235th in a row including the playoffs.
But he also just completed a season in which he threw 20 interceptions — matching his second-highest total — and committed 23 turnovers. Rivers’ 23 touchdown passes were his fewest since 2007.
Asked whether, in a perfect world, Rivers would be the Chargers’ starter in 2020, Lynn said: “I mean, who wouldn’t want a guy with those intangibles, that production? I mean, sure. … I love what he represents and what he stands for.”
Lynn will be entering the final season of the four-year contract he signed when hired in January 2017.
He said he would be comfortable coaching in 2020 with no written assurances regarding his job security.
“I’m still under contract last time I checked,” Lynn said. “So I’m not even worrying about that. That contract will take care of itself once we get this thing turned around.”
After his first Chargers team finished 9-7, Lynn guided the 2018 Chargers to a 12-4 record and a first-round playoff victory over Baltimore.
This season’s team entered with lofty aspirations but stumbled to a 5-11 finish, nine of those losses coming by one score.
“As long as I’m under contract, I’m fine,” Lynn said. “... Trust me, I have no problem betting on myself.”
He did indicate there could be changes to his coaching staff. After last season, the group remained almost entirely intact.
Then, in October, Shane Steichen replaced Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator. Steichen is a candidate to keep the job moving forward.
The Chargers finished this season sixth in passing offense and 10th in total yards but were only 21st in points per game.
“I thought Shane did a good job under the circumstances,” Lynn said. “I’ve been in his shoes before. It’s hard to take over a team in the middle of the season. You just assume that it’s his offense. But it’s not his offense. It’s not his terminology. I thought he did a good job with what he had.”
The Chargers hope to receive good news next week when veteran center Mike Pouncey visits a doctor for an update on his surgically repaired neck. The four-time Pro Bowl selection was limited to five games in 2019, his loss impacting the chemistry along the offensive line.
After Pouncey was injured, the Chargers were unsure whether he would be able to continue his career. Pouncey said Monday that he is awaiting only medical clearance and intends to play next season.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “That’s my goal. I’m still under contract. I still want to go out there and play.”
Another Charger whose health has greatly improved over the last three months is defensive back Nasir Adderley. A second-round pick in April, Adderley was expected to compete for the starting job at free safety.
Instead, he appeared in only four games — mostly on special teams — because of a left hamstring injury that ended up being more significant than originally thought.
“It was a pretty tricky injury, not something I’ve experienced before,” Adderley said. “It wasn’t like a typical hamstring strain.”
He said the pain reached a point where he couldn’t squat or even bend his knee. He said his treatment included platelet-rich plasma therapy.
Lynn explained that Adderley also struggled because he felt as if he were letting down his teammates.
“I’m still remaining positive,” Adderley said Monday. “I’m on the Los Angeles Chargers. I have a big opportunity to come back and show what people have been missing the past year.”
Lynn conducted exit interviews with his players at the team’s Costa Mesa facility and also met with his assistants.
General manager Tom Telesco is scheduled to address the media Thursday as the Chargers begin the process of bouncing back from a season that left the franchise frustrated.
“I can tell you the guys are disappointed, the coaches are disappointed,” Lynn said. “Our record does not reflect the character of the team in that meeting room. We’re all committed to making sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
The Chargers signed eight players to reserve/future free-agent contracts. All eight finished the 2019 season on the practice squad: Tight end Stephen Anderson, cornerback Tevaughn Campbell, linebacker Malik Jefferson, defensive tackle P.J. Johnson, wide receiver Tyron Johnson, defensive back Quenton Meeks, offensive tackle Tyree St. Louis and center Cole Toner.