No matter what happens in 2020, the Chargers already are guaranteed to do something that feels seismic, even historic:
They will make a decision on their starting quarterback.
Fourteen years and 235 consecutive starts later, Rivers and the team mutually parted ways Monday by releasing a statement in which both sides offered praise and thanks.
Owner Dean Spanos called Rivers “the heart and soul of our organization.” He also highlighted the veteran’s ability to connect with fans.
Rivers, who will become an unrestricted free agent in March, expressed his gratitude and wished his former coaches and teammates the best.
And, now, what will the Chargers do at the game’s most critical position? The possible answers range from in-house to out of left field, from the very conservative, Tyrod Taylor, to the ultra bold, Tom Brady.
The team currently has two quarterbacks under contract — Taylor and 2019 fifth-round draft pick Easton Stick.
At 30, Taylor would give the Chargers a more mobile option and a veteran with plenty of experience.
“In anything you do, it’s the people you do it with that make it special. There are so many relationships and memories with coaches, support staff and teammates that will last forever, and for that I am so thankful."— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) February 10, 2020
Philip Rivers to Enter Free Agency » https://t.co/njeTsCbi1D pic.twitter.com/bCKXKTRePh
He was the starter for three years with Buffalo from 2015 to 2017, helping the Bills reach the playoffs in his final season. Taylor is 23-21-1 as an NFL starter.
In Buffalo, he played for Anthony Lynn, who was the Bills’ running backs coach in 2015 and offensive coordinator in 2016 before being hired to be the Chargers’ head coach.
Taylor signed a two-year contract last offseason, the idea being he would back up Rivers. Both Taylor and Lynn said their familiarity with one another facilitated the deal.
Last season, Taylor was given little opportunity to operate the offense, playing only 31 snaps.
Stick, 24, was taken with the 166th overall selection in April. Having played at North Dakota State, he is considered more of a longer-term project and was inactive all season.
Soon after the conclusion of the regular season, the rumors regarding Brady and the Chargers picked up momentum. The longtime New England Patriot and six-time Super Bowl winner also is scheduled to become a free agent next month.
He still could re-sign with the only NFL team for which he has played, the one that drafted him in the sixth round in 2000.
If Brady does leave New England, however, the Chargers are believed to be one of his preferred destinations. Though he will be 43 by the time the 2020 season begins, Brady would give the Chargers one of the NFL’s most marquee names entering their first season in the new SoFi Stadium.
He also is coming off a year in which he passed for 4,057 yards and 24 touchdowns with only eight interceptions despite having a noticeable lack of weapons.
The Chargers have struggled to establish themselves in the Los Angeles market in the three seasons since they relocated from San Diego. Brady would immediately become their No. 1 selling point.
After Brady, there is no shortage of notable free-agent possibilities at quarterback, including Dak Prescott, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota.
No matter what the Chargers decide to do regarding a veteran at the position, they also are expected to draft another quarterback in April.
Their first pick comes at No. 6, a spot where they could select Oregon’s Justin Herbert, the young quarterback with whom they have been most frequently connected.
Louisiana State’s Joe Burrow and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa are generally considered to be the top two available at the position, but both figure to be gone in the first five picks.
Wherever the Chargers turn for their next starting quarterback, a memorable era in team history officially ended Monday.
“There’s only one Philip Rivers, and we’ve been fortunate to call him our QB1 for the better part of two decades,” Spanos said. “We cannot thank Philip enough for giving it his all on every single down and for the memories he created that will last a lifetime.”
Rivers was the backup to Brees during his first two NFL seasons. After Brees left for New Orleans in March of 2006, Rivers took over as the starter. He held the job for all of the Chargers’ 224 regular-season and 11 playoff games since and is the franchise leader in more than 30 categories, including passing yards and touchdowns.
“I never took for granted the opportunity to lead this team out on to the field for 235 games,” Rivers said. “We had a lot of great moments, beginning in San Diego and then finishing in L.A. I wish my teammates and coaches nothing but the best moving forward.”
At 38, Rivers has expressed a desire to continue playing. Throughout much of 2019, he and the Chargers operated under the belief that he would re-sign for at least one more year.
Rivers put together back-to-back efficient and productive seasons after Lynn took over as head coach. In 2018, the Chargers finished 12-4 and advanced to the playoffs, winning an AFC wild-card game in Baltimore.
But Rivers struggled with turnovers this past season, finishing with 20 interceptions to match the second-highest total of his career. He also lost three fumbles.
Still, as late as early December, it appeared the Chargers were willing to keep Rivers. Their position eventually changed as the team lost six of its final seven games to finish 5-11 and winless in the AFC West.
“After stepping back a bit from last season, we reconnected with Philip and his representatives to look at how 2019 played out … ” general manager Tom Telesco said. “As we talked through various scenarios, it became apparent that it would be best for Philip and the Chargers to turn the page on what has truly been a remarkable run.”
Rivers is an eight-time Pro Bowl selection who led the Chargers to the playoffs six times, winning five of 11 postseason games.
The team reached the AFC championship game in the 2007 season, losing 21-12 at New England. That was the only time Rivers and the Chargers advanced beyond the divisional round.
“In anything you do, it’s the people you do it with that make it special,” Rivers said. “There are so many relationships and memories with coaches, support staff and teammates that will last forever, and for that I am so thankful. … I’m not sure what the future holds, but my family and I look forward to seeing what God has planned for us next.”