Philip Rivers’ voice cracked and tears filled his eyes as he spoke about how much this pandemic-stricken season has meant to him.
There were plenty of questions when the 39-year-old quarterback signed with the Indianapolis Colts coming off a 20-interception season with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Rivers mostly silenced the critics by leading the Colts to 11 wins and a playoff berth. On Saturday, he repeatedly rallied the team in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the second-seeded Buffalo Bills in a 27-24 decision.
Afterward, Rivers wasn’t ready to provide definitive answers on his immediate future.
“It’s never a wasted year by any means, but you’re playing to win it all or they wouldn’t keep score,” he said. “You’re always disappointed (after a playoff loss). It’s always emotional. But, yes, is it more emotional when it’s your 17th year and you’re about to be 40 and you’re not sure if you’ve walked up your last tunnel? Yeah. Heck yeah, it’s more.
“It was a heck of a season.”
Now, we’ll see what comes next.
After being reunited with Colts head coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and tight ends coach Jason Michael – each of whom he played under with the Chargers – Rivers experienced a rebirth of sorts. He completed 68% of his passes for 4,169 yards with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
But he also took charge of the locker room and earned the respect of his teammates despite not meeting them in person until a delayed training camp began in August. He played most of the second half of the season with a toe injury so severe he missed at least one day of practice each week.
He still completed 27 of 46 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns against Buffalo, losing in the wild-card playoff round for the first time in five career tries. When the clock hit zero and the season ended, his teammates expressed regrets they couldn’t do more to help him.
“In your mindset, you’ve gotta win this guy a Super Bowl ring,” All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard said. “He’s putting everything on the line. He comes out there with a broken toe and everything, still playing, giving us his all. So in return, we’ve gotta continue to work and get him a Super Bowl ring. For us not to give him one this year, man, it sucks. But, hopefully, it’s not his last year. I pray it’s not. Hopefully, he comes back. Hopefully, we get this thing going again.”
Reich sounded open to the possibility.
There are wide-spread rumors Indianapolis could be interested in another reunion between coach and quarterback. This time it would be a trade for Philadelphia Eagles passer Carson Wentz, who was a frontrunner for NFL MVP before being injured late in the 2017 season with Reich as his offensive coordinator.
But, just as was the case a year ago, nearly every quarterback expected to be on the market will be linked to the Colts at some point.
It remains possible the team won’t have a vacancy to fill.
“Philip’s a great player,” Reich said. “I have a great relationship with him. He’s a great leader on this team. Those things will have time to work themselves out. He’s got a one-year contract. Obviously, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into that decision. But very excited. He exceeded expectations, in my mind, about what he was bringing to the team this year on and off the field.”
Rivers said the decision is in the hands of a higher power.
Devoutly religious, he already has a job in waiting as a high school football coach in Fairhope, Alabama. That would fulfill a lifelong dream of following in his father’s footsteps in his home state.
But he’s also open to the idea of continuing his run in Indianapolis.
“Whatever God’s will is what I want to happen, and I’ll be fine with that,” Rivers said. “Obviously, if I keep going – if I go on and on with that answer, it will be nothing but a bunch of emotion talking. But I think at the end of the day, (God’s will is) clearly what will guide the decision.”