Philip Rivers notched career bests of 4,710 yards and a 66.0 completion percentage in 2010, placing him at the forefront of the MVP discussion into November.
All of that would be commendable if Rivers was throwing to Jerry Rice and Lance Alworth. Considering Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd missed a combined 22 games and several backups also suffered injuries, Rivers’ value is easy to ascertain.
Though No. 17 is a stabilizing force to the franchise as a three-time Pro Bowl selection, he isn’t infallible. Expect more from Rivers than an attempt to duplicate last season.
“There’s always room for improvement. Until no balls are hitting the ground ever, you’re not doing it perfect,” Rivers said.
Whether it’s moving over three feet in the pocket instead of one, or facilitating the coaches and players getting the ball snapped a split-second earlier, the quarterback said he and most of the veterans on offense are working on “fine details,” things even the most ardent fan likely will not notice.
“The league is a game of inches,” Rivers said. “That’s the difference in a third-down conversion. That’s the difference in scoring a touchdown instead of having to kick a field goal. Ultimately, that’s the difference between wins and losses.”
The other notable stat about Rivers’ 2010 is his 541 pass attempts, an 11.3 percent increase from his career high. Many of those throws came in obvious passing situations against defenses applying pressure and daring young or inexperienced receivers to beat them. Despite carrying so much of the burden, Rivers threw for 8.7 yards per attempt, best in the NFL.
Head Coach Norv Turner hopes a consistent run game will allow the Chargers to not put as much of a burden on Rivers, though Turner is filled with confidence in his quarterback.
“When you’ve played at the level he’s played over the last three or four years, it really comes down to real little things. We address those,” Turner said. “There’s a couple throws that he’s missed that we worked on (during last season) Some of it is technique. Sometimes it’s because you end up throwing to the same guy over and over again.
“I think you can always continue to grow in terms of managing the game and that’s an area that we’ll spend a lot of time working on when we get started.”
The Chargers would like to reduce delay of game penalties, a responsibility that falls on the coaches as much as Rivers, the offense’s trigger man.
“I feel there are certain situations in terms of managing the game where we can get better (as an offense),” Offensive Coordinator Clarence Shelmon said. “Some of them are our fault because we didn’t get the play in to Rivers in a timely fashion.
“(Rivers) is such a tremendous leader. He’s like a coach on the field, so I’m sure he’s willing to help.”
Though Rivers’ mechanics are unorthodox, many league analysts believe he throws deep passes as well as any NFL quarterback. The Chargers don’t want to mess with his unique delivery.
Shelmon called the quarterback “excellent” at reading defenses and switching calls at the line.
Most every quarterback wants to cut down on interceptions, though Rivers threw just 13 against 30 touchdowns last season, right at his career rate of 2.4 interceptions per 100 throws.
Turner, Shelmon and the coaching staff say Rivers doesn’t have to be encouraged to work and isn’t content with his Pro Bowl level of play.
“I think Philip would be the first to admit you can always get better,” Shelmon said, echoing Rivers’ own comments. “Being a perfectionist and a leader of the team, I bet he could run you a litany of things that he himself would think he can do better, regardless of how well he’s played.”