Is Philip Rivers Canton-bound?

July, 8, 2011
7/08/11
12:00
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Philip RiversDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesWithout a Super Bowl ring, will Hall of Fame voters look past Philip Rivers?
There are six active starting NFL quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl.

Philip Rivers is not one of them.

That fact hangs over Rivers’ head and will be the biggest question mark about him until he wins one. There’s little doubt that the San Diego Chargers’ prolific, big-armed, big-hearted leader is the best active quarterback alive without a Super Bowl ring.

If Rivers, 29, ends his career without hardware, will it prevent him from being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? After his first five seasons as an NFL starting quarterback, Rivers (the No. 4 overall pick in the 2004 draft) has compiled statistics that suggest he is on his way to making the Canton, Ohio, museum.

And, thus far, he compares with non-Super Bowl-winning modern era quarterbacks such as Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, Dan Marino and fellow Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts.

“I think he’s on his way,” Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. said of Rivers' chances of becoming bronzed. “He’s got the look of a Hall of Fame player. He belongs with those names that have made it recently … It would really help his cause if he won a championship, but he’s on pace in my mind.”

Quarterbacks are judged on championships, and Rivers has pressure because several quarterbacks he is judged directly against have won Super Bowls recently.

New Orleans' Drew Brees won the title after the 2009 season. Brees left San Diego after the Chargers decided to start Rivers in 2006. The Giants' Eli Manning won the title in 2008. Manning and Rivers were the centerpieces of a 2004 draft-day trade. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls. He was picked seven slots after Rivers in 2004. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers won the Super Bowl earlier this year. He was drafted the year after Rivers.

The two other active quarterbacks to have won the Super Bowl are New England's Tom Brady (three rings) and the Colts' Peyton Manning (one).

If Rivers doesn't win a Super Bowl in his career, it could be held against him in the Hall of Fame voting room, especially if a few more quarterbacks win titles before he retires. The numbers could be stacked against him.

Brady and Peyton Manning are slam dunk Hall of Famers. I'd think Roethlisberger, Brees and Rodgers are in good shape to make it unless they all totally fall apart. Recent retiree Brett Favre will make it, and fellow recent retiree Kurt Warner has a great chance to be enshrined. The late Steve McNair could also get some consideration. Thus, a lot of quarterbacks who played during Rivers' career could be heading into the Hall of Fame in the next five to 15 years.

[+] EnlargePhilip Rivers
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireDuring his career Philip Rivers has passed for 19,661 yards, 136 touchdowns and has a passer rating of 97.2.
Seven quarterbacks have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame in the past 15 years. But this is a golden age of quarterbacking, so a large number will get in if they are deemed worthy by the voting committee. Winning that elusive ring is always recommended. A title could be the difference for Rivers between getting elected quickly and having a long wait.

Still, Rivers’ numbers show he is on pace to be considered seriously for Hall of Fame enshrinement.

In his career, Rivers (who threw a total of 30 passes in his first two NFL seasons) has thrown for 19,661 career yards. He has thrown 136 touchdowns and 56 interceptions. His career passer rating is 97.2. In 15 career seasons, Fouts threw for 43,040 yards, 254 touchdowns and 242 interceptions, and his passer rating was 80.2. Rivers is on pace for a much better career than Fouts, who never went to a Super Bowl but is enshrined in Canton.

Kelly, who lost four Super Bowls, played 11 seasons in the NFL. He threw for 35,467 yards and 237 touchdowns, and his passer rating was 84.4. Moon played 17 seasons in the NFL. He threw for 49,325 yards and 291 touchdowns, and his passer rating was 80.9. Dan Marino played 17 seasons. He threw for 61,361 yards and 420 touchdowns, and his passer rating was 86.4

If Rivers continues to play at a high level, he could be in the neighborhood of some of these Hall of Fame quarterbacks who did not win a Super Bowl.

Of the active Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, only Rodgers has a better career passer rating than Rivers. Peyton Manning, Brady and Brees have more touchdown passes, and Peyton Manning and Brees have more passing yardage than Rivers since 2006.

“He stacks up with a lot the current guys and the recent Hall of Famers,” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. “I think he is very much in the same class as Kelly or Moon for sure -- and maybe even Marino. Longevity will be key, but his lifetime numbers should be off the charts.”

If Rivers (who had a famously speedy recovery from a torn ACL in the 2007 playoffs) can stay healthy, he should make a serious Canton push, ring or no ring.

“The guy has everything,” Horton said. “He’s a son of a coach. He’s a gym rat. He has great skills. He showed last year he can succeed with street free agents because all of his guys were hurt … Philip Rivers is a Hall of Fame type guy, there’s no doubt about it.”

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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