Opinion Sports Columns

Philip Rivers to Tennessee? It Could Happen

Marshall Hastings

unnamedWhat if it happened? What if the face of the San Diego Chargers for the past decade was suddenly gone? What if the man who had thrown less than 4,000 yards just three times in any season, in which he started was in a different powdered blue on a different coast?

What if Philip Rivers got traded to Tennessee? What if the trade that has been swirling around the NFL, without much backing or evidence, actually happened? What would it mean?

It makes the Tennessee Titans an instant contender. In a weak AFC South, the Titans would only have to steal the top spot in the division from Andrew Luck, and the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, Houston should still be considered a contender in the South, but with JJ Watt as their only legitimate super star left on their roster, it shouldn’t be hard for the Titans to move past them.

Adding Rivers would instantly upgrade the quarterback position over Zach Mettenberger and Charlie Whitehurst. Mettenberger does appear to have the potential to be a talented quarterback in a couple seasons, but by adding Rivers you allow him time to grow as a player and understand the game even better.

Rivers also makes the Titans a legitimate passing attack. Between Whitehurst, Mettenberger, and Jake Locker, the Titans racked up 3,738 yards through the air with 20 touchdowns. Rivers is a better quarterback than all three of the Titans current (and former, Locker retired early this off-season) quarterbacks. He would be able to put up those numbers with ease.

Delanie Walker, the Titans talented tight end, would become an even bigger target in the offense. After being targeted a team high 108 times in 2014, expect similar opportunities for the Titans tight end, but with better results. His 890 yards also led the team and fourth in the league, one yard better than now-Seattle Seahawk Jimmy Graham.

Kendall Wright was hardly a game changing wide receiver in 2014, finishing with 715 yards on the season, 23rd in the AFC, but he’s also one year removed from a 1,000-yard receiving season. In 16 games, Wright had 94 receptions but just 2 touchdowns, meaning he scored on 2 percent of his receptions. If Wright is healthy and has a proven quarterback, the numbers from 2013 could easily return.

Last season in San Diego, Rivers target four different receivers at least 90 times, while all four receivers had at least 700 yards through the air. Malcolm Floyd returned from an injury-shortened season to lead the team with 856 yards receiving. Rivers made a 33-year old receiver a legitimate threat in the offense.

Beyond the passing increases that Rivers would supply, the running game would suddenly not have to deal with 7 or 8 man boxes. Last season, under the three headed disaster that was the Titans passing game, Bishop Sankey and Shonn Greene managed 961-yards. With Rivers, defenses would have to drop men into coverage to protect the deep ball, opening up running lanes for Sankey and Greene.

And then there’s the kicker. A chance for Rivers, a man who grew up not far from the Tennessee Titans stadium, to reunite with Ken Whisenhunt, his offensive coordinator from the 2013 season. A year in which 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns.

So what’s the alternative for Tennessee? Obviously, taking USC’s Leonard Williams would be an instant improvement for the Titans defense. But, suddenly ‘experts’ are saying that Marcus Mariota could be the man Tennessee chooses, should Tampa Bay take Jameis Winston with the top pick.

While Mariota has the ability and the intangibles to be a talented quarterback in the NFL, he hasn’t proven much beyond the fact that he’s willing to go under center during his pro day. Rivers has proven himself in the NFL, Mariota has just shown the ability to make quick reads in a quick Oregon offense.

By no means does any of that mean Mariota won’t be an effective quarterback in the NFL, but Rivers has already proven he can and will be effective.

But of course, this is all hypothetical. In all likelihood, Rivers will stay in San Diego, Tennessee will draft Williams (or Mariota) and watch as Andrew Luck claims the AFC South yet again.

But what if?

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