It’s hard to imagine an NFL season without Philip Rivers. Ever since he entered the league in 2004, the former N.C. State star has racked up passing yards at a prolific rate with his unorthodox throwing motion and entertained football fans with his GIF-worthy antics.
But the veteran quarterback can see the end of the road coming. Prior to signing a one-year deal with the Colts in March of 2020, Rivers admitted he considered retirement following a rough 2019 season with the Chargers in which he threw 20 interceptions.
“I think really where we settled in is I still love to play, certainly not coming off my best year (in 2019), but I know I still can play at a high level,” Rivers said after agreeing to the contract with Indianapolis. “It was one of those deals where we said if there’s nothing else out there then (retirement will) be our answer. I don’t want to just try to hang on to play.”
After the Colts’ 2021 NFL playoff run ends, will Rivers choose to hang on for at least one more season? Or will Indianapolis have to start a new quarterback search soon?
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Will Philip Rivers retire after 2021 NFL playoffs?
Rivers isn’t ignoring the possibility of playing his final NFL game this year. But, as of right now, he’s leaning toward returning for his 18th season.
“If I came in here and stunk it up, I was gonna be done anyway. It’d be like, ‘Man, this is brutal, let me just go coach,’” Rivers said prior to the Colts’ Week 17 game (via The Athletic). “But if it went well, and we got in the playoffs and made a run, let’s do it again. I still feel that way. I don’t want to speak in absolutes because there is still dust to be settled, whenever this season ends, and I’ll talk about it with my family, and the Colts have their side, but I still feel the same way.
“I hope there is a Year 2 (here). I think I’m really gonna want to play again.”
The 39-year-old certainly didn’t stink it up in his first season with Indianapolis after the underwhelming 2019 campaign. In 16 starts, Rivers threw for 4,169 yards, 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, leading the Colts to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.
“From a football standpoint, having some success, as a team and individually, playing well enough to punch it in and score some points and win some games, it has been fulfilling,” Rivers said.
While he has previously said he doesn’t believe he’ll end up playing into the “Tom Brady range,” Rivers clearly believes he’s still good enough to be a quality quarterback. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported in early January that Rivers has no plans to join another team this offseason, so it’s a Colts-or-retirement situation. For what it’s worth, Indianapolis players and coaches have offered nothing but rave reviews.
“If he wants it, he’s got multiple years of good football left in him,” Colts coach Frank Reich said of Rivers.
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Colts’ quarterback options if Philip Rivers retires
In the event Rivers and the Colts don’t reach a new deal, Indianapolis may have to look beyond its current roster to find its next starting quarterback.
Heading into the 2021 season, third-stringer Jacob Eason is the only quarterback under contract, as Rivers and Jacoby Brissett are set to become free agents. Eason, selected in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Washington, has a strong arm but no pro experience.
The Colts — who, barring a trade up, can pick no higher than 19th overall — could use this year’s first-round pick to land quarterbacks such as North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Alabama’s Mac Jones. But, again: no experience. Indianapolis would have to accept it’s taking a step back in the hopes of developing a future star in that scenario.
If the Colts prefer to remain in win-now mode, there are some intriguing outside options. A Carson Wentz trade could make a great deal of sense, not only because the Eagles quarterback appears to be unhappy with being benched, but also because Reich previously served as Wentz’s offensive coordinator in Philly. Indianapolis could pop up in trade rumors for Sam Darnold and Matthew Stafford as well.
That’s assuming Rivers won’t be around, though, and there haven’t been any indications so far that Rivers and the Colts want to end their relationship after one season together.