The NFL features several players worthy of being named “Most Valuable Player.” Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes leads the pack, followed by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Yet there is one name that should be mentioned as well: Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
Most experts expected the Chargers to put together a solid season. However, no one expected them to be tied for first in the AFC West with an 11-3 record. Rivers is a big part of that. He’s worthy of consideration for the MVP, especially if he can lead the Chargers to a division title.
Looking at the Numbers
Mahomes and Brees lead the NFL in most passing categories. Mahomes completed 67.1 percent of his attempts for 4,543 yards with 45 touchdown passes for a 114.8 rating in his first 14 games of the season. That’s good for first in passing yards and touchdowns, second in quarterback rating, and 12th in completion percentage.
Meanwhile, Brees completed 74.9 percent of his pass attempts for 3,666 passing yards with 31 touchdowns for a 116.8 rating through 14 games. His numbers rank him first in completion percentage and passer rating, tied for third in touchdowns, and 12th in passing yards.
Rivers doesn’t lead the league in any of those categories, but his numbers are comparable. Entering Week 16, Rivers had completed 69.4 percent of his passes. He’s thrown for 3,951 yards and 31 touchdowns for a 112.4 rating. Currently, Rivers ranks third in passer rating and touchdown passes, seventh in yards, and fifth in completion percentage.
While Rivers doesn’t lead the league in any of those statistics, he’s in the top seven in every category. The statistics show that Rivers is performing at a high level right when his team needs him. They also show that Rivers deserves consideration for the MVP award.
The Meaning of MVP
The debate surrounding the term “MVP” often relates to baseball, where it’s common for the Major League Baseball to choose the best performing player over one that contributes more to a team being a championship contender.
However, the NFL tends to be more focused on what a player does overall. In 2016, Matt Ryan won the MVP award despite not leading the league in completion percentage, touchdown passes, or passing yards. That’s not to say that he didn’t have an outstanding year and was undeserving. He led the league in total quarterback rating and passer rating, but those other passing stats are often what’s referred to the most.
The one thing Ryan did do was finish near the top in most important passing stats, and he took his team to the Super Bowl.
The Falcons were dominant in 2016, but there is no way their offense would have been as powerful as it was without Ryan. The former Boston College star made the difference for Atlanta. He was the most valuable player in relation to what that team accomplished. That’s what set him apart. He was more valuable to the team than just numbers. Ryan made that offense work.
Rivers is the same way. The Chargers have faced several injuries on offense this season. Wide receiver Keenan Allen just missed the game against the New England Patriots. Star running back Melvin Gordon has sat out four games this season, including the last three.
Tight ends Hunter Henry and Austin Roberts have missed the season with torn ACLs. Henry’s injury, in particular, hurt the most. The Chargers intended for him to replace the retired Antonio Gates at tight end. The injury forced the Chargers to call Gates out of retirement and back into action.
None of these injuries have shaken Rivers. He’s led the Chargers the same way he always has, which is why the team is 11-3.
The Chargers’ struggles over the years stem from ownership and front office problems, plus a lack of mental toughness. Rivers has been the exception to the rule. Year after year, he’s led the Chargers to respectability despite the other problems facing the team.
His steady leadership under center kept this team together during the move to Los Angeles. Now the Chargers are among the best teams in the NFL, despite playing home games in a 27,000 seat soccer stadium. Most teams would have folded in similar circumstances, but Rivers kept the Chargers together.
Rivers’ overall value to the franchise is more than just his high level numbers. It’s about what he’s done to get the Chargers where they even have a chance to win the AFC West. This isn’t an argument for him being the MVP. Instead, Rivers should simply be in the conversation as the season winds down. He deserves that much.