Philip Rivers dropped back to pass Saturday afternoon and heaved a prayer toward the end zone. It wasn’t answered, and it might have been his final throw in the NFL.
Rivers’ future has been uncertain since he signed a one-year, $25 million deal to join the Colts in the offseason. It was money well spent for the Colts, who finished 11-5 and reached the postseason as a wild-card team, but it also didn’t secure anything beyond 2020.
Colts coach Frank Reich recently said he saw “multiple years” left in Rivers, who posted a 97 passer rating and completion percentage of 68, throwing for 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2020. Indianapolis didn’t have any significant concern at the position for the first time since Andrew Luck stunned the football world with his abrupt retirement. That type of security alone was worth $25 million.
“Philip’s a great player. I have a great relationship with him,” Reich said after Indianapolis’ 27-24 loss to Buffalo. “He’s a great leader on this team. Those things will have time to work themselves out. He’s got a one-year contract, obviously, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into that decision. … He exceeded expectations in my mind about what he was bringing to the team this year, on and off the field.”
Rivers has a standing agreement to become a high school football coach in his home state of Alabama upon retirement, but it’s unclear whether he’s ready to walk away. Saturday’s result can’t possibly make the decision any easier, when Rivers was potentially 47 yards from leading the Colts to a stunning, come-from-behind win and extending his season.
“I don’t do this route with an answer often, but I think this sums it up: Whatever is God’s will for me and my family, if it’s here playing another year in Indy, then we’ll be here,” Rivers said, via The Athletic’s Zak Keefer. “And if it’s not, then I’ll be on the sideline with a ballcap coaching the heck out of a high school football down in South Alabama. Whatever God’s will is, I want to happen. At the end of the day, that’s what will guide our decision.”
An unfamiliar and emotional situation at the end of a season isn’t new to Rivers. He first experienced it when his Chargers were on the precipice of moving out of San Diego, then returned for one final season, then moved again. And he found himself in a similar scenario when it became clear he would also be leaving Southern California at the end of the 2019 season, with no idea of where he might land.
He moved his family to Florida while waiting to see where his next stop would be and, before long, he was joining up with an old friend in Reich with the Colts. Now, it feels as if it’s Indianapolis or nowhere for Rivers’ remaining career.
“Is it more emotional when it’s your 17th year and you’re about to be 40 and you’re not sure if you’ve walked out of your last tunnel? Heck yeah it is,” Rivers said. “It was a heck of a fun season, and there’s zero regret in moving to Indiana and playing for this franchise.”
A regret-free end to a career is what everyone strives to achieve, but giving up the game isn’t so easy. Rivers will remain involved in the sport regardless, of course, but in a vastly different capacity if he does indeed retire. It’s also up to Indianapolis to decide how it wants to approach the future at the position, especially when considering the potential availability of younger options like Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold.
These answers won’t come overnight. In the meantime, we can consider a potential reality of having seen Rivers play for the final time — while also wondering about how the Colts might fare with him back in the fold in 2021.
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