INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The answer to the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback dilemma: Philip Rivers.
Months of speculation ended Tuesday when Chris Ballard agreed to hitch his team’s immediate future to a 38-year old quarterback with career stats worthy of Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration.
After 16 decorated yet unfulfilling seasons with the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers, Rivers has agreed to a one-year, approximately $25 million contract with the Colts, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.
The recent rumblings of Rivers relocating to Indy were on solid ground. He had developed a close relationship with Colts’ coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni during their time as Chargers’ assistants.
Now, the gang’s back together.
The Colts made it clear immediately following their 7-9 finish last season their passing game – and quarterback play – had to improve. It ranked near the bottom in most league categories, including 30th in yards per game (194.3).
Jacoby Brissett was the undeniable focal point, who endured a dramatic two-phase season. He was more than good enough during the team’s 5-2 start – 14 touchdown passes, three interceptions, a 64.8 completion rate, a 99.7 passer rating – but sagged badly after spraining the MCL in his left knee in a week 9 loss at Pittsburgh.
Over his last seven starts and the Colts’ 2-5 finish, Brissett had four TDs, three interceptions, completed just 56.4 percent of his passes and managed a 75.1 rating.
The day after the season-ending loss at Jacksonville, Reich addressed Brissett’s rocky season.
“The quarterback’s job – there is so many factors that are dependent on your success – but you still have to find ways to succeed in spite of some of those difficult circumstances,’’ he said. “We are used to around here in this area of the country of knowing how to throw the football.
“So we are going to throw the football, OK? We will figure it out. We didn’t do a good enough job this year. We will do better next year.’’
Ballard and owner Jim Irsay repeated Brissett was the Colts’ current starter, but that was in the here and now and with the current depth chart.
Elaborated Ballard: “The jury still is out.’’
Added Irsay: “All options are on the table.’’
Option 1: Philip Rivers.
With the Chargers last season, Rivers passed for 4,615 yards – his 11th season with at least 4,000 – and 23 touchdowns while completing 66 percent of his passes. But he also suffered 20 interceptions and was sacked 34 times behind a substandard offensive line.
In Indy, Rivers’ lack of mobility should be mitigated by the Colts’ top-drawer offensive line. He’ll also benefit from a Marlon Mack-running attack that finished 7th in the NFL a year ago.
Rivers’ overriding challenge will be to return to the Colts to prominence. They’ve missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.
During his 16 years with the Chargers, Rivers established himself as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history. He ranks 6th all-time with 59,271 yards, 397 touchdowns and 4,908 completions, and 7th with 7,591 attempts.
Rivers has started 224 consecutive regular-season games and led the Chargers to a 123-101 record during that stretch. He’s 5-6 as a starter in the playoffs.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.
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