INDIANAPOLIS – Two events in the past three months have shaped Philip Rivers’ career/life arc, although each carries deceiving connotations.
In mid-March, Rivers signed a 1-year, $25 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
Earlier this month, he was named the next coach at St. Michael High School in Fairhope, Ala.
So, his immediate future is laid out.
Well, not exactly.
As has been speculated, Rivers’ one-year deal with the Colts essentially is one of those one-year-and-let’s-see deals. Both sides fully anticipate their relationship to be at least two seasons, perhaps more.
“I’m very optimistic it’ll be a multi-year thing,” Frank Reich said during a Monday Zoom conference call.
Chris Ballard and Jimmy Sexton, Rivers’ agent, handled the negotiations in March. They settled on a deal that satisfied each side at that time.
However, it was a contract that had an open-ended aspect to it.
“The spirit was, ‘Hey, we’re in this together,’ and as long as Philip wants to play, he wants to be here,” Reich said. “It’s the NFL. We know he’s got to prove it, but we’ve got to prove it as a team to keep him wanting to play.”
Rivers gave a similar impression in mid-March. He had been released by the Los Angeles Chargers following a decorated 16-year career, and for the first time talked with his wife, Tiffany, and family about retirement.
It would take the right set of circumstances for him to take his productive right arm elsewhere. The Colts offered that perfect opportunity and a second phase of Rivers’ career began.
“I’m talking it one year at a time,” he said. “I think that’s the best way to do it at 38. I do feel good. I feel great. If I feel like I feel right now next year, then I’ll be excited to keep going.”
Rivers insisted he has no intention of playing into “the Tom Brady range,” a fact that was reinforced May 8 when he was named the coach-in-waiting at St. Michael.
“I knew this five years ago,” said Reich, who worked with Rivers for three years with the Chargers. “(Coaching) literally has been in the works a long time.”
Rivers played for his father, Steve, in high school, and always has had a vision of coaching his sons, 12-year old Gunner, and 8-year old Pete.
“I do know what’s next when my playing time is over,” Rivers said.
But that time isn’t now.
“He’s football through and through. That’s one of the things you love about him,” Reich said. “And he’s family through and through. His next step, and he has such a clear vision of that, really just speaks to the kind of person he is and we’re certainly excited to have him for however long we get him before he takes that head job.”
While Rivers’ acquisition addressed the Colts’ immediate future, Ballard kept an eye on the future during the April draft. He selected Washington quarterback Jacob Eason in the fourth round.
If Rivers falters in 2020 or decides he’s one-and-done in Indy, the franchise should be in position to turn to Eason, if he develops.
If 2020 unfolds as everyone – Rivers, Ballard, Reich, everyone in the organization – anticipates, there’s likely more to come.
When Rivers hasn’t been occupied with virtual meetings with his new team during the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s been going through individual drills in Florida provided by the coaches.
Rivers videotapes his workout, then sends it to Reich and his offensive staff to be evaluated. Other players at other positions follow a similar routine to complement their Zoom meetings.
One video Rivers sent to Reich involved check-down throws. He had set up a net on a field near his home, and was aided by Gunner, who’s also a QB.
“He was out there with his son and he’s throwing balls into the net,” Reich said. “His son plays quarterback, so they’re alternating. I got to see his son throw some. That was pretty fun because I know his son from (the Chargers).
“This particular drill was like a check-down drill. He was dropping back in the pocket, simulating movement and the little net was like Nyheim Hines, checking out of the backfield and – boom – deliver it that way. Then deliver it with this arm angle, working fast in the pocket.”
At some point – sooner rather than later, according to Reich – Rivers will move to Indy to accelerate his transition to his new team.
“More and more guys will get to Indy and then as it’s allowed and we can get out on fields – it won’t be our fields – he’ll get together with receivers and throw with them,” Reich said. “Right now that hasn’t happened a whole lot, but I would anticipate that ramping up in the coming weeks.”
It’s early and uncertainty prevails across the NFL landscape, but Reich has plans for how to handle the Colts preseason. He talked with Ballard, his coordinators and training staff recently to ensure everyone was in agreement.
“It’s no secret,” he said. “If we have four preseason games, I’d like to have the starters play in the first three games like we normally would do . . . ramp it up each game leading up to that third game and get them ready to go.”
The Colts are home in week 1 of the preseason (date to be determined) against Philadelphia and against Aug. 24 against Washington. They finish at Buffalo and at Cincinnati.