At the age of 36, Philip Rivers had one of his best seasons as a pro in 2017.
In earning his seventh trip to the Pro Bowl, Rivers finished second in the NFL in passing with 4,515 passing yards with 28 touchdowns passes and just 10 interceptions — the least amount of picks Rivers has thrown in a single season since 2009.
Curbing turnovers was a point of emphasis for the Chargers in 2017.
“I think Philip played well,” head coach Anthony Lynn said. “I think his best stat is his turnover stat. He took care of the football. He delivered the ball to the right people at the right time.
“There were some games he just played unconscious. His knowledge of our protection scheme really helps, keeping him on two feet and getting guys in the right position.”
However, the durable and ultracompetitive Rivers isn’t going to play at an elite level forever. He is signed through the 2019 season, but the Los Angeles Chargers have to start planning for the future, when Rivers’ skills erode to the point that he cannot consistently lead this team to victory.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco acknowledged as much while talking to reporters during his end-of-the-season news conference. Telesco said Rivers played really well this season, is still playing at a high level, and he expects Rivers to play that way next season.
“It’s been a priority every year to have the next guy,” Telesco said. “Kellen [Clemens] is the backup, and he’s older as well, so you have to have a future plan. And you just never know when that opportunity is going to be there. So you just can’t sit back and wait and then decide when you’re going into one year and say you know what, this year we’re going to draft a quarterback, because it may not line up for you.
“You don’t go into a draft saying we’re going to draft a quarterback, a running back and a wide receiver. You never know how it’s going to play out. So we’ll be prepared whatever year it is. If the right guy is there at the right spot, then we’ll do it. Because as well as Philip is playing, we know he’s not going to be here for 10 more years. We hope he’ll be around for a good amount of years, but we have to have a plan for the future. That’s part of our job.”
The Chargers have drafted only one quarterback, Brad Sorensen in the seventh round in 2013, during Telesco’s five-year tenure as general manager.
The Chargers were active in scouting quarterbacks last season, holding private workouts for Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, while also attending Nathan Peterman’s pro day.
The Chargers also worked out Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs.
This year, Telesco attended the USC-UCLA game to scout Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold, and he’s also has seen Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield play.
Telesco indicated Cardale Jones (obtained in a trade with the Buffalo Bills just before training camp began last season) could be part of the mix in the team’s search for a developmental quarterback behind Rivers.
“We saw some great tools this year,” Telesco said about Jones. “He made two or three throws each practice that really opened your eyes. And now we’ll have the full offseason of him developing in the offense and us getting a good look at him in training camp and the preseason. He certainly has the skills to do it, which is one of the reasons why we brought him in.”