Perhaps when Philip Rivers takes the field for the first time as the quarterback of the Colts, it will finally settle in that he's taken his last snap as the Chargers signal-caller.
While it seems like an impossible proposition to imagine Rivers in any helmet without a lighting bolt upon it or a jersey other than the Chargers' draped over his shoulders, it might be that the likely future Hall of Famer has found the best fit with coach Frank Reich and the Colts.
There's the history between he and Reich that began with the Chargers, there's the struggles Rivers had a year ago behind a porous offensive line that should be vastly improved in Indy and there is another talented set of skill options at his disposal.
As the 2020 season gets closer and closer, it's worth wondering if the Colts can return to the playoffs now that they have Rivers under center and if Rivers found the best place to enable him to go out a winner?
From 2013-2015, Reich was with Rivers in the Chargers organization as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
During that span, Rivers averaged a 67.3 completion percentage that was second in the NFL, per NFL Research, along with 282.4 yards per game and 92 touchdown throws in total, which was fourth in the league over those three seasons. Among the highlights of their time together, Rivers' 69.5 completion percentage in 2013 led the league and was a career-high, he threw for 4,200 yards or more each of those three seasons including a career-best 4,792 in 2015 and had 30-plus TDs in two of the three seasons.
Philip Rivers With Frank Reich
Ranks Among 32 QBs With 600+ Pass Att
(Per NFL Research)
Comp Pct 67.3 2nd
Pass YPG 282.4 5th
Pass TD 92 4th
Passer Rating 97.4 6th
> Frank Reich was SD QB coach in 2013 and OC from 2014-2015
Fast-forwarding to last year, though, Rivers and the Chargers struggled mightily after a successful 2018. They went 5-11, failed to make the postseason dance and Rivers had 23 touchdowns (his fewest since 2007) and 20 interceptions (second-most in his career). Many of those struggles came with Rivers under duress, as the veteran had 10 interceptions under pressure (second-most in the NFL) and a 49.1 passer rating (sixth-lowest in the league), per Next Gen Stats. That pressure came with Rivers setting up behind a Chargers offensive line ranked 29th by PFF. Now, Rivers finds himself behind PFF's No. 3 offensive line, boasting talents such as Quenton Nelson, Castonzo and Ryan Kelly.
And while Rivers was flanked by a talented cast of receivers and backs that included Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, he finds a likewise talented and youthful bunch in Indy. Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor are potentially terrific tandem in the backfield, while longtime Colts star wideout T.Y. Hilton has some fresh legs around him in Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell.
In another note of statistical optimism for the Colts faithful, Rivers is 21-8 against the AFC South in his career, per NFL Research. Other than the AFC West of which he's resided all these seasons, Rivers has recorded more victories against AFC South opponents than any other division.
Along with Rivers and the Colts being a potentially stellar tandem, there's also the appeal of history-making moments and milestones passed that lay ahead for the Colts to celebrate.
If all goes as planned, when Rivers takes the field as the Colts' starter for the first time he will make his 225th consecutive start in Week 1, having started 224 in a row with the Chargers, dating back to the season opener in 2006. It's the second-longest starting streak among quarterbacks since 1950, trailing just Brett Favre (297).
Rivers also enters his days as a Colt ranked sixth in career touchdown passes (397) and passing yards (59,271) with a good shot of surpassing all-time great Dan Marino (420 touchdowns, 61,361 yards) for fifth place in both this year.
Not that long ago, it would've seemed blasphemous to conjure up thoughts of Rivers playing for anybody but the Chargers. Much the same as Cam Newton would never play for a team other than the Panthers and Tom Brady would never suit up for anybody but the Panthers, Rivers was and would forever be the Chargers' QB1. Instead, Rivers is a Colt preparing for an unprecedented season as one of many star quarterbacks starting anew with different teams.
As Rivers runs into Indianapolis, though, it might well be that the 15-year veteran and eight-time Pro Bowler is the missing piece in the Colts' return to the playoffs. And perhaps Rivers has found the best place and the best fit to go out a winner.