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Is It Time for the Chargers to Groom Rivers’ Replacement?

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With quarterback Philip Rivers having just two years left on his contract, it might be time for the San Diego Chargers to groom his successor via this year’s draft. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
With quarterback Philip Rivers having just two years left on his contract, it might be time for the San Diego Chargers to groom his successor via this year’s draft. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

You don’t have to be Mel Kiper Jr. or Mike Mayock to predict that the San Diego Chargers will not select a quarterback with their upcoming first-round pick, but they could be choosing for the future later in this year’s NFL Draft.

Philip Rivers is coming off one of the best statistical seasons of his career, as he made a smooth transition into the leadership role of head coach Mike McCoy’s precision, up-tempo offense. He has two years to go on his current contract, which will count $17 million against the salary cap, so the Chargers appear to be set at the quarterback position in the interim. 

But, one of the glaring weaknesses on the current roster is the lack of a legitimate backup quarterback who will need to lead the Chargers’ offense in the event Rivers goes down with an injury. Please, don’t give me Kellen Clemens as your solution because his skill level is questionable at best. This draft might provide the perfect storm for Chargers GM Tom Telesco and his staff to begin the process of selecting and grooming Rivers’ replacement.

One of the toughest decisions for all NFL franchises is deciding the right time to groom a young quarterback into the starting role, as there isn’t an exact science to the process. Some teams have gotten lucky by selecting a future star with a mid-round pick, while other franchises have felt the need to move up in the first round in order to draft that difference-maker. Each approach doesn’t guarantee success.

Ideally, head coaches don’t want their young quarterback to play behind a struggling veteran, as they might be forced to make a switch at the position if the team has a disappointing start to the season. 

The best-case scenario for developing a young quarterback was that of Steve Young after the San Francisco 49ers acquired him via a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the start of the 1987 season. He patiently sat behind Joe Montana for five years, often playing very well in relief before getting his opportunity in the starting lineup and Young never looked back.

San Diego could be the perfect landing spot for Aaron Murray, who became the first SEC quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in each of his four seasons at the University of Georgia. His size (6-1, 207 pounds.) might raise a red flag for some teams, but Murray’s leadership skills could help him become a potential NFL starter down the line. He has an uncanny knack for getting his playmakers involved early in big games, which often allows them to make plays later during crunch time.

It seems all starting quarterbacks have nine lives, so the Chargers can never feel they have too much talent at the position. Football is a collision sport, and having adequate reinforcements is essential for success. Plus, teams can use a talented backup as a trade chip to obtain high draft choices (like the Chargers did when they dealt Charlie Whitehurst to Seattle in 2010) that can gain quality roster depth. 

The two years remaining on Rivers’ contract give the Chargers ample time to groom his heir apparent without succumbing to the pressures of winning right now.