INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have made quite the splash to find their answer at the quarterback position.
The team today announced it has signed veteran free agent Philip Rivers, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection who currently sits sixth in NFL history in both career passing yards (59,271) and touchdowns (397). Terms of the deal weren't immediately released.
"Philip is one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the NFL and we are fortunate to add an experienced player of his caliber to our organization," Colts general manager Chris Ballard said. "His familiarity with our coaching staff and offensive system in addition to his experience were attractive qualities during our evaluation process. Philip is a fierce competitor and his veteran leadership will be crucial in the continued development of our young roster."
Rivers, 38, has been one of the top playmakers at the quarterback position in the league since he was selected fourth-overall by the New York Giants in the 2004 NFL Draft; Rivers was then traded to the San Diego Chargers in exchange for that year's No. 1-overall pick, quarterback Eli Manning.
Since that time, Rivers has gone on to become the most prolific passer in Chargers franchise history. He completed 4,908-of-7,591 passes (64.7 percent) for 59,271 yards and 397 touchdowns in his 16 seasons with the team — all franchise records.
A Walter Payton Man of the Year finalist in 2011, Rivers concludes his Chargers tenure with more than 30 total franchise records to his name, including completion percentage (64.7), passing touchdown percentage (5.2), interception percentage (2.6), yards per passing attempt (7.8) and quarterback rating (95.1).
In NFL history, Rivers ranks in the top 10 in several categories, including attempts (seventh), completions (sixth), completion percentage (ninth), passing yards (sixth), passing touchdowns (sixth), passer rating (10th), first down completions (fifth – 2,913), completions of 25 yards or more (fifth – 455) and 300-yard passing games (fourth – 70). Additionally, his 123 career regular season victories as a starter rank ninth in league history.
Rivers takes over as the Colts' signal caller after an offseason full of evaluations by general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich.
While Jacoby Brissett performed admirably in the face of great adversity after the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck just before the start of the 2019 regular season, both Ballard and Reich said they were going to consider all options at the quarterback position this offseason, both in free agency and the draft.
The team knew Rivers was going to be one of many quarterbacks available in what has amounted to an unprecedented free agency period to start the new league year; already names like Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Teddy Bridgewater (Carolina Panthers), Nick Foles (Chicago Bears), and Marcus Mariota (Las Vegas Raiders) have joined, or are expected to join, new teams, either via free agency or trades. Jameis Winston, meanwhile, remains unsigned, while Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints) and Ryan Tannehill (Tennessee Titans) signed deals with their previous clubs, and the Carolina Panthers have announced that they have given Cam Newton permission to seek a trade.
In the end, however, the Colts just couldn't pass up on Rivers' familiarity with Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni.
The three worked together for three seasons with the Chargers from 2013-15 when Reich was quarterbacks coach, and then offensive coordinator, while Sirianni was an offensive quality control coach before being promoted to quarterbacks coach.
Rivers had one of his best-overall seasons as a pro in 2013, throwing for 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns; he led the NFL in completion percentage (69.5) and was fifth in yards per pass attempt (8.2) and fourth in passer rating (105.5) and was named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year.
In total in Rivers' three seasons under Reich and Sirianni with the Chargers, he ranked, on average, second in the NFL in completion percentage, fifth in passing yards, fifth in touchdown passes, sixth in passer rating, seventh in fewest interceptions and ninth in yards per pass attempt.
Rivers clearly made an impression on the future Colts head coach and offensive coordinator.
"Philip is an elite quarterback in this league. He has proven that year in and year out. He is a tough competitor," Reich said Sept. 4 as the Colts were preparing to open up the 2019 season against Rivers and the Chargers. "He is everything you want in a quarterback. He is elite – elite accuracy, elite toughness, playmaking (and) a really good challenge for our defense."
Said Sirianni: "The great quarterbacks of the league all have two things: they have timing and accuracy. I think that's what all of them have. The arm strength varies, the motion varies, all those things vary. But the timing and the accuracy and the vision of the field to be able to see the whole field and make plays that way. Every one of the top-five quarterbacks, top-eight quarterbacks have those traits and that's what he has."
Reich and Sirianni are also very well aware of Rivers' trademark toughness. He has started 224 consecutive regular season games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL and the third longest since 1970.