Shortly after the Indianapolis Colts announced the signing of Philip Rivers reports came out that Tom Brady had an interest in the opening. This gave some in Colts Nation a bit of buyers remorse seeing their franchise pass on the six-time Super Bowl Champion. Fear not Colts Nation, here is why Philip Rivers will out-perform Brady and take his team further in the playoffs.
When head coach Frank Reich went out looking for a quarterback this offseason he ultimately made his choice before he started. He knew that this offense needed a guy at the quarterback position that was not only a winner but a proven leader. The kind of guy that is known for being the first one in and the last one out, taking all the reps in practice. With Tom Brady hitting free agency many thought the Colts were the perfect match made in heaven.
So, when the Colts made the signing of Philip Rivers many were left scratching their heads. A lot of the judgment of the move came from fans saying that Rivers had fallen off the cliff. Their proof being his third 20 interception season and overall 5-11 finish for the Los Angeles Chargers. Nothing new for Philip Rivers and honestly it’s part of what makes him a great quarterback. It’s his willingness to make those throws no one else will are the ones that can go your way and make a difference.
The biggest part of Philip Rivers’ struggles in Los Angeles for the past couple of years has been bad offensive line play. Last year alone they allowed him to get hit 34 times with both tackles surrendering 88 pressures combined. It would be hard for any quarterback regardless of who they are to find any success running for his life the majority of the time. Que to Rivers noting the Colts’ development on the offensive line as the big reason he chose to sign here.
Indianapolis boasts the 3rd ranked offensive line according to Pro Football Focus with all five members returning this season healthy. Led by two-time All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson who sets the tone for this offense which is “Run the Damn Ball”. A mindset that is going to pay huge dividends for Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts late in the season. Fewer dropbacks for Rivers means fewer chances for hits and a costly interception throw.
During the draft, Colts general manager Chris Ballard made sure to get some weapons for his new quarterback. The additions of wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and Jonathan Taylor should make instant impacts in their first season. Pittman is the perfect compliment to T.Y. Hilton and should help Rivers by being that big target for deep throws and the red-zone. Taylor is an absolute monster coming out of Wisconsin known for breaking off 1,900 yard rushing seasons. Combining him with Marlon Mack gives the Indianapolis Colts two possible tier 1 running backs.
All of these things combined should give Rivers the best group of surrounding talent he has had in recent years. For the past seven seasons Rivers has thrown for at least 4,000 yards which is exactly what Frank Reich is looking for. Sitting behind Pittman and Hilton at wide receiver are Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal, two young guys that have the talent to be real contributors. Adding more play-action plays will allow Rivers to move around the pocket and find open guys deep downfield.
Brady might have the big flashy names down in Tampa Bay with Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans, but I’m not too sure they are built better. Tampa Bay has a solid offensive line in front of Brady but they do not have as much experience playing together.
This will be the third year for the Colts line playing together as a unit with no missing pieces. Besides the offensive line, the Buccaneers do not boast as much depth at the running back position nor the same level of talent as the Colts. Having to depend on Brady to win with his arm all season will not end well for the 43-year-old quarterback.
The way that the Colts have built around Philip Rivers, they know they won’t have to rely on him to win games. That doesn’t mean Rivers won’t put up monster numbers as he did in the past, he may even improve. The running game is going to make defenses want to stack the box and attack aggressively which the Colts can exploit with play-action passes.
T.Y. Hilton should find himself in more one on one situations with Pittman Jr. lining up opposite of him. With those two guys taking most of the deep threats, that leaves Campbell and Pascal to move the chains underneath. Brady will put up numbers for sure but his team will have to rely on him too much ultimately leading to their demise.