The 1983 NFL Draft is often seen as the draft that provided the greatest quarterback class in NFL History. In total, four out of the six quarterbacks selected in the 1st round went on to play in the Super Bowl and three have been enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. John Elway, the first pick in that year’s draft is often mentioned among the all-time greats for winning two super bowls and his late game heroics. Jim Kelly, the 14th pick, has the dubious reputation of leading his Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowls, only to lose all of them. Dan Marino, the 27th overall pick, is chained to notion he desperately wishes he could have changed: the greatest NFL quarterback to never win a Super Bowl.
The 2004 quarterback class is shaping up similarly in terms of greatness with Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers all etching their place in history. Manning and Roethlisberger have both won two Super Bowls for their teams. Rivers on the other hand, has yet to reach the big game, which has earned him comparisons to Marino. However, the comparisons between the two signal callers do not stop there, as their quick release, pinpoint accuracy and the ability to put up gaudy passing numbers often come up in the discussion. Currently, Rivers is on pace to match Marino’s final career numbers that earned him an induction into the Hall of Fame.
Assuming Rivers plays seven more years, he would need to average about 28 touchdowns and 4100 YPG per year to catch up to Marino’s total of 420 and 61,361. These numbers are right on pace with Rivers’ career averages of 27 touchdowns and 4,050 yards in the years that he has been a full time starter. Reaching these numbers, or getting relatively close, is an attainable goal with Mike Mccoy’s potent offense and new weapons in Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen and Ladarius Green. However, Rivers’ main roadblock in getting into the Hall of Fame is the era in which he plays in.
In 1984, Dan Marino’s first full season as starter for the Dolphins, only three signal-callers passed for over 4,000 yards. In the 2013-2014 season, nine quarterbacks reached the 4,000 yard mark. This speaks volumes to the greatness of Marino, who ultimately set the all-time touchdown and yards records when he retired. The game had changed in a way where offenses are tailored for quarterback success, making Super Bowl victories the ultimate measuring stick for modern quarterbacks.
Rivers plays in an era where Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have been the standard benchmark in the NFL, having compiled multiple Super Bowls, MVP awards and various other accolades. On top of that, a new breed of mobile of quarterbacks has hit the NFL by storm in Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Cam Newton. Simply put, Rivers risks being overshadowed and ultimately being written off when he retires, should he do so without winning a championship.
While the chargers have a history of players that are hall of famers without rings in Junior Seau, Dan Fouts and soon to be joined by LaDainian Tomlinson, Rivers has one distinct disadvantage. All of the aforementioned players were considered to be the best in the league at some point in their careers. Rivers however, has always been overshadowed by his peers and never been considered the best quarterback in the league at any point in the last ten years as Manning and Brady have traded MVP campaigns consistently. Should the Chargers manage to win the Super Bowl in the coming years, that perception could change, and denying Philip Rivers enshrinement would be almost impossible.
However, with the league in its current state, Rivers stands on the outside looking in.