In his defense, the game was effectively over. Trailing 30-23 to the Denver Broncos and on the bottom of a sack pile, Philip Rivers had only 10 seconds to line his team up and get the snap off before the game clock expired. And even if they had somehow snapped the ball, the Chargers still had to whip up an 89-yard miracle just to send the game to overtime.
Still: Rivers’ hasty toss and trudging off the field looks like he just gives up. Not to jump on our moral high horse or anything, but at least give the facade of effort.
It speaks towards a larger problem with Rivers, one of willful ignorance. “Lead by example” is a cop out phrased used for elite athletes who possess no semblance of charisma or emotional strength, so it’s not that. (Eli Manning is always praised for his even-keeled demeanor, but there’s nothing more demoralizing than that goofy shrug.) The problem is his inability to grasp the larger picture, a recognition that there are greater things at play than immediate frustration. Perception is reality, especially in the NFL. The ire of owners trickles down to general managers and coaches like in no other sport – and the resulting chaos is tunnel vision that only includes short-term reactionary planning. And when a team is imploding like the San Diego, that means the coach and quarterback are the focus of disdain.
Whether or not Rivers is entirely to blame is an entirely different question, and one not germane to this discussion. But his refusal to, at the very least, at least acknowledge that he has a greater responsibility to appease perception, is problematic. Because he won’t be able to get away with that sometimes praiseworthy “competitive spirit” until he develops a track record of winning. Until then, it’s just the whining of a spoiled and childish NFL star. Another wasted talent. Though that may not be a fair label, it’s one Rivers must realize exists. And because of the tenuous situation of the entire Chargers organization, with seemingly everyone on the chopping block and the entire roster on the precipice of complete overhaul, it might be in his best interest to start behavior according to public standards.