INDIANAPOLIS – With so much on the line heading into week 17 of a 17th NFL season that’s included 254 games, a thought crept into Philip Rivers mind.
Might this be the last one?
Could Sunday’s meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium not only mark the end of Rivers’ first and only season with the Indianapolis Colts, but the end of a Hall of Fame-worthy career as well?
Rivers smiled when asked that earlier this week.
“That did cross my mind actually (Tuesday),’’ he said. “It crossed my mind. I don’t think it will be something I will be thinking about all week. It did cross my mind.
“I go, ‘Shoot, if things don’t go the way you want this weekend and who knows what happens.’ I guess it’s at least healthy to have that thought because you’re not guaranteed anything moving forward.’’
Rivers signed a one-year, $25 million contract with the Colts in March, but the expectation was for him to return in 2021 if things worked out for both sides.
And that’s still to be determined.
Rivers has held up his end of the bargain. He ranks among the top-11 in the NFL in yards (9th with 4,005), completion percentage (8th at 68.3%), yards per attempt (10th at 7.75). He’s 13th with a passer rating of 96.3, and has 23 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He has pushed his career TD total to 420, tied with Dan Marino for 5th-most in league history.
Also, Rivers will make his 240th consecutive regular-season start Sunday, tying Mick Tingelhoff for the 3rd-longest streak in NFL history.
But there’s still unfinished business. The 10-5 Colts need a closing win against Jacksonville and some help to earn a postseason berth.
It would seem reasonable to assume a playoff appearance would all but assure Rivers’ return in 2021. Whether missing the postseason would alter that possibility is open for discussion.
“To think that it could be the last game, yes, it has crossed my mind . . . ‘Last game I ever play’,’’ Rivers said. “Certainly don’t intend that it will be, don’t hope that it is.
“But certainly I think you have to acknowledge that it is a possibility.’’
Again, it was never the intention for the Rivers-Colts relationship to be a one-and-done fling.
“When he first came here I said Philip is more than capable, if he wants, has multiple years of good football in him,’’ coach Frank Reich said last month. “I really believe that.’’
Reich reaffirmed those sentiments during an appearance this week on The Peter King Podcast.
“We are so focused on this year,’’ Reich told King, “but I do know this. If Philip Rivers wants to play football, he can play football. I think he has multiple years left in him. I mean, right now. He’s playing so good. And I love working with him.
“You know his contract situation. He’s got a one-year contract, so there will be a time and place to talk about all that, and contracts, and all the other dynamics that go into being a 39-year old quarterback.
“I know this: my love and respect for Philip Rivers has done nothing but increase working with him again, respecting what he’s done for our team and our organization, the way he’s come in and handled himself as a leader. It’s been nothing but the very best.’’
Two of Rivers’ teammates endorse him returning for 2021.
“There’s no question,’’ said Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard. “He’s been ballin’ . . . he’s playing great. I don’t see anything slowing him down . . . I feel like he has more left in the tank.’’
T.Y. Hilton agreed.
Should Rivers be the Colts’ QB1 in 2021?
“To me, absolutely,’’ Hilton said. “He’s come in and done a tremendous job. He got us in great position, so it would be dumb for him not to be.’’
On a side note, Hilton also will be a free agent at the end of the season. He sought an extension prior to the start of the regular season, but that obviously didn’t occur.
Does Hilton envision catching passes from Rivers again in ’21?
“I don’t know,’’ he said. “That’s not up to me. It is what it is. We’ll see. It’s in God’s hands.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.