Throughout the weeks leading up to games, opposing coaches often gush about future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers, and the extreme challenge it is to go up against a guy with as much talent as him.
Bill Belichick is no different.
In fact, few have gone into as much detail about number 17 as the Patriots’ head coach. While Belichick has his own exceptional QB in Tom Brady, he has a ton of admiration for Rivers.
“He's really good at everything,” Belichick said. “He's very accurate on the deep ball, sees coverages well, sees matchups well, goes to the right place, throws the ball accurately. He's a big, strong guy that can stand in the pocket and handle himself with guys around him. He does a good job at the line of scrimmage of controlling the offense, the protection. Obviously, the offense runs through him and he does a good job of getting the Chargers either into good plays or out of bad plays, however you want to look at it. Obviously, his durability and his consistency – I mean, the guy has started over 200 straight games. That's pretty impressive. He does everything well.”
The head coach continued to heap praise on Rivers’ physical abilities.
“He’s big, he’s strong, he’s got a good arm,” he said. “He sees the field well. He’s got a very good ability to see the coverage, see the entire field, find the matchups and get the ball where he wants to get it to. If the defense takes something away, he quickly can get his eyes to what the next progression is and make good, quick, decisive decisions. I’ve always been impressed with that.”
Belichick has seen it all before from Rivers, whether that be through his team going up against him eight times, or from coaching him once in the Pro Bowl.
“I have a ton of respect for Phil. We’ve had an opportunity to spend a little time together. I think he’s a very, very smart person that understands football. Very inquisitive. Knows a lot of what’s going on, not just on his team, but studies other offenses, other teams around the league and defenses. Can put it all together. Understands how to attack and how teams try to defend in this league. I’ve had some great conversations with him, really enjoyed my time with him at the Pro Bowl and was very impressed by his knowledge of the game. … He was a joy to be around and to coach and to have the opportunity to interact with.”
Rivers remembers that Pro Bowl experience with a smile, sharing a funny story that sticks out all these years later.
“I do remember at halftime of the Pro Bowl game we were getting killed. … Me, Peyton (Manning) and (Matt) Cassel and we're getting blown out at halftime and he kind of called us all up and said, ‘Hey, we can tackle. I know it’s the Pro Bowl and all of that but can we tackle somebody today? Let’s just go out and make this a little bit respectable in the second half.’ And then he looked over at us quarterbacks and we had all thrown an interception. Thank goodness I wasn’t the only one and he said, ‘It would help if you guys would stop throwing it to the other team.’ I got a kick out of that because I’m sitting there with Peyton Manning and Cassel and if Peyton’s not my all-time favorite, one of. I was glad I wasn’t the only one that had thrown it to the other team. I thought that was pretty good. I got fussed out at halftime of the Pro Bowl.”
Meanwhile, as they prepare for their third postseason game against Rivers, Belichick noted how difficult it is to game plan against a player as analytical as Rivers, who has an innate ability at sniffing out what the defense is doing.
“I don't think you're going to find something that he's never seen before,” Belichick said. “But at the same time, I don't think you want to just sit in something and tell him, ‘This is what we're in. What do you want to do about it?’ I think he'll make you pay for it. You've got to try to keep him off-balance. But yeah, I don’t think you’re going to come up with something he's never seen before.”
Thus, for all those reasons and more, you can see why one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history had so much to say about one of the greatest quarterbacks the league has ever seen.
“There are a lot of great players. He’s certainly one of them,” he said. “He’s had a tremendous career, great longevity, durability, consistency. Again, he’s played with a lot of players and been able to utilize them. I think that speaks to his effectiveness. He’s been in several different systems and he’s been able to be productive in all of those, so it speaks a lot to his talent and his versatility.”
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