Like the rest of his teammates, Philip Rivers wasn't ready for the season to come to an end.
After recording a conference-best 12-4 record, winning in the Wild Card Round and authoring one of the top seasons in franchise history, the future Hall of Famer expected to be busy Monday preparing for the AFC Championship Game.
Instead, he unfortunately joined his teammates in packing up their things for the offseason.
Still, despite the bitterness from Sunday's loss to the Patriots, a raw yet hopeful Rivers held court for over 10 minutes with throngs of media members, answering questions about the Chargers' past, present and future.
Here are a few of the highlights from what the quarterback had to say before the Bolts parted ways until April:
A Special Squad – Philip Rivers has been a part of many Chargers teams – 15 of them to be exact. No two squads are the same, and while he has specific memories of each one, there's something special about this specific Chargers team. However, Monday marked the last time they'll all be together. Players come and players go. That's the nature of the NFL. So, what will Rivers remember about the 2018 Bolts?
"It was a heck of a year. It really was. It's hard to appreciate it less than a day after losing the way we did yesterday, but shoot, we won 13 games. I think this team is headed in the right direction, no question. Off Coach (Anthony) Lynn's first year being 9-7, fighting back after an 0-4 start, and this year winning 13 games and winning a playoff game, by no means are we satisfied, but definitely something to build on heading into next year… I think (this team was) very similar though to teams that we've had that've had some success and won a lot of games. Winning helps with that camaraderie certainly. I mean, the 4-12 years, I felt like we hung in there pretty good but it certainly wasn't as fun because you're not winning. I think we just have a lot of guys with similar makeup. I think that's hard to find. A lot of guys that love football. A lot of guys that care about it, care about each other. They get it. I think that certainly gives you a chance every week."
A Long Way Back – It's hard to get into the playoffs, let along win a postseason game. That's exactly what the Bolts did this season, and while it's easy to say they'll be back in the same position next year, Rivers knows better than anyone that's not the case. After making the postseason time and time again his first few years in the league, the quarterback thought these types of opportunities occur on the regular. But the truth is that the NFL season is a grind, and chances like the Chargers had in 2018 don't come easy:
"I only think I appreciated it as the more years I've been in it, that's how hard it is to get back to right where we were yesterday. It's not just like, 'Alright, we'll get them next year.' It's like, 'That was a heck of a task to get to where we were, winning 13 games.' I think as long as we acknowledge that and don't just think that it's going to happen because I remember early in my career (in) 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, we were in. You have a shot, you have a shot, you have a shot, you have a shot and then when that dries up a little bit, you realize how hard it was to do. It didn't just happen."
Battle Tested for 2019 – As noted above, it's an absolute grind to get back to where the Bolts got this season. However, if they do return, they'll be better prepared than this go-around. That's only natural since this marked the first taste of playoff football for the majority of the locker room. There's nothing quite like experience, which is why Rivers said playing in these past two games will pay major dividends going forward:
"I think so. I think that experience is big. What it feels like, what the preparation's like, the whole deal. I think it is big.… so when we find ourselves back in the postseason next year, I do think there'll be some value in these last two games."
ASAP Continues – By now, most know of the Bolts' adopted ASAP mantra – Any Squad Any Place. That held true all year long as the Chargers won every single time they boarded a plane until they visited New England. Well, that mantra doesn't just stop now that the season ends. Some things carry over from year to year and some things don't. However, Rivers made it clear that the team's road-warrior mentality absolutely will be a part of the team's fabric moving forward:
"It was a long way and a hard road to get (to 13 wins), but I think when you're in the midst of it, you talk about what a good road team (we are). 'Man we've won 9-0 on the road. We'll go anywhere.' And we believe that, and we'll continue to believe that. That'll continue to be kind of a mantra for our team. I know because we played good in those situations, but it's not easy. It's not easy. You win nine in a row getting on an airplane, how long is that streak going to go? We certainly believed it was going to last three more this year, but it came up short obviously yesterday, but I don't think we're that far off."
Homefield is Helpful – No one is blaming the weather for Sunday's loss to the Patriots. However, the cold certainly didn't help. To that end, while the team's ASAP motto will last next season, Rivers stressed the importance of winning the division in 2019 to get those home games come playoff time:
"It was cold. The second half, I noticed it more because the sun was out a little bit in the first half, but it wasn't too bad. I don't think that was an issue, but certainly again, even more reason to be in 65 degrees and be at your place. Winning the division is always the goal, and with winning the division, not always, but you get a chance to have at least one home game and maybe get to have a week off beforehand…I don't think we are that far off. I think what it goes to show too is – I think it's a big deal. I think it's a big deal to win the division. It's a big deal to win the division and play at home. Big deal to be the one seed."
Upcoming Plans – What do the upcoming weeks have in store for Philip Rivers? Not much. Number 17 plans to relax for a couple weeks following a long grind, but he'll be back evaluating the entire 2018 campaign in no time:
"A whole lot of nothing for a while. Just take a break really more mentally than anything. Physically, sure, but just to rest a little bit and then you kind of gear back up. I think the calendar kind of sets up for you to go through your regular routines, be back here in April and the draft and whole deal, OTAs and go do it again."