First things first – Philip Rivers isn't going anywhere.
The Chargers quarterback is locked up for the next four seasons after agreeing to an extension last offseason, and remains in the upper echelon of NFL passers. He is fresh off a lights out 2015 campaign in which he set franchise records and led the league in attempts (661) and completions (437). He also threw for 4,792 yards, which were the second most in team history and second in the league.
As such, the Bolts are fortunate the 34-year old Rivers remains entrenched for the foreseeable future. However, even though he will be leading the way for at least the next four years, and hopefully beyond, when is the right time to add a possible successor?
"There is never a wrong time to take a quarterback," General Manager Tom Telesco said.
The NFL Scouting Combine afforded the opportunity to ask notable pundits this very question. Telesco plied his trade for years under Hall of Fame General Manager Bill Polian. The architect of two dynasties with the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts, he offered a unique perspective on when teams should draft quarterbacks.
"Well, I've changed my philosophy, largely because of my last year in Indianapolis," he said. "I think every couple or three years you probably ought to look for one. Now, that doesn't mean you take one up at the top of the draft, because the guys this year are not going to play right away and they wouldn't see the field anyway with Philip. So you have to think about whether or not if you take a guy in the third round, you've probably got him for three years. Is that a wise investment? Probably at Philip's age it might be, so that's the way you look at it. But that guy's got to be there. If he's not the one you want, then don't take him."
The general consensus among experts is that it is ludicrous to think Rivers won't lead the Bolts for years to come. But remember, Rivers spent two years on the sideline learning the ropes before taking over in 2006 which means it's not too soon to add a young passer to groom under his tutelage.
"I don't think it's ever too early, and this is why," ESPN's Matt Bowen explained. "In the landscape of college football right now, there are very few quote-unquote 'pro style systems'. If you're going to get a quarterback, usually it's coming from the spread system. When you throw those guys into the fire year one, they struggle a little bit. Every quarterback struggles as a rookie whether you come from a pro or a spread system. I think there's a longer developmental curve there for a spread quarterback, so if you can get one earlier and bring him along (to) play behind one of the best quarterbacks in our league in Philip Rivers, I think that's so beneficial. The problem is, when do you make that choice? When do you make that pick, too, because you have other positions of need. If you are talking about day two or three to look at a quarterback, that's fine. I love Philip Rivers. I love watching him play, and I'd love to play with him because of how competitive he is and what he does on the football field. I think he's got a lot left."
ESPN's draft guru Todd McShay shares his colleagues' philosophies on when teams should consider adding a young quarterback into the fold. He even offered up three choices the Bolts should consider.
"Always," he said. "It doesn't have to be in the first round. This year's class is so loaded, you just don't know when you are going to get them. So you keep taking your hacks, and you make sure if you are not going to commit to one in the first or second round, then make sure you take one on day three. You've got guys like Jacoby Brissett from NC State, Dak Prescott from Mississippi State and (Stanford's) Kevin Hogan, who I think is vastly underrated. He may only be a backup, but can be a great backup for a long time. 36-10 as a starter and 68 completion percentage in a pro style system last year...It's obviously a difficult choice because you want to look long term, and maybe quarterback is one area you want to go. But you also want to win now because you've got a quarterback in Philip Rivers."
Take a behind the scenes look at Mike McCoy and Tom Telesco's second day of the NFL Combine.