It's been a gloomy two-year stretch for the Chargers amidst back-to-back losing seasons. A 9-22 record over the last 31 games heading into Sunday's season finale has weighed heavy on the entire roster.
Leave it to Number 17 to see the silver lining in what has been a trying time.
Philip Rivers has taken each loss as hard as anyone, yet he's witnessed enough over his 13 seasons to know what it takes for a team to succeed. To that end, he feels there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the Bolts' future.
"These next one, two, three years we are going to have as good of a chance as we've had since 2006-09 I believe. It is just a matter of how it all plays out…. (I) feel like we are about to have this window of another chance to do something special."
Why the optimism?
It all starts with a new nucleus that's emerged over the past couple seasons as the Chargers roster has transformed.
"I think there is a group of young guys, even rookies with Hunter (Henry), (Joey) Bosa and those guys in the three-five (year) range that really make up the new core," Rivers said. "(They're) really the future of this team. Then there's a handful of veteran players like there needs to be at all times sprinkled in…. I think there is that new core (emerging). We went to the playoffs in 2013 (and) we were a game away in 2014. We always believed we had a chance to make a run. I believed this year was going to be a heck of a year, but the truth of the matter is we have been in that transition stage of the old core leaving and the new core coming in."
The quarterback also admitted it was a big blow losing the likes of Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Jason Verrett, Brandon Mebane and so on this season. Getting some of their top playmakers back will further infuse their fortunes on the field.
"You think about the 20 guys or whatever we have now that are in the training room and on IR," he said. "Those guys back healthy does get you excited. The disappointing and aggravating part is you have to wait another seven or eight months to take the field again."
Rivers isn't the only established veteran with over a dozen years of experience who senses a change in the team's fortune. Antonio Gates has been a part of the most successful teams in Chargers history. While some wondered if the tight end would hang up his cleats following Sunday's season finale, he announced his intention to return for a 15th year at the age of 37 in 2017.
A major reason - he senses the Bolts have a chance to be special.
"At the end of the day I still want to have a decent run at a championship," Gates said. "When I came back last time a year ago, I felt like we had an opportunity and I still feel that way. But due to injuries and things of that nature, it limited us in what we were able to do. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out the way we wanted it to be…. I believe that when healthy, we have a ton of guys that can make a ton of plays. It gives us the best opportunity. I didn't envision my last year going out like this. I feel great. I'm still having fun, which is more important than anything. I love the guys in the locker room. To me, that's a staple of whether or not I would return."