The Colts paid quarterback Philip Rivers $25 million for 2020. So for how much of 2020 will he be the Colts quarterback?
It started well in Week One, with the Indy offense shredding the Jacksonville defense on a drive that featured Rivers throwing the ball to wide-open receivers and the running game clicking. But the Jaguars outscored Indianapolis 27-13 the rest of the way to score one of the biggest upsets of the day.
On one hand, the Colts Offense clicked; they didn’t punt at all. On the other hand, Rivers threw a pair of ugly interceptions that will serve only as a reminder that Rivers had way too many of them in 2019. (He got away with a third ugly pick, thanks to a defensive holding penalty that wiped out a ball Rivers threw directly to K’Lavon Chaisson.)
The first pick wobbled directly toward the defender on the third drive of the game. It gave the Jaguars the ball at the Indianapolis 27, and it resulted in the Jaguars tying the game at seven. The second came in the fourth quarter, with the game still in the balance. Until it wasn’t.
Rivers completed 36 of 46 passes in the opener, and he had plenty of great throws. On a third and seven from their own 28, for example, Rivers launched a mini-rainbow to Parris Campbell while getting hit.
The question is whether the Colts will accept the bad with the good. With Rivers, it now seems inevitable that there will be at some point a bad throw, a bad decision, a bad something among what otherwise remains very good. Whether that’s good enough may depend on whether the Colts can still emerge from such games with victories.
Complicating the question is the presence on the depth chart of Jacoby Brissett, who makes $15 million per year and who led the team to a 5-2 start before suffering a knee injury in 2019.
Brissett got a cameo appearance on second and goal in the second quarter. He was sacked quickly on a play-action pass. Against the Vikings, will Brissett see more than one play? More importantly, will Rivers throw fewer than two interceptions?
In December against the Vikings, Rivers threw three of them. In Week One, Minnesota’s defense seemed to be a far cry from what it was last year. Whether he can minimize the bad and maximize the good against a good defense that played badly last week surely will influence whether and to what extent the Colt consider giving Brissett something more than a courtesy snap.
After today, the schedule softens through the Week Seven bye, with plenty of games the Colts should win or come close to winning (Jets, Bears, Browns, Bengals). The Colts get the Lions in Week Eight before a challenging second half commences: Two against the Titans, two against the Texans, Packers, Steelers, Jaguars again, and Raiders.
The bottom line for the Colts is that they need to rack up the wins before the storm arrives in early November. The bottom line for Rivers is that, the more he can minimize the interceptions on his stat sheet, the less likely the Colts will be to consider making what they originally considered to be a one-year experiment into a less-than-one-year experiment.