Philip Rivers had regressed. The one-time franchise quarterback was flailing, throwing interceptions, missing receivers, fumbling snaps and losing games and his temper.
The San Diego Chargers failed to make the playoffs for three years straight.
And then came last year. Rivers, under new head coach Mike McCoy, rebounded, throwing for more than 4,400 yards and 32 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. The Chargers earned a wild-card spot and won a play-off game. Rivers was named the Associated Press' Comeback Player of the Year.
In a city that has few bonafide sports stars, Rivers stands out. He is San Diego's best hope for bringing home a championship. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and if a team doesn't have a franchise quarterback, the team is in for a long, long season.
Hello Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings. (All of which drafted quarterbacks in the first round of the NFL draft, hoping to strike gold ...)
Last season, Rivers soared to the national spotlight, sparked by his feisty personality and — of all things — a bolo tie. Team rules require players to wear ties when traveling and Rivers went with the Western-style bolo. Local stores sold out of them. Network football commentators even donned them.
Rivers was hot.
While some may believe that Steve Fisher, head coach of the San Diego State University men's basketball team, deserves the top spot for most influential in sports, we can't say that's a slam dunk.
Yes, he's revived the program and he led the team to its second “Sweet 16” appearance in the NCAA men's tournament this year, it still appears the team remains in the second tier of college basketball. Duke it is not.
Rivers? At 32, he has several prime years ahead of him. He's again being mentioned as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. He's durable. He's smart. He's passionate.
And let's be frank. Given the Padres, he's all we really got.