Philip Rivers Was Almost a San Francisco 49er Last Season

If the San Francisco 49ers had been able to beat the Eagles and make it to the Super Bowl, they would have given Rivers a call

Philip Rivers gets set to pass for the Chargers.
Longtime Charger Philip Rivers could've played for an in-state rival.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty

Playing in Philadelphia against the Eagles for a chance to go to the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers were forced to turn to 37-year-old journeyman Josh Johnson at quarterback after starter Brock Purdy exited with an elbow injury. That Purdy was even the starter was somewhat of a joke as the 49ers traded up in the draft to select Trey Lance in 2021 and also worked out a deal to keep Jimmy Garoppolo in town last summer even though the team clearly did not view him as part of the future in San Fran. Neither Lance nor Garoppolo were healthy when the NFC Championship Game kicked off, and neither Purdy nor Johnson, who suffered a concussion, were healthy when it ended.

Given San Francisco’s quarterback situation in the NFC Championship, it’s no surprise that they lost the game by a large margin and allowed the Eagles to advance. But, had they somehow been able to defeat Philadelphia — and members of the 49ers think they should have — San Francisco would have needed a quarterback for Super Bowl LVII against the Kansas City Chiefs and Pat Mahomes. According to Niners coach Kyle Shanahan, that QB would have been Philip Rivers.

“He was prepared to,” Shanahan said. “Now that’s stuff we talked about throughout the whole year. We would’ve had to have seen how that was for the Super Bowl, but that was the plan most of the year.”

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Rivers, who retired after playing the 2020 season in Indianapolis with the Colts, played 16 of his 17 NFL seasons for the Chargers. When he retired in January of 2021 to coach high school football and help his wife take care of their nine children, 41-year-old Rivers had an all-time record of 134-106, a career completion rate of nearly 65% and was ranked No. 5 in career completions (5,277), No. 5 in passing yards (63,440) and No. 5 in passing touchdowns (421).

None of those statistics were accumulated in a Super Bowl as Rivers was never able to advance further than a conference championship game despite playing on some Charger teams that were loaded with talent. Based on what Rivers said during the summer after his retirement, he probably would have picked up the phone if the Niners had come calling.

“I’m just going to stay ready,” Rivers told The Los Angeles Times in 2021. “I want to make sure I’m very clear: I’m not predicting I will play in December or January, for that matter. One, you’ve got to have somebody who wants you, and two, it’s got to be right. But I have not completely ruled that out.”

Unfortunately for Rivers, San Francisco’s mismanagement of the quarterback position prevented the team from needing one in the Super Bowl because they lost the round before.

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