Does It Make Sense for the Titans to Trade for Philip Rivers?

Rumors are swirling about a possible trade that would send Philip Rivers to the Titans. Does the hypothetical move make sense for Tennessee?

In the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, we are constantly hit with rumors detailing how "Team X" really loves "Player Y" and is willing to do anything to draft them. We also hear rumors about "Player Z" wanting out of his current situation to pursue greener pastures.

It’s difficult to decipher which of these narratives are actually true and which are just posturing by a team’s front office or by a player’s management team. It’s hard to find the fire amidst the smoke.

One such rumor swirling around is that Philip Rivers may be traded to Tennessee so that the Chargers can make a play at Marcus Mariota. This is, of course, assuming that Jameis Winston does indeed go first overall to Tampa Bay, but either way, it appears that San Diego is looking to get substantially younger at the quarterback position.

For the sake of this article, let’s just assume this trade does happen, and Rivers becomes the Day 1 starting quarterback in Tennessee for the 2015 season. What would the Titans’ offense look like? Could Rivers possibly be the catalyst to a massive turnaround in the Music City?

Into the land of hypotheticals we go…

Tennessee's Quarterback Quagmire

Since Steve McNair left Tennessee for Baltimore in 2006, the Titans never really found a suitable replacement to run their offense. The list of signal-callers that followed McNair -- Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Charlie Whitehurst, and Zach Mettenberger -- doesn’t exactly amount to a group of world-beaters.

In the nine years since McNair’s departure, Tennessee has a combined record of 69-75. They've been through three head coaches. And they've made the playoffs just twice (both first-round exits). And while it’s not fair to blame a team’s mediocrity on one singular position, it’s clear that a team with a top-level quarterback has a better chance for success than one without.

Below I’ve listed every Titans quarterback that has attempted at least 100 passes since 2005 along with their respective Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics for each specific season. Passing NEP is a measure of how many real-life points an individual player adds or subtracts from a team’s total score.

To learn more about our metrics, check out our glossary.

YearPlayerAttemptsPassing NEPPassing NEP per Attempt
2006Vince Young381-47.29-0.12
2007Vince Young408-8.41-0.02
2008Kerry Collins42346.010.11
2009Vince Young26840.110.15
2009Kerry Collins221-23.48-0.11
2010Kerry Collins29130.240.10
2010Vince Young16924.190.14
2011Matt Hasselbeck53716.780.03
2012Jake Locker338-27.36-0.08
2012Matt Hasselbeck234-21.62-0.09
2013Ryan Fitzpatrick37133.790.09
2013Jake Locker19910.910.05
2014Charlie Whitehurst2032.150.01
2014Zach Mettenberger196-8.99-0.05
2014Jake Locker160-20.55-0.13

For reference, the average Passing NEP for a 100+ attempt quarterback in 2014 was 38.53*

So we know that Tennessee has struggled to find a cornerstone talent at the quarterback position for the last nine years, but how much of an immediate improvement would Philip Rivers provide? Would his play be enough to guarantee anything more than a mediocre season?

A Rivers Revival?

Philip Rivers is a member of the vaunted 2004 quarterback draft class that produced both Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Although Rivers has posted similar, if not better pure passing statistics than the other two, he has failed to win a Super Bowl, a feat that both Manning and Roethlisberger have accomplished on multiple occasions.

Though Rivers has never claimed a championship, he has been a well-above average passer for the majority of his career. I’ve listed Rivers’s Passing NEP metrics for the nine seasons as a starter in order to form a comparison with the above table showing Tennessee’s quarterback production.

YearAttemptsPassing NEPPassing NEP per Attempt

Rivers has been a more efficient quarterback in literally every single season from 2006 to 2014 compared to whoever the Tennessee Titans decided to trot out as their starter.

But the real question remains: Would adding a 33-year-old quarterback to a subpar roster really be the most optimal move? And does it make sense to forgo a potential franchise talent in either Mariota or Winston, or help elsewhere on the roster, to get said quarterback?

Is It Really Worth It?

Is it worth it? Probably not. Even though Rivers would instantly make Tennessee a better team, it's difficult to envision a situation where his arrival would transform the team into a playoff-caliber squad. There are simply too many other holes to fill on their roster.

The Titans finished 2014 as the 31st-ranked defense, adjusted for strength of schedule, according to our metrics. They've made a few offseason additions to address their issues -- Brian Orakpo, most notably -- but still have a ways to go. If the front office truly believes they are just one veteran quarterback away from contending, they are either ignoring the numbers, or are just plain incompetent.

Is an 8-8 season possible with Rivers running the show in Tennessee?


Do the Titans have a shot at a deep playoff run as the roster stands currently, even with Rivers under center?

Probably not.