The first reminder of Rivers' potential was starting at quarterback for the opposing Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger was selected with the eleventh overall pick in the 2004 draft, seven spots after Rivers was picked. While many teams had Roethlisberger rated higher than Rivers, the Chargers were not one of them. As a result, the Giants selected Rivers instead of Roethlisberger in order to entice the Chargers to trade, and the rest is history.
Roethlisberger has already proven himself to be one of the league's elite players. He led the Steelers to the best record in the league last year, and exposed a porous Chargers secondary early and often in Monday's primetime showdown. Chargers fans may cringe at the thought that he could have been on their side, but it is hard to compare the pick that was (Rivers) to the pick that could have been (Big Ben) when Rivers has yet to start a regular season game.
"I am not going to back down," said Rivers. "I am going to strive to do all that I can do."
The draft-day storyline wasn't the only thing during Monday night's game that had fans wondering what this Chargers team would look like with Rivers at the helm. Another reminder came when Brees tried to throw the long ball down the right sideline to Eric Parker, who had beaten Ike Taylor deep. The pass fell yards short of the streaking Parker; and instead of being an easy touchdown, it was nearly intercepted. As well as Brees has played, one had to wonder what would have happened had the strong-armed Rivers been throwing that pass.
That is not to suggest that the team should bench Brees. He has become a leader on the team, and is the catalyst on one of the league's most explosive offenses. But just because Brees is staying, it doesn't mean Rivers has to go.
"We pull for each other and learn from each other, you learn from what they do well, you learn from their mistakes and vice versa," Rivers said of his relationship with Brees.
The team may be wise to franchise Brees yet again next year, and just take the massive cap hit that would result from such a move.
Rivers has said he wants to start somewhere in 2006, so the team should give him a chance to do just that in San Diego. Even if he ends up backing up Brees for another season, he could end up being more understanding of the situation if he felt he was given a legitimate shot at winning the post.
Rivers added: "Do I want to be the starter? Yes."
The Chargers have arguably the league's best running back and its best tight end as a part of their offense, and Cam Cameron's system places a premium on pass protection. It is a quarterback friendly system to say the least. It has clearly been kind to Brees, and Monday's loss raises the question of whether it could be even kinder to Rivers. After all, the team has a losing record five weeks into a season filled with high expectations, and something has got to change.