INDIANAPOLIS – Of the more than 1,000 players that are in the NFL, Frank Reich is pretty darn sure that Philip Rivers would rank near the top of the list including the smartest.
Back in 2014, when Reich was going into his second season as the offensive coordinator for Rivers, the then OC offered the following quote on his quarterback.
“I knew he was an elite passer, but I didn’t realize this was one of the smartest football guys in NFL, bar none,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said to Dan Pompei. “If there is a top 10 list of smartest guys in the league, he’s on it, promise you. He just sees it faster than anybody else.”
Think about all the players that Reich had been around, up to that point, in 14 years as a player and then 6 years as a coach.
Fast forward to present day and Reich still believes Rivers brings a high level of football intelligence to the most important position in sports.
“He’s the kind of guy who can always get you in the right play,” Reich said to Colts.com after the Colts signed Rivers to a one-year deal.
“He knows our offense. A big part of this (is) he and I and Nick Sirianni sat down together and fleshed out and worked out in those early days in San Diego. We were morphing together a little bit of what we all had been exposed to into something we thought was pretty special. So that’s a great fit. Schematically, he already knows the deal.”
When Reich met the local media last week for the first time since the Rivers’ deal was announced, he expanded on the knowledge that this new QB already has with the Colts’ playbook.
“He knows 80 or 85 percent of the offense, maybe more,” Reich said of Rivers. “We’ve changed the wording on a couple of things to make it better. When I tell you he’s elite intellectually, he’s at the top. There’s a rare group of guys in the football world who I would put in that category. Not everybody gets those gifts, he has them. That’ll be to his advantage and to our advantage. When we are able to send him stuff and get our materials, he will be able to pick it up quickly and then as soon as we are able to communicate with him and we are able to talk football and really get into a teaching mode, it won’t take long.”
A huge factor in the Colts describing the need for better quarterback play in 2020 came from the ability to process, and act upon, things quicker.
At many times in 2019 that didn’t happen, which led to a slower passing game rhythm, not enough big plays and a lack of consistent efficiency.
There are debates to have about Rivers’ high-level ability at quarterback, especially at the age of 38.
But debating the IQ he is bringing to quarterback isn’t one of them.
“He was one of the best of his era,” former teammate Eric Weddle told The Athletic about Rivers. “Ran the show. Not many quarterbacks in this league run the show like he does, where he makes every check, makes every call, O-line call, protection call, audibles. You watch, and you can count on your hand how many players (do it). It’s not many, maybe a couple. Not many. Peyton Manning was one, and he’s gone. Drew Brees does it. Even Tom (Brady) doesn’t even do it. It’s something to be said when you are running the show, not the little voice in your helmet telling you what to do.”