There may not be much to it, but until today, I had never really considered the relationship between quarterback (or the one defensive player calling plays on the field) the individual responsible for relaying the desired play to him. Many teams use backup quarterbacks, someone who gets the offense, will do what he is told and will not add any additional commentary. That’s what the San Diego Chargers had been doing with Charlie Whitehurst, but he has now gone to compete for the starting job in Seattle. So now, head coach/offensive coordinator Norv Turner is stepping in to relay the plays directly to quarterback Philip Rivers.
Turner is somewhere about halfway between Dick Jauron and Jon Gruden on the coaching combustibility scale – generally intense enough, but prone to some animation and frustration. Rivers is the extreme for quarterbacks. On the field and the sidelines, he wears his emotions on his sleeve, talking trash to opponents and getting heated with teammates. With the head coach replacing the pawn, that may be an issue. There is no middle man on which to place blame and no filter in either direction. It may not be an issue. For the first time though, I’m genuinely intrigued by what’s being said and how it is being received.
Philip Rivers joined Darren Smith on XX Radio in San Diego to talk about running back Ryan Mathews’ frequent trips to the bathroom due to nerves before the first preseason game, how his own nerves manifest on the field, now getting play calls directly from head coach Norv Turner, if he feels the Chargers accomplished what they needed to in the first preseason game and how it feels to throw a perfect touchdown pass in front of the home crowd.
On Ryan Mathews’ nerves before the game against the Bears:
“He was definitely nervous. He disappeared to the bathroom a few times pre-game. But, he was good. It was a good nervous. If you are not nervous for your first NFL game, then something is probably wrong with you. I thought he handled it really well. He had some really good runs. The biggest thing that stands out to me with some of those runs is that he wants to be the punisher. He’s not the punishee. Some of the ends of those runs, he gives it to those DBs or whoever as he is going out of bounds or whatever. He finishes those runs with aggression. I tell you what, that takes a toll on the defense late in the games.”
On if he has ever gotten sick before a game:
“No. I never was a sick like throwing up type of guy. I get nervous with the butterflies in the stomach. I was never a throwing up kind of guy… I’m kind of a pacer. I can’t sit down. I can’t sit still. I guess that’s why I don’t ever sit down the whole game. I stand up all four quarters even when I’m not playing.”
On having Norv Turner calling plays in his helmet:
“In past preseason games, I called the plays. Charlie (Whitehurst – now with Seattle) was calling them and he would just give me the headset because obviously he was getting ready to play. I was the one getting them from Norv and calling them in. It’s looking like Norv is going to be the one calling in the plays this year. He will be the voice in my helmet. He did that the whole game. It was a little different. I was truly a spectator… He was good. He was fine. I’m sure there will be times when it will be interesting and quite animated. It’s good though. I tend to go a little bit too. Between the two of us, there’s a lot of going going on.”
On if he got out of the first preseason game what he hoped:
“I think so. The thing that was most impressive to me going back and looking at the tape was the guys up front. Both in pass protection and the run game, they really blocked them… I definitely think we are off to a good start. The foundation of the first preseason game is set. Now we can get better each week and keep improving to hopefully play the way we want to when we go to Kansas City… It’s a very basic gameplan, but we do have to go out there and run things that are going to work against the scheme that you have. They were pretty vanilla. They played three or four things. We were really vanilla offensively as well. I think it matches up… It wasn’t like they are trying to let people score on them. It’s nothing to get too excited about like, ‘Man we were really on it.’ Also, you don’t want to diminish that you did get off to a good start. Nobody in this locker room feels like we have arrived. We know it’s a small part of laying the foundation for what’s going to be a great year.”
And on how it feels to throw a touchdown pass in front of the home crowd:
“It never gets old. It seems brand new every time. Each one stands alone, especially when they play what you want them to play on defense and it draws up like you’re playing catch in May. Those are the ones that seem to feel the best… It’s good. Those are fulfilling. You have worked on something and the execution is there just like you want.”