Philip Rivers retires from NFL, ending 17-year career spent with Los Angeles Chargers and Indianapolis Colts

Philip Rivers is retiring from football, ending his 17-year career as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history.

Rivers, who spent this past season with the Indianapolis Colts after 16 years with the Los Angeles Chargers, said in a statement Wednesday that playing quarterback in the NFL was his "childhood dream."

While Rivers, 39, never played in a Super Bowl, it was one of the few glaring omissions on an otherwise remarkable resume. He ranks fifth in NFL history with 63,440 passing yards, behind only Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre. The eight-time Pro Bowler also is fifth in league history with 421 touchdown passes -- again behind only Brady, Brees, Manning and Favre.

Rivers said in his statement that he wanted to announce his retirement on Jan. 20, which is the Roman Catholic Church's feast day for St. Sebastian -- often referred to as the patron saint for athletes.

The announcement also came exactly 13 years to the day after Rivers played with a torn ACL in the Chargers' loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

"Every year, January 20th is a special and emotional day," Rivers said. "It is St. Sebastian's Feast day, the day I played in the AFC championship without an ACL, and now the day that after 17 seasons, I'm announcing my retirement from the National Football League. Thank you God for allowing me to live out my childhood dream of playing quarterback in the NFL."

Between his trademark throwing style and his penchant for trash-talking without cussing, Rivers carved out his own niche in the NFL and retires as the Chargers' franchise record-holder in every major passing category.

The Chargers congratulated Rivers on his retirement, tweeting "there will never be another." Owner Dean Spanos called him the "heart and soul of the organization" for many years.

Rivers passed for 4,169 yards and 24 TDs this past season, leading the Colts to an 11-5 record and a wild-card berth in the AFC playoffs. Indianapolis was eliminated this month with a 27-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

The Colts, who added Rivers to provide stability at quarterback after Andrew Luck's surprising retirement before the 2019 season, also thanked Rivers on Twitter.

Colts coach Frank Reich said earlier this month that he hoped Rivers would return for the 2021 season and that he thought "Philip still has a lot of good football [left]."

Bills coach Sean McDermott said Wednesday that Rivers was "one of the best that I've ever been around" at the quarterback position and described him as a "high-character man and a guy with great core values."

"I put him in the same category as all those elite quarterbacks -- extremely smart," McDermott said. "I'm sure there's a lot of defensive coordinators right now around the league breathing a sigh of relief, with all respect to what Phil has been able to do."

Rivers initially revealed his decision to the San Diego Union-Tribune late Tuesday night and told the newspaper that he intends to stick with his plan to coach high school football. Last summer, he accepted the head-coaching job at St. Michael Catholic High School in Fairhope, Alabama, where he hopes to coach his sons -- just like his father coached him.

"I can sit here and say, 'I can still throw it. I love to play,'" Rivers told the Union-Tribune. "But that's always going to be there. I'm excited to go coach high school football."

Rivers joined the Colts on a one-year, $25 million contract last March after 16 outstanding seasons with the Chargers, who reached the playoffs six times with him as their starter.

"I am grateful to the Chargers for 16 seasons, and the Colts for the 17th season," Rivers said in his statement. "Thank you to all my coaches that helped me grow as a player and person. Thanks to the support staff. I appreciate the opposing defenses making it challenging physically and mentally every week. ... I also enjoyed the banter. I appreciate the referees for putting up with all my fussing. I think I was right most of the time dadgummit!

"Thanks to the fans in San Diego and around the nation that both cheered and booed. Special thanks to my teammates. Without a doubt my favorite part of the game, being a teammate. Thank you for being mine.

"Lastly, thank you to my wife and best friend Tiffany, and our children Halle, Caroline, Grace, Gunner, Sarah, Peter, Rebecca, Clare, and Anna. Could not have done it without y'all's unwavering support.

"As my playing career comes to an end, the next chapter begins."

The Chargers acquired Rivers in a 2004 draft-day trade that sent the top overall pick, Eli Manning, to the New York Giants. Manning went on to win two Super Bowls with the Giants and retired after last season.

Rivers spent his first two years in San Diego backing up Brees before taking over as the starter when Brees left in free agency to join the New Orleans Saints. Over the next 15 years, Rivers never missed another game, starting all 252, including the playoffs.

Rivers won 134 career games -- No. 2 among quarterbacks without a Super Bowl ring -- and is eighth all time. Only Brady (230), Peyton Manning (186), Ben Roethlisberger (156), Brees (172) and Hall of Famers Favre (186), John Elway (148) and Dan Marino (147) won more regular-season games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.