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    Chargers still mulling choice between Brees and Rivers

    Chargers still mulling choice between Brees and Rivers
    By: JAY PARIS - Staff Writer

    SAN DIEGO ---- In the city where "The Catch" became famous, Philip Rivers hopes to snag "The Job." Tonight's matchup between the Chargers (1-2) and the ***** (0-3) at San Francisco features more drama than most exhibition finales. Rivers, the draft's fourth pick, and incumbent Drew Brees are leaning toward the tape to be declared the winner of the team's quarterback derby.

    Coach Marty Schottenheimer continues to state that the position is up for grabs, despite the fact that Rivers missed 29 practices and two preseason games in a contract dispute.

    Rivers, who counts ***** great Joe Montana ---- he threw the ball to Dwight Clark in the NFC championship game following the 1981 season, resulting in "The Catch" ---- among his idols, aims to land a title bestowed upon only 32 men: NFL starting quarterback.

    "I actually pulled for the ***** a little bit because of Montana," Rivers said. "Joe Montana was obviously one of my favorites growing up. They were good then, and you always pull for a proven winner."

    Much like the Chargers, the ***** haven't struck gold of late. If nothing else, they know their starting quarterback is Tim Rattay. The Chargers? Their key training camp question remains unresolved a little more than a week before the season opener.

    "Obviously, the faster (Schottenheimer) makes the decision, or announces it, the better," said Brees, whose summer passing numbers are 26-of-40 for 361 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. "I'm not sure where he is on that. I hope I know where he's going, but I don't."

    Rivers' destination is clear-cut: he's the future of a franchise that is eager to escape its recent past.

    But just how soon he's crowned the offensive leader is to be determined, with tonight serving as the final audition.

    "I'm always confident going into a game, but I definitely have more confidence than I did last week," said Rivers, who was 5-of-14 for 79 yards, with two interceptions. "I only had three days (of practice) before my first game.

    "This game, I feel I already know what the game is kind of going to be like. The first game is out of the way, so that, plus mentally, I feel more prepared with what we are doing."

    Rivers got off to a hot start on Friday ---- three straight completions ---- then returned to earth with a resounding thud: seven straight incompletions, including two interceptions and two sacks.

    But Rivers chalks up the outing as part of his learning process.

    "In that game, I was thinking you got to do more than you have to do," the former North Carolina State star said. "I've got to let the game come to me and take what they give me."

    What Schottenheimer has given Rivers is extraordinary. Although Brees is a two-year starter in his fourth year in this offense, Rivers was awarded the opportunity to unseat him. Even considering Brees' struggles last year ---- 15 interceptions, the second-worst rating among AFC starters ---- Rivers speculated that his late reporting date might have torpedoed his starting chances.

    Not so, in Schottenheimer's eyes.

    "That was one thing that I was still curious to see how it was going to play out after missing that much," Rivers said. "But after getting in and getting going, I still felt like the door was open a little bit. And I was far enough along when I left (offseason workouts) this summer that I wasn't too much behind."

    Who will line up behind center Nick Hardwick on Sept. 12 remains to be seen. But both of the candidates get another shot tonight, in a competition that's more important than the final score between two wobbly squads.

    Schottenheimer is expected to anoint his starter early next week.

    "I don't think there's disappointment either way," Rivers said. "I can't look at it that way. Certainly, both guys want to be a starter. But if it's not the case, and that isn't what happens, it's not a failure. You just keep working, because at some point you are going to be called on."

    CHARGERS NOTES ---- Coach Marty Schottenheimer said QB Drew Brees will start tonight and possibly play into the second quarter. He will be relieved by Philip Rivers, who will play the balance of the game. ... RB LaDainian Tomlinson will not play. ... Tim Dwight and Eric Parker will start at wide receiver. ... LB Donnie Edwards is expected to start and be on the field through the second quarter in his first preseason action after suffering a calf injury. ... Among those not expected to play tonight are DT DeQuincy Scott (abdomen), WR Malcom Floyd (shoulder), LBs Matt Wilhelm (shoulder) and Shaun Phillips (shoulder), FB Andrew Pinnock (calf), RB-KR Leon Johnson (foot) and OL Chad Ward (back). ... The team had a walk-through Wednesday before attending its annual kickoff luncheon.

    Contact staff writer Jay Paris at paris@nctimes.net.

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    Re: Chargers still mulling choice between Brees and Rivers

    They made the right choice and picked Brees. Rivers will be the guy eventually, but Brees had a better preseason and knows the offense better.
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