It hasn’t even been 24 hours since my (and Phillips’) beloved San Diego Chargers sh*t the bed yet again in the playoffs. I haven’t fully recovered from the nightmare that was the Ryan Leaf/Kevin Gilbride/Mike Riley era in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s yet, so I’m not close to ready to process the major disappointment that has been the last five years of Chargers football.
And that’s the thing. They’ve been so good and yet so bad that I have no idea how to react. Hell, I’m USED to them sucking. I’m not used to them being so good and then looking so awful once crunch time truly comes around. I can’t take being this close to a championship and yet so far away:
- There was the meltdown against these same Jets in 2004, including Nate Kaeding missing more field goals and a pathetic offensive performance, despite the statistics.
- I had forgotten about the 14-2 Chargers looking absolutely awful again against the Patriots a couple of years later. The stats looked good again, but the Chargers gave away four turnovers and the Patriots capitalized. This also marks the end of the Marty Schottenheimer era.
- A year later, the Chargers had some success under new coach Norv Turner, but were so decimated by injuries that a 21-12 loss to the undefeated Patriots wasn’t nearly as painful as what could have been the year before.
- The Chargers had two more turnovers the next year against the eventual champs, the Steelers, in a 35-24 loss. The Chargers scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, but also gave up 14 and blew their shot. They also went 8-8 during the regular season, marking the beginning of the still-strong “Fire Norval” campaign.
- And then there is Sunday night, in which the Chargers gave up a ton of fourth-quarter points yet again and blew it against a very, very beatable opponent.
But the worst thing about this latest debacle is that it could very likely mark the end of this era of dominance for the Bolts. This is an aging team that has injuries at key spots as well as free agency looming for several important players. And then there’s LaDainian Tomlinson, the face of the franchise since he was drafted, the greatest running back of the 2000′s, and a guy who is pretty much washed up after his ninth season in the NFL.
The point is, the Chargers have a lot to deal with this offseason and have several key questions looming: can this team stay good another year? Can they get anything out of LaDainian Tomlinson that makes him worth keeping? Is this franchise just cursed or what? A list of things that need to be taken care of this offseason:
Fire Norv Turner
The organization fired Schottenheimer a hell of a lot less. Maybe it’s time the brain trust in the front office realized that firing one underachieving coach and hiring another one isn’t going to get the job done any faster or better. The exact same things happened the last couple of years that happened under Schottenheimer. This team isn’t any better than it was after the 2006 season and it’s because the coach isn’t any better.
The major roadblock to this, of course, is that Turner is General Manager A.J. Smith’s guy. He is the guy Smith picked to replace the incredibly popular Schottenheimer, and if it doesn’t work out, it makes Smith look like the petty ass that he is.
The team lacks any sort of discipline whatsoever. They get dumb penalties constantly and aren’t always focused. Throw out the record and the statistics and just consider this: If (for example) Bill Cowher was the coach of the San Diego Chargers would Shaun Phillips have headbutted anyone Sunday night? Would Vincent Jackson have playfully kicked that challenge flag late in the fourth quarter? The answer of course is hell no. Cowher wouldn’t have stood for that crap. He would have torn Jackson’s throat out then made his lifeless corpse run gassers for 45 minutes. Norv just rolled his eyes.
INCREDIBLY UNSEXY UPDATE: Apparently the Chargers didn’t listen to us. They’ve extended Norv Turner’s contract through 2013.
Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles, Shawne Merriman, Malcolm Floyd, and Marcus McNeil are all free agents. You’ll notice they represent the core of what made the Chargers any good at all in the past few years. Jackson, McNeil, and Floyd are absolute musts if we’re going to let Philip Rivers continue being good at the football.
As for Merriman…let’s cut our losses. Honestly, he’s not the same guy he was three years ago and definitely not worth the money. If we can get him at a cheaper price, I think it might be worth seeing if he’s better next year. Otherwise, full price is a lot to ask.
And yes, I know we franchised Darren Sproles, but he’s absolutely not an every-down back, and we’d be crazy to try him as one. Unless we can find another guy who can split carries with Tomlinson, we should probably just franchise him again until we can either trade for or draft the solution.
Speaking of Tomlinson…
Keep LaDainian Tomlinson
Would we even be having this conversation if he played any other position? The guy deserves at least one more year under his contract, and it’s insanity to think we’ve got a replacement lined up. Besides, the only reason his season was underwhelming this year is because Sproles was his backup and I love D-Sproles, but he’s not a good enough runner to split carries with L.T. This is entirely a personnel issue. How about we find us a good back to split carries with the greatest running back in our franchise’s history.
To put it another way: do we really want to repeat what the Cowboys did with Emmitt Smith and have L.T. taking handoffs with the freaking Cardinals or something?
Holy crap do we need a new right tackle. One of the main reasons for Tomlinson’s sharp decline is how truly, truly awful the run-blocking was all year. I mean my God. Yeah sure, the guys could protect Rivers, but we were the worst rushing team in the NFL. I don’t think that means we should keep our O-line intact.
A backup for Tomlinson would be nice too. I’ve been following this one kid named Keiland Williams out of LSU for, oh, about his whole career. He’s going to be under the radar, but he’s undoubtedly the most physically gifted back in the draft. Ask Jacob Hester about him. Trust me.
Er, on second thought, let’s let the combine happen before I start talking too much sh*t about Williams. I just think he’s money, and let’s leave it at that.
Otherwise, I think we need to take a hard look at who is doing the pass rushing for us. The line was okay but not great, and Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman were distinctly underwhelming. There will be good D-linemen and pass rushers in the draft, how about we try to get one, yeah?
Don’t blame Nate Kaeding
This one is mainly for the fans. Notice how I never mentioned Nate Kaeding? That’s because he’s the most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL. He didn’t lose that game, despite what I may have said at the bar last night. The Chargers screwed the pooch in a number of positions last night, so there’s no reason to place the blame on him at all. The guy is the best place kicker in the NFL right now. He had a bad game, it happens. The game should never have come down to how Kaeding kicked. The rest of the team let it be that close.
You don’t win or lose in January because of your kicker, you win or lose because of what kind of team you are. This edition of the Chargers simply wasn’t good enough.