Another week, another gut-wrenching loss for the San Diego Super Chargers. Though lately they’ve played more like the “Blooper” Chargers, the Bolts are still mathematically in the hunt for a playoff berth. For true blue fans, however, the reality remains that this team has far too many issues to make a serious run in the last six games of the season. Be it the shoddy, inconsistent play of the offensive line or the mind-boggling passing decisions being made by our once elite quarterback, the problems are very real and show no sign of getting fixed anytime soon.
As I described in an earlier article, the season began on a high note, with the Chargers bolting out to an early 3-1 record. Unfortunately, second half collapses in numerous games have cost the team dearly, dropping 5 of the last 6 games. The public cries for the firing of Norv Turner and A.J. Smith seem to be falling on deaf ears, at least for now. Many experts “in the know” have been tweeting that both will in all likelihood be fired at seasons end. Whether or not you believe that Norv and A.J. are ultimately to blame for the trainwreck that this season has become is moot. The team will head in a different direction next season and the roster will have to change as a result.
There is a silver lining in the Chargers’ dark cloud this year. The defense has played very well for the most part. There are some really good young players on that side of the ball to continue to build around. Sure the cornerback situation needs addressed, but the defense is close to being what we want and need for the future. The same cannot be said for the offense. Despite A.J.’s attempts at signing numerous offensive free agents at wide receiver, running back and tight end, it seems that not much has panned out. Additionally, the losses of left tackle Marcus McNeill and LG Kris Dielman proved to be too difficult to overcome for a younger, overmatched offensive line. As a result, the harassment that Philip Rivers endured much of last season continues through this season. Week after week Rivers rushes his decision making and ends up forcing the ball into receivers who are struggling to get open. Add that to Norv’s justifiable nervousness to trust Ryan Mathews to hold onto the football and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
The time has come to declare with certainty- it is time to rebuild the Bolts. They won tons of regular season games with Martyball, only to crash and burn in the playoffs. They then hired Norv in hopes that he could lead us deeper into the playoffs. That is exactly what happened the first few years under Turner. Then, slowly, A.J. Smith began letting many of our better players leave via free agency. The reasoning seemed to often revolve around the salary cap and “not mortgaging the team’s future to hang on to a few”. Even though that may have sounded logical to some, there were many who felt that it was really A.J.’s ego getting in the way. Again, what’s done is done and the reasoning behind it all will be moot at season’s end. The new General Manager and Head Coach will need to assess the current roster in the off-season and decide who stays and who goes.
*Below is a listing of all of the current Chargers players whose contract will expire at the conclusion of this season. Take a look and ask yourself- who would you want to hang onto if you were going to chart a new course for the team?
Running Backs- Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley;
Wide Receivers- Denario Alexander, Richard Goodman and Seyi Ajirotutu;
Tight End Dante Rosario;
Offensive Linemen- Louis Vasquez, Tyronne Green, Rex Hadnot and Mike Windt
Kicker Nick Novak
Defensive Linemen- Aubrayo Franklin and Vaughn Martin;
Linebackers- Shaun Phillips, Antwan Barnes and Demorrio Williams;
Defensive Backs- Quentin Jammer, Antoine Cason, Corey Lynch and Chris Carr.
**Other players signed to big contracts that haven’t played well and could be in danger under a new regime include:
RT Jeromey Clary ($4 mil in 2013, $4.55 mil in 2014)
LT Jared Gaither ($4.5 mil in 2013, $5 mil in 2014 and $6 mil in 2015)
DT Antonio Garay ($3.5 mil in 2013)
TE Randy McMichael ($1.25 mil in 2013)
MLB Takeo Spikes ($3 mil in 2013)
…and yes, QB Philip Rivers ($12 mil in 2013, $13.8 mil in 2014 and $15.75 mil in 2015).
The moral of this story is that the team will have some cap room to work with next off-season as we begin the process of rebuilding the offense. It will not need to be a complete overhaul though, because the defense is close. Change can be scary, but sometimes it is necessary. Remember the old saying, “In order to move ahead, sometimes we must take one step backward to take two steps forward.”