Source: <a href="http://www.sports-central.org/sports/2005/11/09/martyball_costing_the_chargers_shot_at_glory.php" target="_blank">Sports Central</a>
By Derek Daggett
Let me set the stage right now. I love almost all things San Diego Chargers. From the dopey '70s fight song to the greatest running back the game has to offer today. But one thing, and one thing only, may turn me from a Charger lover to a Charger fan who is about to take the plunge from the Coronado Bridge into Mission Bay - MartyBall. Freaking Martyball.
I began my love affair with the Chargers during the Air Coryell days at the tender age of six. I remember watching the Ice Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC Championship. I remember crying into my Cheerios and not understanding how a team from Southern California couldn't man up and play in -20-degree weather.
I remember the brutal AFC playoff game in which the Raiders literally fumbled their way to an AFC championship and thus forced the NFL to change the rules about advancing a fumble.
I remember the greatest game I have ever seen. The epic Chargers/Dolphins game, where Kellen Winslow blocked a potential game-winning field and Rolf Benirschke (he of the ill-advised Wheel of Fortune daytime version after Pat Sajak moved his gig to primetime) nailing the game-winner.
I have lived through the lean years of Babe Laufenberg and Chuck Long as Chargers QBs. The disastrous run post-Don Coryell and Dan Fouts. The glory of the Super Bowl year and the pain and humiliation of the Ryan Leaf era. I have lived through all of this and lifted my head year in and year out, proudly displaying my Charger Blue and Gold.
But nothing has prepared me for the test, the pure intestinal fortitude, that is MartyBall.
The Chargers head into their bye week as a 5-4 team, essentially a middle-of-the-road team that has its work cut out for them just to make the playoffs. The saddest part about their current predicament is that they are an infinitely better team than the 12-4 squad that made an improbable run to the playoffs last year.
Many will blame their plight on their brutal, inhuman schedule in the first half of the season. True, the Chargers have had to play a Job-like test of wills schedule so far. Four of their past five games have been against teams coming off byes. They have already made three East Coast trips (with one more scheduled), will play the Indianapolis Colts in Indy, and must determine a way to resolve the crisis in the Middle East as a reward for their run last season. Okay, so this last part is not true, but you get the point. The Chargers have had the odds stacked against them at the midway point of the season. No question. But this is not what is costing them.
MartyBall has cost the Chargers this season. For those of you that are unclear on the term, let me explain. MartyBall has been described as a coach's proclivity to run the ball and become conservative once a lead has been established. It is this coach's belief that said strategy will prevent costly mistakes and lead the team to victory. The only problem with this philosophy is quite simple. It does not work. Never has, never will. In truth, MartyBall really is a synonym for locking up and freezing like a deer in the headlights in big moments. It is pulling defeat from the grasps of victory.
You don't believe this phenomenon truly exists. Please refer to Exhibit A.
On opening day, the Chargers go into the fourth quarter with a lead against a gutsy Cowboys team. The Chargers make a huge defensive stand midway through the fourth. Throughout the second half, they have proven they can move the ball through the air against the Cowboys. In the fourth quarter, with the lead, Marty revamps his style, thus letting the Cowboys get the ball back and ultimately drive for the game-winner.
I could repeat the same scenario for each of the Chargers other three losses. In each instance, the Chargers have blown fourth-quarter leads. Some on fluke plays, others from inexplicably abandoning the play calls that gave them the lead in the first place. This team just can't seem to close out the tight games.
In their two recent victories, the Chargers held sizeable leads going into the fourth quarter, almost squandering each. As a Charger fan, it is maddening. It is maddening to watch a team with awesome talent on offense suddenly turn into the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth quarter just to protect a lead. It is a maddening to see a defense have to constantly have its back against the wall because the head coach won't go for the jugular. And it is maddening to see a team with this much talent be mired in mediocrity.
The Chargers have a chance to do something special this season. Their offense is Super Bowl-caliber and their defense is beginning to gel. Shawn Merriman will be a monster in the second half. His pass-rushing abilities will only help the secondary. And teams already know they can't run the ball against the Chargers. The Chargers already have one adage for success wrapped up: Run the ball well and defend the ball well. They do both.
What needs to happen during the bye week is a transfusion of guts into the coaching staff. Namely, one Marty Schottenheimer. The Chargers are the verge. The experts know it. The players on the opposite sidelines know it. Now Marty needs to get on board. Scrap Martyball and the Bolts could be playing into February. Keep it and Mission Bay will become flooded with the tears of Chargers fans.