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Chargers’ collapse goes well beyond coaching

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by ChargerRay, Dec 1, 2008.

  1. ChargerRay

    ChargerRay #FireMcCoy #FirePagano Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

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    http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ms-morningrush120108&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

    SAN DIEGO – A blast from the not-too-distant past came barreling through the home team’s defensive front and into the secondary. By the time Michael Turner had been tackled for the 31st time Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, the San Diego Chargers’ season was history.

    Boos showered the half-filled stadium as Turner’s 14-yard gain allowed the visiting Atlanta Falcons to close out a 22-16 victory. It was an outcome that, once and for all, disabused the football world of the false notion that the Chargers are an elite team caught in what Vincent Chase and his “Entourage” homies would describe as “a bit of a rough patch.”

    No more waiting for this talented team to flip a switch and duplicate last season’s stirring run to the AFC championship game. No more scoping the schedule to see how San Diego might overtake the inconsistent Denver Broncos in the dubious AFC West.

    While the Falcons (8-4) remain immersed in a potential playoff drive that nobody outside of their locker room saw coming, the Chargers (4-8) have nothing left to play for unless you consider Thursday’s battle for second place against the Oakland Raiders to be gripping theater.

    Or as the disgusted superstar that Turner spent his first four NFL seasons backing up put it an hour after Sunday’s game as he walked through the Qualcomm parking lot: “Everybody’s got to play for his job, pure and simple. That’s how I look at it.”

    Thank you, LaDainian Tomlinson, for that bit of harsh reality.

    And while the struggling halfback was too polite publicly to question the job status of coach Norv Turner, it’s clear that everybody associated with this train wreck is a legitimate target for scrutiny.

    To that end, I’m going over Turner’s head and shining the floodlight on general manager A.J. Smith, who suddenly seems like much less of a genius than he did a few months ago, when some of us were putting “Chargers” and “Super Bowl” in the same sentence.

    How has Smith’s leadership approach helped create this mess? Here’s a four-pronged rundown:

    • He’s smart, but perhaps not as smart as he thinks
    Smith has deservedly received credit for assembling a roster that included 11 Pro Bowlers after the 2006 season (when the Chargers had a league-best 14-2 regular season record) and eight more last year. He has made his share of stellar draft selections in the early (Philip Rivers, acquired in a trade for Eli Manning; Shawne Merriman) and later rounds (Marcus McNeill, Nick Hardwick, Shaun Phillips, Michael Turner) since taking charge of the front office in 2003.

    But Smith, perhaps caught up in his prior success, has also made some questionable moves recently, from taking wideout Craig (Buster) Davis in the first round of the ‘07 draft to trading up for second-rounders Eric Weddle (‘07) and Jacob Hester (‘08). Last season’s trade of an ‘08 second-rounder to the Miami Dolphins for Chris Chambers doesn’t look so crafty considering the supposed No. 1 wideout’s poor production this year – 26 catches for 357 yards, including just one reception for two yards on Sunday.

    • He has been too quick to sign unproven players to contract extensions
    Smith has received much praise for locking up core players long before they’re eligible for free agency. But upon closer inspection, some of those deals may have been premature and ill-advised.

    Among the examples cited by critics: Pass-rushing linebacker Jyles Tucker, who had played in just six regular season games coming into ‘08, signed a five-year extension before the season and has struggled as a replacement for the injured Merriman. Inside linebacker Matt Wilhelm, who agreed to a five-year extension in December 2006, lost his starting job five games into the ‘08 campaign. Inside linebacker Stephen Cooper, who got a five-year extension before the ‘06 season, missed the first four games of this year after being suspended for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy (he reportedly tested positive for a banned stimulant). Defensive end Luis Castillo signed a lucrative, five-year extension in July, though he had missed six games in each of the previous two seasons with ankle injuries. Strong safety Clinton Hart signed a five-year extension this past April and, like the others, has been far from dominant.

    In retrospect, it’s easy to view these moves as self-serving: By making commitments to these players, Smith was perpetuating the notion that he had drafted shrewdly.

    More important, some Chargers players believe that the widespread financial security in the locker room – and particularly on the defensive side of the ball – caused the team to lose some of its competitive edge. Whereas teams like the Titans typically refrain from offering extensions to young, productive players until their rookie contracts are near or at their end, Smith’s approach does not allow for the same degree of uncertainty.

    Asked Sunday whether he believes some of his teammates haven’t displayed the same intensity since cashing in, Tomlinson said, “I don’t know. I worry about myself. That’s a question that other guys have got to answer.”

    • He underestimated the value of at least two stars
    The first, and most obvious, of those players is Merriman. The three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher underwent season-ending knee surgery after just one game in ‘08. The Chargers wanted Merriman to have the surgery after last season, and concerns about his durability and commitment to football caused Smith to balk at giving him a lucrative contract extension. But it turns out Merriman, whose rookie deal expires after ‘09, was more important to San Diego’s defense than management realized, as evidenced by the way this season has played out.

    Phillips, the bookend pass rusher who thrived opposite Merriman, had a chance to emerge from his self-purported anonymity as “The Other Guy” and become an elite player. But Phillips, who signed a six-year contract extension before the ‘07 season, has recorded just four sacks in ‘08 and has struggled to hold the point of attack on outside running plays. The same goes for Tucker, the cumulative effect being that standout defensive tackle Jamal Williams has been forced to cover more range than in past years.

    Further, with the pass rush having fallen off, the secondary has been less effective, with cornerback Antonio Cromartie (a Pro Bowl selection who led the NFL in interceptions last season) getting repeatedly exposed in coverage.

    Another player Smith didn’t try to sign to a big contract was Michael Turner, the physical halfback who provided an effective counterpunch to the electrifying Tomlinson and filled in brilliantly when LT was injured during the ‘07 playoffs. Turner, an unrestricted free agent, signed a six-year, $35-million deal with the Falcons in March. After his 31-carry, 120-yard effort on Sunday, he is third in the NFL with 1,208 rushing yards – a total that is especially significant given Tomlinson’s injury issues and apparent lack of explosion in his eighth season, which may be a sign of LT’s inevitable decline.

    Asked after Sunday’s game if he would have considered staying in San Diego as Tomlinson’s backup if offered a deal similar to the one he got from the Falcons, Turner replied, “That’s a tough question. If it came down to that, I’d have really had to think about it. I was very open-minded, and I wasn’t rushing into any decision.”

    • He hired a coach who changed the Chargers’ personality
    When team president Dean Spanos, citing a “dysfunctional” dynamic between Smith and Marty Schottenheimer, fired the coach in February 2007 following a 14-2 regular season, the GM made a decision that would irrevocably change the culture of the organization.

    Norv Turner, a renowned play-caller who had been fired after previous head coaching stints with the Washington Redskins and Raiders, took a team known for its physical, hard-nosed and aggressive play on both sides of the ball and reshaped it in his own image.

    New defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, fired and replaced by Ron Rivera in late October 2007, scaled back the blitz-happy approach of predecessor Wade Phillips. Under Turner, the Chargers’ offense became more dependent on formation shifts and calls designed to out-scheme opposing defenses, rather than lining up and overpowering them. The focus shifted from Tomlinson, who in 2006 set an NFL record with 31 touchdowns, to Rivers, who developed into one of the league’s more productive passers.

    Even as the Chargers were winning their first two playoff games since 1995, including last January’s stirring road upset of the defending champion Indianapolis Colts, some San Diego players were concerned about the team’s inability to get the tough yards on short-yardage runs. That complaint has intensified in ‘08 as the Chargers, with Turner gone and Tomlinson’s numbers down, have struggled to blow opponents off the ball.

    “They’ve lost their identity,” Baltimore Ravens fullback Lorenzo Neal, who played for the Chargers from 2003-07 before being waived last winter, said late Sunday night. “All the players who put together those great seasons are still there, but they’re not having the same results. Under Marty, the mentality was win, lose or draw we’re coming at you, with runs, play-action and leads and draws. Now they are a passive, finesse team.”

    Neal, who remains close with Tomlinson, spoke by phone with his former teammate after Sunday’s game. “He’s going to keep playing hard, but he’s frustrated,” Neal said. “Trust me, this guy’s got a lot left, and if you put him in the right situation he can still thrive. But when you take the power out of one guy’s hands and yet people say that he’s on the decline, it’s wrong.”

    Barring a stunning December development – the Broncos (7-5), after Sunday’s road upset of the Jets, hold a three-game lead in the division with four to play – the Chargers will have an entire offseason to ponder what went wrong, and Smith will have some big decisions to make.

    In the meantime, as Rivers noted in the Qualcomm parking lot as darkness fell Sunday evening, the four games that remain will be telling.

    “I don’t think I could sit here and give you a sentence or paragraph that would sum up what went wrong – and believe me, I’m a guy that likes to talk,” Rivers said. “It’s complicated, and I really don’t know the answer. I know I want to play better, and I hope 53 guys feel the same way.

    “When things are going well, it’s easy to talk about how great the chemistry is. But when you’re 4-8, you find out how guys are as men – who’s going to fight and claw and suck it up. It won’t be fun coming in [Monday] now that we’re out of it. Mathematically, [making the playoffs] can happen, but realistically it’s tough to think that it will. So from a team character standpoint, we’re going to find out a lot about ourselves in these last four games.”

    In the process – and, significantly, in the months that follow – we’ll continue to learn more about Smith. Whether he’s a genius, a destructive force or something in between remains to be seen.
     
  2. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    everyone's a expert at hindsight.

    Nothing new there.

    I hope he learns from his mistakes and moves on.

    Let's not forget the dude has only been a GM for 5 years.

    :tup:
     
  3. SayOw

    SayOw BoltTalker

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    AJ's success stories have all occurred early in his GM years... I am beginning to wonder if the late John Butler had given AJ some 'pointers' before passing on and thus, AJ's few good moves should actually be credited to Butler.

    The hiring of Norv Turner in the first place, imo, was a fireable offense. Not sure if I have seen a 'wise' Smith move since his first couple of years as GM.
     
  4. BOLTS4LIFE

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

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    We don't have time to train.
     
  5. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    where's the Fire AJ thread?

    :lol:
     
  6. BOLTS4LIFE

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

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    Don't know. Maybe he's fired!!!
    That would be a great way to start the week!!! :yes:
     
  7. SDRaiderH8er

    SDRaiderH8er Well-Known Member

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    then we are not going anywhere
     
  8. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    and beside

    WHO THE F*** said anything about TRAINING???


    :icon_evil::icon_evil::icon_evil:



    :tup:


    As a long time Bolthead, I just want it fixed.

    :icon_sad:
     
  9. BOLTS4LIFE

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

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    We need a GM with experience. One that doesn't need to be trained.
    Then again, AJ could be that GM if he drops his stupid ego!!!

    Though if we have an opportunity to sign Billick or Cowher but they say "AJ must go," Spanos better grow some balls and throw AJ under the bus!!!
    AJ is a proven cancer for the franchise.
     
  10. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    Got a link?

    :icon_huh::icon_huh::icon_huh:
     
  11. BOLTS4LIFE

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

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    Ughhhhhhhh. I don't need to read an article to know this.
    Look at the regression of this team.
     
  12. ntman68

    ntman68 Well-Known Member

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    "BOLTS4LIFE has been added to your ignore list"
     
  13. SDRaiderH8er

    SDRaiderH8er Well-Known Member

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    Cowher will not come here, Marty and Cowher are very good friends, and Cowher will not do that to Marty.
     
  14. BOLTS4LIFE

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

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    Ditch AJ, then he might.
     
  15. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    he's getting close!!

    :lol:
     
  16. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    we suck = aj is a cancer??

    :unsure:
     
  17. RM24

    RM24 BoltTalker

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    LoNeal sums it up right there. Gotta bring in Cowher or Billick or SOMEBODY that can get us back on track. No, not Marty either. AJ does have to be accountable for these moves but no GM is perfect. Gotta do the right thing for the future though. Get us the right coach in here AJ or you'll be the next one out the door!
     
  18. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    This needs to be our mantra in the offseason. Make it happen mortar captain!!!

    :bolt::bolt::bolt:
     
  19. HollywoodLeo

    HollywoodLeo Well-Known Member

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    Why not?

    If he's as good as we want him to be he should be able to maintain a winner, with a few abberations here and there (with this year hopefully being one of them.)
     
  20. BOLTS4LIFE

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

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    I love how some of you use that as a threat.
    Am I suppose to get upset and panic or something?
    Am I suppose to beg you not to do that?
    Are my feelings suppose to be hurt?

    :icon_shrug: :icon_shrug: :icon_shrug:
     
  21. BOLTS4LIFE

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

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    :bow:


    Now we know why AJ cut Neil.
    If Neil were here now, he's sock AJ in the mouth!!!
     
  22. BOLTS4LIFE

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

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    Ughhhhhhh. The talent on this team is not getting any younger!!!
    AJ must go before it's too late to repair the damage he's done!!
     
  23. AnteaterCharger

    AnteaterCharger Calibrating Bolttalk, Podcast by Podcast Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

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    A couple of points
    1) No doubt he deserves to take a bath on Bust-er Davis and as well for giving up so much for Hester and Weddle. But its way too early to determine if those last two players aren't worth it. Weddle has at least shown some talent while we've barely seen Hester at all.
    1A) Those pick ups I personally think was AJ trying to acquire what he thought to be the last pieces to the puzzle for a team that is stacked from top to bottom and as such you can be a little more free wheeling with your trades and pick ups. He sure as heck wasn't doing this when we needed every pick to rebuild the team, and now that we need to rebuild I think he'll be more conservative
    1B) Another note; outside of Buster Davis what's the last BUST that AJ drafted in the first day? I don't count Sammy Davis because frankly I believe that was a John butler inspired draft. Basically Davis is HIS ONLY BUST in the big rounds. That's damn good if you ask me

    2) Norv and Cottrell? No excuse whatsoever. AJ has got to take a bath on this and if Spanos was a proper owner he'd fire Norv and tell AJ from here on in, you work with whomever the coach is and if you complain one more time your gone. No doubt he brought in a sycophant who has done nothing but destroy the team's identity and that has got to be fixed. I don't think by Cowher but someone who is a leader.
    2A) Please stop pretending things were freakin peachy under Marty Schottenheimer, it wasn't the utopia some current people are thinking it was
    3) While its easy to criticize the signing of players to long term contracts, can I also note some of AJ's good extensions? He locked up LT before the 2004 season when most people expected him to split. He locked up Quentin Jammer right before he became a lock down corner. He secured Kris Dielman who we all thought was gone. Ditto with nick Hardwick who paid big dividends and Shaun Phillips. Hart, Castillo, Wilhelm, Cooper and Tucker (which I think was a forced move by Merriman's injury) are not the greatest moves but he's done well locking up players who were cornerstones.
    3A) Legitimate AJ criticism - thought too little of veteran leadership and tried only to stock his team with young studs. Edwards, Oben, (I won't say Mcree), Neal, etc. Big time screw up by AJ and I hope he learns from it.
    4) The only way we would've resigned Michael Turner was if we traded LT, and no one at the time realistically thought that was a smart move. We all accepted that Turner deserved the chance to be top dog somewhere. And frankly if LT were a Falcon and Turner was running behind this damn line, I don't know how well Turner would be doing. We haven't had a good day run blocking since last year's Colts playoff game.
    4A) I don't know how much of that is LoNeal's fault since he's had one good game as a Raven and hasn't vastly improved the running yards total of either McGahee or Rice. Almost everyone here thought LoNeal was old and had lost a step last year and no one believed LoLo was good for anything but blocking.
     
  24. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    Its called the draft. Look it up! :lol:
     
  25. BOLTS4LIFE

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

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    I don't want to be a forever building team.
    Unless we ditch AJ, that's why we'll be.

    Since you like rebuilding so much, why don't you become a Lions fan. They've been rebuilding since the early 90s.
     
  26. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    Booo Hooo... Every team is forever building. The team that stands still are the Lions and bengals of the league! Your lack of understanding in this is puzzeling. I thought you were smarter than this.

    Since you like living in the past, stop saying you want to win. So far your choices of coaches is a one and done if he reaches the playoffs (Marty), and one who has a ring because of his defensive coordinator (Billick). Not a recipe for showing your football knowledge Mr. Armchair GM.
     
  27. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    Bud Light Presents Real Men of Genius
    (Real Men of Genius)


    Today we salute you, Mr. Armchair GM.
    (Mr. Armchair GM)
    Some men watch a game looking for enjoyment, you watch a game to see how you could change things in your real life Madden ’06 game.
    (I am trading LT for Alexader!)
    Nothing says "I will love you forever" like a quick trade and the exclamation “I am a season ticket hodler!”.
    (My view is impeded!)
    Fans wait their whole lives to say, "We won!" In your case, “I cant seem to get the coach I want, and he is just a commentator.”
    (Let's talk retirement plan)
    So crack open an ice cold Bud Light, O' madman of the fake leagues. Your team may be full price, but you'll always be drafting first.
    (Mr. Armchair GM) ​
     
    • Like Like x 2
  28. AnteaterCharger

    AnteaterCharger Calibrating Bolttalk, Podcast by Podcast Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

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    :icon_rofl::icon_rofl::icon_rofl::icon_rofl::icon_rofl:
     
  29. BOLTS4LIFE

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

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    No. Bottom line is that you like losing and rebuilding.

    Not a recipe for showing your football knowledge Mr. Armchair GM. :rolleyes:
     
  30. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    Wow, B4L. The guy who is pining for a one and done coach is telling me I like losing. The guy who wants a coach who sucked as a head coach and only got his ring because the defensive coordinator says I like losing.

    Mr. Armchair GM just cut me to the quick. Tell me Mr. Armchair GM. Who else would you ruin the franchise for? Let me guess, you want to bring back Ryan Leaf, dont cha?
     

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