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Chargers at the Crossroads

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Blue Bolt, Nov 12, 2011.

  1. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    ANALYSIS: Chargers at a crossroads
    Written by

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    A certain silver-haired curmudgeon has been known to utter a phrase that, under the circumstances, is perfect for assessing this Chargers team.

    It is what it is.

    As credit was given when his makeover of the roster was the overwhelming catalyst that flipped 4-12 to 12-4 and transformed eight years of famine into seven years of relative prosperity, the bulk of the blame for this puddle of what it is rests with General Manager A.J. Smith.

    He knows it. We know it.

    We watched and waited through a 4-4 start, including a string of three crazy losses that still left room to believe the Chargers were close. Due to their history, they deserved that benefit, even with the doubts that were prevalent.

    But it’s time now, just more than midway through the season, with a weekend to catch our breath and perhaps plan that early January vacation, to look back and look ahead.

    Seven games remain.

    After that, even if the Chargers somehow pull another AFC West title out of their, um, hats, a major rebuilding effort needs to commence for this team that is too old, too hurt and too thin to be considered among the league’s elite anymore.

    The fix needs to be something along the lines of the extreme remodel Smith presided over before the 2004 season -- a mix of trades, prescient drafting and free agency signings that served as the launching point for the Chargers' run of regular-season success, an 80-41 record since then that still ranks as fourth-best in the NFL.

    Whether Smith, who declined an interview request Friday, gets a chance to continue as architect won’t be decided until those seven games are finished. Team President Dean Spanos making or approving any moves (and consider the job status of head coach Norv Turner and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky tenuous as well) during the season would be a major departure from his preference to assess all personnel matters in January.

    “My focus right now is to try to get prepared for Chicago,” Spanos said Saturday. “And then we’ll have six games to go and that will hopefully be the start of a win streak. … We’ve got a lot to overcome. I’m confident our players are preparing to turn this around. Our players are playing hard. They haven’t given up.Nobody in this organization has given up."

    Spanos’ team had the second-worst record (by one game) in the NFL from 1996-2003. He knows about players giving up.

    He wants to believe (along with most fans) the Chargers will finish the season strong again. Maybe. They've done it so many times before, and the AFC West is not the AFC North.

    But it says here that this is a different year. This Chargers team, as it is constituted presently, is out of miracles.

    Through a series of poor personnel decisions, a staunch refusal to make certain moves in free agency and bad luck (injuries) so enduring it has become the status quo, what Smith has been left with is a team that must count on Philip Rivers being virtually infallible.

    Hey, a lot of people would have bet on Rivers. And the fact remains that for all of their other deficiencies, Rivers making just a few less mistakes likely means the Chargers have a winning record and are up by at least a game in the AFC West.

    But they’re not. And what happened Thursday was going to happen anyway, just like it did against the Raiders in 2010. The Raiders are a better team than the Chargers. That means faster, stronger, more talented. The same can be said for Kansas City once the Chiefs are healthy.

    Maybe after four straight fourth-quarter failures, Rivers will be able to once again heal the lame.

    It’s going to take something we haven’t seen yet.

    Rivers is a devout Catholic and has called on the saints before.

    In fact, Rivers believed in the 2007 postseason that he owed a debt of gratitude to St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes, for being able to play in the AFC Championship Game with no ACL in his left knee. Sebastian was a soldier back in the third century who got shot with arrows and was left for dead yet survived.

    This time, though, it would seem St. Jude would have to be the one intervening for the Chargers.

    Because this feels like a lost cause.

    And here's why: too many players are playing more than they should be; there aren’t enough good players; too many good players are hurt.

    • With Larry English on injured reserve and Shaun Phillips having missed the past three games, Antwan Barnes and Travis LaBoy are playing admirably. That doesn’t mean it’s good enough. It means they weren’t supposed to play this much, and they’re doing what they can do.

    Three weeks ago, Barnes was a pass rush specialist who had played 89 snaps in six games and had two sacks. Now he’s played 241 total snaps, leads the team with six sacks and has shown he deserves the chance to continue to grow into an every down linebacker. LaBoy was signed to be in a rotation with English and Barnes. Instead, LaBoy has played 77 percent of the defensive snaps. The Chargers didn’t need English to be Shawne Merriman; they just needed him to not be Buster Davis.

    • Takeo Spikes was an excellent addition in the middle of the field, not to mention in the locker room. But he, too, is having too much asked of him. Before hurting his bicep against Green Bay a week ago, Spikes hadn’t missed a snap. He suffered a concussion Thursday and watched the entire second half. His absence forced Donald Butler to play more in Spikes' place while Na’il Diggs, also a role player, had to fill in for Butler. Who knows what type of contribution rookie Jonas Mouton would have made had he not required September shoulder surgery, but even his being able to play might have helped.

    • There was no backup plan for strong safety Bob Sanders except to have Steve Gregory take his place. Gregory is meant to be a spot player, and he excels in that role. The search for a starting strong safety will go on.

    • So Rivers is not repeating last year’s fishes-and-loaves performance? At least the no-names the Chargers brought in last year were healthy. Vincent Jackson has been playing through injury(ies). Malcom Floyd has not been able to play through his injuries. Antonio Gates sat for three weeks and is presently just a guy. Patrick Crayton can get open, he just doesn’t very often. Rookie Vincent Brown is emerging as what the Chargers thought he would be when they selected him in the third round of this year’s draft but is still learning the offense and about playing at this level.

    • This has gone under the radar, and it can’t be considered a top-of-the-list factor, but the Chargers are 0-3 without left guard Kris Dielman. The team’s two offensive tackles, Jeromey Clary and Marcus McNeill, are making a combined $19 million this season, and have allowed 9½ sacks between them, tied for fourth-most among tackle tandems. Now McNeill is hurt and could miss time. His replacement, Brandyn Dombrowski, allowed four sacks and 10 quarterback hurries Thursday.

    • Ryan Mathews verges on spectacular when he plays. Mike Tolbert is way more than solid when he plays. Neither of them is Darren Sproles, who was overpaid here ($14 million between 2009-10) but was never hurt and greatly feared. There is only so much money to go around, and the excitement was widespread when Floyd re-signed in August. But he’s making $2 million this season to spend more time in the trainer’s room than the field, which the Chargers knew was a risk. Sproles is making an average of $3.5 million in New Orleans.

    Don’t think all of this is not on Spanos’ mind. Don’t think Smith doesn’t know he’s culpable or that he isn’t intent on fixing it.

    It will be up to Spanos to decide whether Smith has earned the chance to rebuild again. If so, it will be up to the two of them to decide the fate of their head coach after five years and their defensive coordinator after one season.

    For now, we go back to watching and waiting.
     
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  2. Workplay

    Workplay scompl

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    I don't wan't Philip Rivers to be the next Dan Marino. The realization that we're going to go 7-9 or 8-8 again, miss the playoffs again, get completely ignored in the national media.... again, it's just sickening.
    We need to win a Super Bowl. I know it's not going to happen this year, but it at least needs to happen with Philip Rivers. He IS that quarterback, he needs protection, weapons, a defense and a running game. It needs to all come together, because we haven't had as many opportunities as the big market teams to win it all. Philip Rivers gives us the opportunity to do it. I hope we don't waste it before he gets too old, or the team moves to LA.

    Fire Norv.
     
  3. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

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    So Acee finally sorta grew a pair.

    Wonder how long before Spanos gets him fired. :laugh:
     
  4. BoltFanDC

    BoltFanDC Mufflers Are Overrated

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    Mr. Acee -- call on line 1...
     
  5. rickochey

    rickochey BoltTalker

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    Why do people think that AJ built this team? It was John Butler that built it. It is AJ who destroyed it. Butler had men who led the Bills to 4 straight SB and AJ ran them all out of town. AJ was given a winning hand and he risked everything his way.
     
  6. LakeShow

    LakeShow BoltTalker

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    AJ has destroyed this team, a few years ago they had one of the most talented rosters in the nfl, now they have average talent, no leadership, and a bad motivator as a coach. These factors are not good at all. Next year hopefully they will find a coach that is a better motivator and a get a general manager focused on winning. They don't need to rebuild, they have an elite quarterback (not this year at least), two up and coming running backs, good recievers, and some solid talent elsewhere. They just need to fill some gaps at some positions and get a new training staff to stop our players from letting nagging injuries get to them like they have for the past few years.
     
  7. starry

    starry BoltTalker

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    AJ has taken gambles with injury prone players so I'm not sure injuries are just bad luck.
     
  8. MadMike

    MadMike Well-Known Member

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    I know it wont happen because there is almost no way he will coach ont he west coast but give Cowher the checkbook. Make him the GM\Head Coach, try to keep Norv as the OC (Although there is no way he'll do it), and bring in new position coaches all the way around. Turn the defense into a 4-3 because that is what our personell are built for. And draft beef. We need O-line badly. The whole right side needs to be replaced. We need a SS. We need a pass rusher. Make it happen.
     
  9. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

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    AJ was at his best when he would still use quality starting caliber free agent and trades to fill starting roles His best off season was 2004 when he went out and signed Free agents like Mike Goff, Randall Godfrey, and Steve Foley and while trading for guys like Roman Oben and Keenen McCardell (Mid season).

    Since then,the few free agents and trades that have been made, have been for players that have been not much more than depth players. Kevin Burnett and Spikes were probably the only quality FA's brought in since 2004, and Burnett wasn't considered starting quality when he was signed, and Spikes is at the very end of his career.

    He was also more likely to trade back in the draft back then, then trading up like he has nearly every year since
     
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  10. rickochey

    rickochey BoltTalker

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    I'd agree with you DenverBolt. When Butler took over it seemed that every move that was made was brilliant and when AJ took over everything became questionable. Yeah, he did make a few trades like Crayton, but he has not done anything worth a pat on the back. I don't think we are that far off from being great again (beside a new coach) I can just imagine what Jim Harbaugh would have brought to the team.

    Another question I have, is how much can Dean deal with aggressive personalities?

    Dean/Beathard/Ross-- No NFL playing experience, Strong personality/leader
    Dean/Beathard/June Jones-- Offensive Coordinator, Nice guy
    Dean/Beathard/Gilbride-- Offensive coordinator, Strong Personality
    Dean/Beathard/Riley-- Defensive coordinator (college HC) nice guy
    Dean/Butler/Marty-- Defensive Coordinator, strong personality/leader
    Dean/AJ/Norv-- Offensive Coordinator-Soft Personality/weak leader and difficulty in building raport

    Jim Harbaugh--- Recent Starting NFL QB, Fiery strong competitor and strong personality/leader.

    As AJ say's ''It is what it is" so I guess he is saying that the 49ers have had better drafts, players and HC than the Bolts. Well, at least he is correct on something.
     
  11. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

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    AJ took over in early 03, all the moves I listed were early 04. So none of them can be put on Butler. AJ had an amazing off-season before the 04 season, unfortunately, he hasn't even been in the same league as he was that year
     
  12. scratchnz

    scratchnz BoltTalker

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    AJ killed off any chance the Chargers had of realistically winning a Superbowl on his watch when he ran Marty out of town!

    Say what you will about Marty's playoff record, but the Chargers have never been as dominant-a-team since Marty left. I truly think he would have changed his Playoff record if given more time.

    I will always look back on that day he was let go as the begining of the end.
     
  13. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    Was this team ever a dominant team UNDER Marty? We had one 14-2 season, the rest of the time Marty left a lot of W's on the field behind his prevent defense and offense.
     
  14. rickochey

    rickochey BoltTalker

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    Actually, Butler had the road map laid out for Dean for two years. Up stairs at the Practice facility there are rooms with stats from HS players to college players to FA and active players. They have a 1,2 ,3 ,4 ,5... 9 year plans with 2 years ahead being the most predictable. After JB passed and AJ took over AJ looked like a star as he was just using JB plan. After those 2 years AJ struggled trying to figure out what the hell he is supposed to do as it shows with his firing of Nix and Marty and hired his friend Norv. AJ never put the pieces together as to why Marty was hired over Norv in the beginning.
     
  15. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

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    When it comes to the draft, you may be right, but I doubt JB had a whole lot to do with the signings of Goff, Foley and Godfrey and the trading for Oben and McCardell, which IMO had just as much to do with the organizations turn around as the good draft in 04 which also brought in 2 starting OL (Hardwick and Olivea), a starting DL (Olshanski), the most accurate kicker in team history (Keading), a Solid OLB turned Starter 2 year later (Phillips), and an awesome backup RB (Turner). JB probably did leave behind a lot of the data used in that draft, but it wasn't him that actually submitted the name on draft day.
     
  16. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

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    His problem wasn't running Marty out of town, his problem was down grading at the HC spot rather than upgrading when he had the opportunity. Marty needed to be fired, as Mike Goff has said publicly, despite their record, he had lost half the team as half of them were rolling their eyes when he talked and were playing well because of the talent level and because Marty stayed out of the play calling until the playoffs when he assumed play calling duties from Cam(Marty has said this himself)
     
  17. scratchnz

    scratchnz BoltTalker

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    What is a Prevent Offence?? Also, in general, I think most would agree that Wade Phillips defence was pretty disruptive more often than not!

    Marty's team wasn't perfect by any means, but the Chargers under him played with intensity, they look motivated and they seemed to do the basics a hellova lot better than they do them now! They dominated teams during their 12-4 and 14-2 seasons. Even when they went 9-7 they had more good moments than bad.
     
  18. scratchnz

    scratchnz BoltTalker

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    I havn't heard anything bad about Marty from anyone else other than Goff, so I wont form a judgement based on one mans opinion. However several players including LT and Gates spoke very positively about him and were very angry when he was sacked.
     
  19. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

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    I'll trust a guy who was in the locker room and has absolutely no reason to lie.
     
  20. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    A prevent offense is what cost Marty most of his playoff games. Getting ahead then run, run, run punt over and over.

    I think you have blinders on when reviewing the Marty era. Norv by comparison has been more successful in the same amount of time.
     
  21. scratchnz

    scratchnz BoltTalker

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    Maybe he had a grudge to bear with Marty...who knows? Not everyone is going to be impressed with one mans speeches...everyone is different! The key is to get the vast majority of the team to buy into it and that clearly was happening.
     
  22. scratchnz

    scratchnz BoltTalker

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    How exactly are you measuring that Norv is more successful than Marty? Are you taking into account the Norv took over a very talented team that had fantastic leaders?

    Is it just that Norv took them one step further in the playoffs? Does Norv really deserve much of the credit for that??
     
  23. scratchnz

    scratchnz BoltTalker

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    Can you blame him for doing that? Your ahead of your opponent in a playoff game, you have a great rushing team...so why wouldn't you try and work to your strengths. Its Logical isn't it?
     
  24. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    Well if you are fair yes. But as you tend to be of the mindset that if a play works, it is all the players in spite of Norv, and if it does not work it is Norv, then why even as the question?
     
  25. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    Sure its logical to lose the same way over and over and over and over... yeah... :rolleyes:
     
  26. scratchnz

    scratchnz BoltTalker

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    Hes deserves as much credit as a coach deserves, no more and no less. I take exception when people refer to Norvs extra playoff win as a specific reason why he is a better coach than Marty was
     
  27. scratchnz

    scratchnz BoltTalker

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    Couldn't you say the same thing about Norvs Reign?
     
  28. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    You can take exception to what ever your lil ole heart desires. I never talked about his playoff win, that is you. norv's win loss record here is better. It is Norv who is the winningest coach in Chargers history, not Marty. As you and others like to say, in the NFL it is winning that is imortant.
     
  29. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    No. each year the Chargers find a new hicup under Norv. Marty's losses were self inflicted. He never trusted his team to make plays. You can worship the ground he walked on, if a coach does not let his team play he is holding them back. That was Marty ever where he went.

    Well maybe he learned and changed in the UFL, or maybe he just got lucky and the players ignored him...
     
  30. scratchnz

    scratchnz BoltTalker

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    Norv inherited a great team. Did he build on that...No, I don't think he did. He has a more winning record, sure, but that doesn't take into consideration that Marty started with nothing and helped shape the team into a winning unit...Norv started out with a winning unit! I ask again, do you really think he has built on that? This team is slowly getting worse, wether you choose to see it or not.
     
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