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Chargers on both sides of the force

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Oct 20, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    By Curtis Egan
    <em>BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>

    <a href="http://www.techiteasy.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/light-vs.-dark-side.jpg"><img class="alignright" title="Light Side vs Dark Side" src="http://www.techiteasy.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/light-vs.-dark-side.jpg" alt="" width="297" height="200" /></a>Well, 2-3. Not the end of the season, but definitely a disappointment for most of the fans of the San Diego Chargers. A team that was heralded through the off season as the team to beat in the AFC West and who many pundits had as winning the Superbowl.

    Fast forward to five games into the season and the light at the end of the tunnel now resembles the lights of an on coming train. Fans are calling for the heads of the Head Coach, Norv Turner and even Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera.

    The question is why? Is it because the team is out of the running for this season? No, there are teams in much worse shape, just ask the fans of the Washington Redskins or the Tennessee Titans. That will grant you some perspective. However I would say that the frustration arises from the fan's expectations.

    The Chargers are not living up to the expectation of the fan, the performance in Pittsburgh would shake the most ardent supporter of the Charges, and did. The Denver game that followed started well but went down hill.

    Lets face it, it is a mixed blessing for the Chargers organization that the fans have such high expectation. That says that the fans feel the Chargers are good enough to compete with anyone. Or at least many felt that way. Confidence in the Chargers product is waning. The fan forums are littered with posts of fans throwing in the towel on the season, or switching to following other teams. A bit of that is to be expected but is everything lost?

    Lets take a look at the positives and see.

    <strong>Chapter 1; The Dark Side:</strong>
    Lets start with the evil Emperor, the figure that is the power behind everything. Lets cast this role as AJ Smith.

    AJ Smith has been hands down the most popular Chargers GM that I have seen, he has had his own fan following, and was nearly a religious figure for years. Much like the Emperor himself, who had the cool red Storm Troopers to guard him where ever he went. However, of late his plans have been shoddy, and his Death Star (draft choices) has been incomplete before being blown up by the rebels, being played by the teams we oppose...

    Smith has faced fan criticism for not being willing to go out and get big name free agents, for trading multiple draft picks on players who do not perform up to the fans expectations, and for brining in Darth Jar Jar, AKA Norv Turner.

    It is Smith who makes the Chargers go, he gets the players and ensures that we have the bodies to do what must be done come game day. At least that is the theory. However, he has earned a big black eye, and a dose of his own force blast when Jamal Williams went on IR and there was no real backup for him. It is Smith's job to ensure that we have the bodies to continue to play the 3-4 defense through injuries. Now he has made trades to get fill in players, but none are a true Nose Tackle by any stretch of the imagination. The Emperor needs to look toward his front line defense, the lines in the upcoming off season.

    To continue to ignore the failures on the lines will be a monumental failure on his part and lead to the fall of his Empire.

    <strong>Darth Jar Jar:</strong>
    Ok, so anyone who has seen the movies knows that the fish fin headed Jar Jar is simply evil, stupid to boot. I cant call Norv Turner Darth Vader, because Darth Vader is intimidating. So Darth Jar Jar he is.

    Quite a few fans hated the hiring of Norv Turner three years ago. They made complaints like he is soft, lacks the ability to motivate his players, and cant instill a disciplined mindset. Many of the fans gave him the benefit of the doubt, and even after a 1-3 start his first season, they believed he might be the one who brought balance to the force (or a Lombardi to San Diego if you will).

    That did not happen. Injuries derailed the Chargers that season and the players so many fans thought that Darth Jar Jar would prove to be the hero of the story. Then came the 2008 campaign. Again the Chargers got a slow start, and won the division with an 8-8 record. Less than stellar, but still a chance to bring balance to the force (see Lombardi comment above)-

    Now in 2009, the Charger look unfocused and much of that must rest on the shoulders of the dark lord of the Sith. Fans worries appear to be coming true, the team seems soft, lacks they by all appearances are not motivated, and they no longer have the disciplined mindset they had under the last Head Coach.

    Darth Jar Jar may just be off to a late start, but the Broncos are not. I am afraid that Darth Jar Jar is spinning off into the inky blackness in his wounded Tie Fighter, as he watches the Death Star explode-.

    <strong>Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin:</strong>
    Ron Rivera stars as the ice blooded mastermind behind the Emperor's military. Rivera represented a shining beacon of hope (<em>wait that is Battlestar Galatica isn't it?</em>) for many Chargers fans. They felt that Rivera would come in and assemble the forces and lead a dominating defense that would crush the opposition, driving them before them and listening to the lamentations of their women (<em>now Conan?!</em>)- Well like Wilhuff Tarkin, he wasn't the savior many thought him to be. In fact his forces have let rebels slip by with ease to reach our shield power switch- (<em>What engineer makes a big switch to turn off all station defenses anyway?!</em>)

    Rivera has shown some fire on the sidelines, but unfortunately, not all his Storm Troopers have on the field.

    <strong>Count Dooku:</strong>
    Count Dooku talks a good game, and makes sure he is around enough to be seen by the good guys, only to disappear when things get tough- So Shawne Merriman will be playing Dooku in our production. Shawne disappointed many fans in 2008 when after the first game of the season he had to go on the injured reserve (IR) list for an injury suffered at the close out of 2007.

    He returned in 2009 and to this point he has been less than stellar in his return. Still possibly suffering from the knee operation of last year, he has yet to register a sack and only has 13 tackles through 5 games.

    To many the character of Dooku was a disappointment to some of the fans of the Star Wars films, and Merriman is a disappointment to Charger fans thus far. Going into a free agent season, it is not likely, if his numbers remain the same throughout the season that he will be written into the script for next year.

    <strong>General Grievous:</strong>
    Was he flashy or what? Robotic, could swing a light saber like a buzz saw! However he was easily defeated when it came to go time. Therefore the role of Grievous will go to Antonio Cromartie.

    Cromartie is flashy, has talent, speed and athletic prowess that not many other players can even dream of obtaining in a Madden NFL computer game. But Cromartie this season is easily beaten, playing off the receivers and his tackling is questionable at best.

    I know this is a bit campy, but there are legitimate issues that lead to frustrations within the community of San Diego Chargers fans. There are more that can be added, a plethora of Storm Troopers such as Jacob Hester who has yet to display the potential that brought him to the team, the Deffensive and offensive line coaches. Yes they are dealing with make shift lines, but the players do not seem to be prepared to do their jobs. Jeromey Clarry, Shaun Philips, Chris Chambers and others.

    As a dark sider looking at this, 2-3 means the team can go 2-14! The Chargers have to improve.

    That said, the Chargers are arguably one of the most talented teams when the players show up and play like they mean it. This season from the fans perspective, they have not meant it, their body of work thus far does not indicate that the many of the players are serious about winning. The Chargers currently are one dimensional. They are a pass attack team that should be feared. However if this season as opposed to others, if you shut down the pass or move Rivers around too much, you can beat the Bolts.

    All is not lost, for there is a light side to this. There are good things going on as well, on all sides of the ball. There are many things that can be pointed out that are working, the Chargers passing game first and foremost remains a threat. Th Running game is showing signs of life, and lets be honest. We do not need a blistering running game to help the passing attack. This season the pass should be used to set up the run.

    Every game, with the exception of the aforementioned Pittsburgh game has seen improvements. The first half against Denvr was the best half the Chargers have played this year. They can build on these successes and still make a run at the playoffs.

    Look at it this way, 2-3 means the team can still be 13-3!

    There are 11 games left to be played and no one can guess at what is to come. The Chargers may play smash mouth football and win it all. They may not, but we do have reasons for hope.

    <strong>Chapter Two; The light Side:</strong>
    All is not lost, for there is a light side to this. There are good things going on as well, on all sides of the ball. There are many things that can be pointed out that are working, the Chargers passing game first and foremost remains a threat. Th Running game is showing signs of life, and lets be honest. We do not need a blistering running game to help the passing attack. This season the pass should be used to set up the run.

    Every game, with the exception of the aforementioned Pittsburgh game has seen improvements. The first half against Denvr was the best half the Chargers have played this year. They can build on these successes and still make a run at the playoffs.

    Look at it this way, 2-3 means the team can still be 13-3!

    There are 11 games left to be played and no one can guess at what is to come. The Chargers may play smash mouth football and win it all. They may not, but we do have reasons for hope.

    Philip Rivers is a master at his craft. He can dart around and sling balls down field like no other Chargers Quarterback since the days that the great Dan Fouts commanded the forces of the Chargers.

    No one can argue that Rivers is not out there giving it his all, he is possibly the best player on the Chargers right now. He is out performing any other Charger in my honest opinion and is the main reason that no fan should count the Chargers out of any game.

    Rivers has improved each season, growing in the force so to speak as he hones his abilities. He is the undisputed leader of the Chargers now, and his youthful energy and fire to play and win will hopefully rub off on other players and bring some of the Dark Side figures back to the Light Side.

    <strong>Luke Skywalker:</strong>
    Vincent Jackson is another leader of the team, he plays hard will go over the middle and is willing to take a bolt of force energy for the team. He has the knack for getting down field and his size and ability have made him a star of the Chargers aerial attack.

    Jackson has improved his game play each and every season, he is ready to break out, and if the offensive line were a bit better, or possibly just healthier then I think he would be one of the leading receivers in the league.

    He is currently tied for 9th in the league for receiving, tied with his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, AKA Antonio Gates.

    <strong>Obi-Wan Kenobi:</strong>
    Antonio Gates continues to impress. He is a big body who can move like someone 60 pounds lighter than him. He must be using his Jedi mind tricks because that is the only way he can continue to get open like he does multiple times a game- (<em>I am not the Tight End you are looking for-</em>). He has developed form a non-drafted free agent into a Jedi master before our eyes over the last seven seasons.

    He is part of the aerial attack that makes the Chargers a constant threat, his ability to slip past defenses and shut down their shield defenses (<em>again, really!? Just one switch?!</em>) makes him a deadly adversary for any defense.

    With Obi-Wan Gates on the field we always have reason to hope.

    <strong>Han Solo:</strong>
    Legedu Naanee is a rogue who has the knack for slipping past the defenses and delivering the goods. He is developing into a special player who is earning more and more time on the field.

    His knack for catching the ball and making plays has made him a valued member of the Rebel Alliance, and a fan favorite.

    <strong>Admiral Ackbar:</strong>
    Ackbar, the squid headed General was a respected commander in the Rebellion Command. Therefore Quentin Jammer will play the roll of the leader. His play in the secondary has been excellent for the most part.

    He has arguably been the most consistent player on the Chargers defense. He leads by example, just like a good Rebel General should.

    <strong>Wedge Antilles:</strong>
    Wedge was know for flying around, dusting womp rats, and blasting Empire star fighters to electrostatic discharges- Eric Weddle for all the grief he takes at times is moving around the secondary and making plays. He is second on the team in tackle behind Stephen Cooper.

    He has an interception on the season and 2 passes defended. He is playing well on a side of the ball that looks the most uninspired out of all the Charger units.

    I know I am going to be called a homer, but Chewbacca, the loyal Wookie that would rip the arm off of a storm trooper and beat it to death with it will be played by Luis Castillo. Like most of the defense Castillo has taken his share of criticism. Chief amongst the fans being that he is not generating enough sacks.

    Fair enough I guess, but in the 3-4 scheme the Defensive tackles are supposed to occupy blockers and let the line backers get the glory. That is what Castillo has been doing, on top of that I have seen him disengaging and making tackles on ball carriers.

    Like Chewbacca, Castillo is loyal to the Chargers and fans and seems to play hard every game. Let us all hope that his example of playing hard will be picked up by other defensive players.

    The Chargers have a lot of good players who play hard. You cant count them out of any game. They will not be perfect no one outside of the Madden NFL computer games ever are.

    With players like Rivers, Jackson and Gates there are bright moments ahead, perhaps they can sway some of the figures from the dark side to the light side. Only time will tell.

    <strong>Chapter 3: The ending:</strong>
    I tried to take a light hearted approach to looking at some of the positives and negatives we all see on the team, maybe it works or maybe you think I am a big dork right about now, possibly there is a little of each- Ok so there are a lot of things the Chargers fan can look at and be hopeful for, and point fingers at and say it is not going well.

    Chief amongst those are AJ Smith. He is under fire for his decisions and actions, lets look at some in detail.

    For the most part AJ has been solid in his drafting of players. Like any GM there have been hits and misses. The Draft is a crap shoot, not a science. That said AJ and the Chargers scouting team I believe has done a good job in brining talent to the Chargers. They have built this team up to where many of us, and the NFL talking heads consider this team to be the most talented in the NFL. That should not be ignored as we look at the season through the 2-3 glasses.

    Many have condemned him for his trading picks away for players. Hind sight is 20/20, and some of the players have not lived up to the expectations we fans put on them. However with the hindsight I ask you to consider where the Chargers were at the time those picks were traded. The Chargers were a solid team, with not a lot of holes to fill. AJ always said, he wants continuity and it showed in the players he kept. Therefore there are not a lot of holes in the roster.

    Chances are we would have ended up drafting players who would not have made the team, yet would have received money form the Chargers just for being drafted. If we are not going to be able to draft an impact player who will make the roster, why keep the picks?

    <em>Free Agent:</em>
    I too have groused about the free agent stance of AJ. But to a point his bargain basement approach has worked in the past. I am not sure who we could have gotten in the off season that would have added a lot of depth for us. Albert Haynesworth was way over paid by Washington.

    What would it say to players like Vincent Jackson if the Chargers signed high priced free agents, and did not give him a new contract (WHICH THEY NEED TO DO!)? Everything is a balancing act in today's NFL.

    It is widely held by many fans to be true, that we have Norv Turner as a Head Coach only because AJ wanted someone who would not challenge him the way the last Head Coach did. I am not sure I completely buy that logic.

    Smith and Turner worked together before on the Chargers, they had history, Turner was the only coach interviewed with Head Coaching experience, and Norv is excellent at developing young quarterbacks, such as we have now in Philip Rivers. Those alone made his a desirable candidate for the position. Is there anyone who can refute that Rivers has gotten better under the tutelage of Turner?

    Can AJ be a cantankerous task master? Yes. Does he have to win popularity contests? I would suggest that he only needs to be popular with the players. He resigned Gates when it looked like Gates was destined to leave, same with Dielman. He has brought in veterans like Chambers and continues to try and make the Chargers better.

    He let Michael Turner go, but I am not sure that has had a huge impact. MT is not running very well behind a better offensive line that the Chargers have currently, I am not sure MT would have been a big upswing for us this season.

    The point is we continue to look at the past and judge it based on what we know today. How many of us have a crystal ball that allows us to make perfect decisions based on what is going to happen two or three years in the future?

    AJ has done a solid job with the Chargers. Perfect, hell no, but tell me one GM who is perfect.

    A point on Coaching:
    For the fans who want to see the Coaches fired right now, I ask you to sit back, take a deep breath, divorce yourself from the emotions of being a fan and ask yourself. "<strong>What does that mean to the remaining games of the season?</strong>" What message does that send to players, to fans and to the cities that might be willing to build the Chargers a stadium?

    It would not send a good message because to make wholesale coaching changes during the season is to give up on the remaining season. Sure we might get someone who is the flavor of the week, but would it be the right someone? We would have to wait nearly a year to find out, and find out in a potentially capless season. This is not a good idea folks.

    The fact is the Chargers are improving, they may be just experiencing another slow start, that remains to be seen, but any wholesale change now throws away the rest of the season.

    Even Jim Zorn whose team is arguably in much worse shape has retained his starting position for exactly the reason I mention above. He works for Daniel ‘Knee Jerk' Snyder to boot.

    Have heart Charger fans, the season is not over. Manage your expectation and take what joy you can from the season. We all are not happy with the record as it stands now, but lets take a look at what we have when January rolls around.

    That's my thoughts, what are yours?

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