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Underachieving surprises Chargers

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jan 2, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://www.pe.com/sports/football/stories/PE_Sports_Local_D_ja_col_01.33466bb.html" target="_blank">The Press-Enterprise
    </a>
    By Jim Alexander

    <img src="http://www.bolttalk.com/images/tomlinsonloss01.jpg" class="right" alt="LT during a loss in KC." />SAN DIEGO - So, Charger fan, which of this season's games sticks out in your memory?

    Is it the Dallas game, the opener? That was the day that the hubris of the general manager came back to haunt him, unless you think that not having your Pro Bowl tight end available had no impact on a four-point loss.

    Would it be the Pittsburgh game, when the Steelers drove down the field for Jeff Reed's 40-yard field goal with six seconds to go, after the Chargers had taken the lead but failed on a two-point conversion try? What about the Philadelphia game, when they went for what seemed to be a gimme field goal only to give up the winning points when the kick was blocked and returned for a touchdown?

    Or how about the Miami game, maybe the most egregious of all, a letdown at home against a sub-.500 team after the Chargers had finally put their playoff destiny in their own hands?

    It spells underachievement, a word that Chargers players hesitated to use after Saturday's 23-7 loss to Denver, yet did everything but define.

    "When we came in this year, one of our coaches who'd been on a Super Bowl team said that, top to bottom, we had way more talent than that team," linebacker Steve Foley said. "But until we take it personal every day ... until it really means that much to us, we're not going to succeed in areas we need to."

    That was a big part of the problem. The Charger, who finished 9-7, came into this season treating the playoffs as an entitlement, even after Coach Marty Schottenheimer's proclamation early on that the added difficulty of the schedule could mean that this year's team could be better than last year's 12-4 group and yet not finish with as many victories.

    "That was our No. 1 mistake from the beginning, thinking that the cards were going to fall in our favor," Foley said. "We knew teams had a bull's-eye on us and were going to come after us, trying to prove something. That's kind of what transpired.

    "This is not a time to sit back and wait for the game or the play to come to you. You have to make that play, make it happen. And maybe we sort of had that a little bit from time to time."

    For 14 games, the Chargers could still convince themselves they were among the game's best. But they lost three of their last four, scored 14 points in the final two games, and now face an even more interesting off-season than was originally anticipated, given Drew Brees' shoulder injury and the possibility of surgery.

    They can't risk a long-term deal for Brees now, not until they know if he'll be healthy. Nor can General Manager A. J. Smith entertain offers for Philip Rivers for the same reason. Thus, the Chargers probably will again have two expensive quarterbacks on their roster in 2006.

    Beyond that, changes almost certainly will be coming, but where?

    "Obviously, we're quite disappointed," Schottenheimer said, speaking of Saturday's game but also of the season. "And that disappointment is going to fuel a determination to identify the things that need to be fixed and devote all the energy we have to getting them fixed."

    Here, then, are some hints: The offensive line essentially tanked in the aftermath of Roman Oben's mid-season injury. The secondary struggled from start to finish. The receiving corps could use at least one more guy with breakaway speed.

    And maybe the makeup of the coaching staff has to be addressed. Schottenheimer seems safe, although he's not necessarily Smith's guy, but there could be some movement among the assistants.

    After all, when a team plays as inconsistently as the Chargers did this season, its readiness to play comes into question. And the responsibility for that lies with the coaches.

    "I don't know where we go from here," LaDainian Tomlinson said. "But we just need to have a gut check. I think we'll probably take the past two years, what we did when we were 12-4 and then going 9-7, and search within ourselves and ask, 'What was the problem?'"

    In retrospect, it's probably for the best that the Chargers have been forced to take a step back. Maybe it will bleed some of the arrogance out of an organization whose achievements have never quite matched its attitude.
     

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