The 2010 season is upon us and the Minnesota Vikings predictably fell to the New Orleans Saints.
What is not predictable, however, is whether the Chargers will perform well against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night.
Under Norv Turner, the Chargers have gone 2-1 on opening day, but in terms of performing up to expectations they’ve gone 0-3.
It’s been a 2-3 start for San Diego every year under Norv, but the Chargers have finished a combined 21-0 to end those three potentially disastrous seasons, winning the AFC West title in all three seasons and frustrating the perennially second place Denver Broncos (and the Bronco Nation) in the process.
In 2007, coming off of a 14-2 season under former head coach Marty Schottenheimer, the Chargers were supposed to blow away the competition. They opened the season against the defending NFC Champion Chicago Bears.
Off season smack talk centered around a LaDainian Tomlinson Nike commercial had both teams fired up. In what turned out to be a foreshadowing of the first month of the season, the Charger offense could barely get out of it’s own way.
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson was completely ineffective, rushing to the tune of 25 yards on 17 carries, but he dazzled the Bears with both a rushing and passing touchdown.
It was only dazzling due to the fact that the bad Rex Grossman-led Bears were lucky to end the game with the 3 points they did.
This game set NFL offenses back nine decades.
In 2008, the Chargers suffered through a rebuilding year as their two cornerstones, defensive tackle Jamal Williams and Tomlinson began to show their age. The NFL kings of stopping the run and running the ball were dethroned by younger players on other teams and the Chargers win/loss record suffered as a result.
To open the 2008 season, the Chargers welcomed the supposedly overmatched Carolina Panthers who proceeded to march up and down the Qualcomm turf like the 1999 St. Louis Rams in the first half.
Carolina dominated the first half time of possession battle. Well, that’s if you call the Dream Team verses Angola a battle.
All Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman attempted to play through torn ligaments, which seemed to make no sense to anyone but himself. He was injured and out for the season early. As was the case with the Chargers in those days, no Shawne Merriman, no defense.
Hot off of his stunning playoff performance the year before, Rivers continued to flourish as he made several amazing plays to come back from a 19-10 deficit to lead the Chargers to a 24-19 lead, forcing Jake Delhomme (in the swan song of his career) to lead the Panthers to a TD on the final possession.
Delhomme channelled his inner Joe Montana as he tossed the game winning touchdown pass to that perennial All Pro tight end Dante Rosario as time expired, robbing Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson of a game winning touchdown of his own.
In 2009, the Chargers returned to Oakland for a Monday Night showdown with the Raiders for the second time in four years. The assumption was that the Chargers would hand out another beating to the Raider Nation.
However, the Nation had other plans. The Bolts suffered a verbal beatdown from the Black Hole and a physical beat down from the Raiders on the field.
The shockingly hard hitting Raiders injured five Charger starters.
The sluggish Chargers run defense was once again a non-factor to open the season as Raider running backs repeatedly high stepped down the field untouched. However, they continued to shoot themselves in the foot by allowing JaMarcus Russell to throw the ball on running downs.
The gift from the Raiders coaching staff allowed the Chargers to adjust their game plan and the Raiders offense began to sputter.
While the Raiders never ran more than a play or two on the Chargers side of the field in the second half, the desperate Raiders went for it on 4th and 15 from their own 42 yard line.
Forty-eight yards later Louis Murphy was celebrating what the Nation contends should have been his second touchdown of the game to give the Raiders a 20-17 lead with just over two minutes to go.
Too much time for Philip Rivers and company.
In what has become a formality in close games against Oakland, Philip Rivers marched the Chargers 89 yards with running back Darren Sproles capping off the drive with a surprise draw play for the game winning touchdown.
In 2010, for the sixth straight year, the Chargers will play a supposedly inferior opponent and once again that opponent brings an unquestionably superior rushing attack.
The Charger defense has been very slow to come to the table in the last two seasons. Especially against the run. If it happens again, the upstart Chiefs will be looking to take advantage of the situation.
The only season opener under Norv Turner in which the Charger defense has come to play was against the Chicago Bears and that was an absolute grudge match against what was thought to be the elite team of the NFC.
In the Chiefs, the Chargers find themselves facing an opponent that they outscored 80-21 in two games last season and the games weren’t as close as the score indicates.
There is no motivation for the Chargers to come out of the gate with fire.
There is no Marty Schottenheimer soliloquy so elegantly and passionately recited to put a jolt in the bolt either.
Not so for Kansas City.
The Chiefs are playing the four time defending AFC West Champions at a newly remodeled, sold out home stadium with a young fiery team that ended a horrendous 2009 season by dominating the rival Denver Broncos.
Knocking the Broncos out of the playoffs in the process.
They will be ready for the Bolts. Recent history tells us that the Bolts will not be ready for the Chiefs.
The first half is a potential trouble spot for San Diego.
The Chargers have not gone to halftime with the lead on opening day since the days of Schottenheimer, but they have not been outscored in the second half during that time period either.
The Kansas City rushing attack may catch the Chargers defense out of position in the first quarter, but I expect the Chargers to begin controlling the game midway through the second quarter.
The NFL’s official website has released an article accusing the San Diego Chargers of blowing up a potential trade for Vincent Jackson with an unnamed team.
So what? This report may or may not be true, because the information came from Jackson’s agents, Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod.
This whole situation is the agent’s fault anyway and they goofed up by being impatient. Vincent does whatever the agents tell him to do. If you look at the Chargers history, they have a history of paying guys that are willing to work with the team. Had Jackson signed the one year tender, went to work, and proven that he puts the team first, he would have been paid.
Disagree if you want, but look at the Chargers’ history before you speak.
Jackson made the mistake of holding out for more money on the recommendation of his agents, who obviously felt that they had enough leverage to force the Chargers’ hand.
Even if the Chargers did not have other proven receivers on the roster, that stance was never going to work (see Marcus McNeil) and the agents should have known it.
The Chargers do things the Charger way and will not be swayed. Not the AJ Smith way, but the Charger way.
That includes not being bullied by sports agents nor politicking. Jackson’s agents did not know the Chargers’ history and now they’ve become a part of it. The outcome was predictable.
Even super agent Tom Condon is not going to advise his guys to hold out when dealing with the Chargers. Condon client Antonio Gates held out once, got slapped with a team imposed three game suspension (also known as the roster exempt list), and a Condon player has never held out again. That includes LaDainian Tomlinson, who was once unhappy with his deal.
If Antonio Gates did not have enough leverage to force the Chargers’ hand, no other receiver does either. How could Jacksons’ agents not know this? That is an absolutely ridiculous oversight.
The nfl.com article is contradicted by a previous article on sportsline.com which claims that in fact it was Jackson’s agents who bungled the deal by asking for more many than Brandon Marshall received. The source being an unnamed NFC general manager, who was obviously the one trying to make the deal for Vincent Jackson.
Yet another article claims that it was the Seattle Seahawks all along, who were the mystery team trying to trade for Jackson.
The articles all have one thing in common. None of this information has come from the Chargers’ front office.
So who is lying?
Vincent Jackson’s agents have “dun goofed” by thinking that they held cards that they clearly did not. They were right about one thing, however. The Chargers have little motivation to trade Jackson this season.
Make no mistake about it, pass target for pass target Vincent Jackson is above all of the so called elite receivers in the league. It does not matter if we’re talking about Larry Fitgerald, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, or Brandon Marshall.
If Vincent Jackson were thrown to as many times as Andre Johnson was last season, his stats would have been comparable to Jerry Rice in his prime.
It makes no sense for the Chargers to trade Jackson to the Minnesota Vikings or any other contender. Jackson could put the Vikings over the top.
However, no one knows what team could be put over the top by acquiring Vincent Jackson. For example, the Colts thought they had safely traded Marshall Faulk away to the lowly St. Louis Rams back in 1999 (who were coming off a disastrous 4-12 season) when in fact the move put the Rams over the Super Bowl winning top when combined with all of the other moves they made in that off season.
The Chargers already have five picks in the first three rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. They do not need any more picks next year. Since draft picks have a hard time making the Chargers roster, it makes much more sense to trade Jackson for picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.
If Jackson chooses to sit out for the entire year, the Chargers will continue to own his rights next season. That would be another momentous mistake by Jackson’s agents, so do not expect that to happen. Therefore, the Chargers were right to lower Jackson’s tender from $3.28 million to under $600,000. Jackson admitted himself that he sees $3.28 million in the same light as $600,000.
So play for $600,000 buddy. Then go play for another team.
Why should the Chargers reward another team’s player financially? Why should the Chargers toss over $2,000,000 down the drain? Pay the mercenary as little as possible and then send him on his way.
If Jackson walks away as a free agent, the Chargers will likely receive a compensatory third round draft pick for Vincent Jackson in return. If he does not play for the Chargers this season, the Chargers can potentially trade him for more than a third round pick next season.
If no trade is worked out this year, Jackson likely returns to the Chargers this season and either a deal is worked out, he is traded, or he walks next year. Either way, the Chargers will wind up with something in return for Jackson.
One thing is for sure. If Jackson does return to the Chargers this season, he will angrily dominate defensive backs.
A couple of years ago, I was telling my co-worker Dave (who’s been a San Diego Charger fan longer than I’ve been alive) that the Chargers would not make it to the Super Bowl until this season.
I got caught up in the moment and half-believed that 2009 was the year, but in reality, I knew there was no way a team that couldn’t come close to either running the ball or stopping the run should have even made the playoffs.
The Chargers have such a good offensive system in place that they can beat most NFL teams even while bringing inferior talent to the field which explains why they were able to lose five starters in the first game of the season and still go 13-3.
The Chargers have been in rebuilding mode for two seasons right under your nose. While the national sports writers have been proclaiming that the Chargers’ window of opportunity is closing, Chargers general manager AJ Smith has been plugging holes with draft picks collected over the last few seasons.
For years, LaDainian Tomlinson was the Chargers’ most highly regarded offensive player and Jamal Williams was the most highly regarded defensive player. When those guys fell off, the offense became pass happy and the defense couldn’t stop anybody on the ground.
Running the ball and stopping the run wins championships.
AJ Smith knows it, head coach Norv Turner knows it, and de facto team owner Dean Spanos knows it. National sportswriters, otherwise known as male gossip columnists (Mike Florio anyone?), overlook obvious things like this.
Writers who do not follow the Chargers casually gloss over the facts. They haven’t noticed that the Chargers have been grooming Vaughn Martin, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, and Antonio Garay. They forgot that the Bolts traded for solid veteran Travis Johnson and recently drafted massive defensive tackle Cam Thomas.
Run defense woes solved.
They totally missed the solid power running back who can put a defense away in the fourth quarter known as Mike Tolbert. Then proclaimed that the Chargers reached for Ryan Mathews. Anyone for baloney?
Rushing attack woes solved.
The Chargers were without those key aspects last season and could still hang with the top teams in the NFL. They swept the NFC East and went 8-2 outside of the AFC West.
Enough with the “they play in the AFC West” crap. The Chargers could have gone 2-4 in the AFC West and still made the playoffs.
The Chargers rebuilding appears to be complete, so I am sticking to my prediction. Now we will just have to see if they are good enough to beat the NFC heavyweights. If you don’t know who that is, I will tell you.
Guess what those NFC powerhouses have in common? They will never see Vincent Jackson wearing their uniform! More on that later.
Now about that kicker…
Listen to the Audio Version of this Article: Ryan Mathews Could Be the Missing Link
If there is one thing that made San Diego Chargers fans cringe, it’s the one yard and a cloud of dust running game that plagued the Chargers’ high powered offense with 2nd-and-nine far too often in 2009.
The addition of Ryan Mathews may change all that if he can stay healthy. In last Saturday’s game against the Chicago Bears, Mathews continuously gained yardage, against a vanilla Bears’ defense.
Norv Turner is known as a quarterback guru, but his offense starts with the running back. With a new high powered engine driving his attack, quarterback Philip Rivers should have an easier time dissecting defenses. Even scarier for defenses is the notion that they may have to play eight man fronts even more often which will leave defensive backs one on one with Chargers receivers.
That’s not good for opposing defensive coordinators.
As Steve Mariucci would say, the Chargers may hang a couple of “50-burgers” on opponents in 2010.
On display in the game were Mathews speed, power, and balance.
He repeated blew by surprised defenders who were seemingly in position, but found themselves standing still as Mathews went by. Mathews leveled a couple of guys (on the same play) with effortless stiff arms. On one play he was nearly leveled by Charger guard Kris Dielman only to be hit by Bears linebacker Lance Briggs. He bounced off of both guys and exploded for a gain of 18 yards.
Love LaDainian Tomlinson or hate him, he and fullback Lorenzo Neal (along with fullback Andrew Pinnock) led a Chargers rushing attack that struck fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators. Without a powerful fullback, the Chargers running game was lost. With LT losing a step, it completely fell off the map.
The Chargers scored nearly 500 points in 2006 with a powerful rushing attack to compliment a solid passing attack. If the Chargers can regain their powerful rushing attack to compliment a now spectacular passing attack, the Chargers could surpass 500 points in 2010.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, there has never been a more moving chant at Qualcomm Stadium than “LT, LT, LT, LT.” Still, a lot of us have turned our back on the scorned superstar and for good reason.
The act of tattooing the New York Jets logo on LaDanian Tomlinson’s massive calve was the equivalent a backhanded inner city pimp slap across the face of millions.
His sharp comments about his former offensive line’s inability to open up holes stymied support from his biggest supporters (literally).
His soap opera-esque backstabbing of Norv Turner would make JR Ewing blush and then humbly bow to the greatness of LT. Norv is the man who tried his best to save LT for the playoffs, so that LT could obtain his much desired post season glory. Norv is the guru who installed the offensive system that aided LT in securing millions of dollars and elevating himself to the status of icon.
Still, LT stabbed ol’ Norval in the back.
I’ve searched and I’ve searched for LT’s comments praising Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers as his two of his biggest allies in his quest for a Hall of Fame final destination.
I’ve tried to find his deference to Keenan McCardell’s supreme route running abilities and third down mastery as a great help in his ability to remain on the field to generate Madden NFL 1998 style ridiculous stats in 2006.
That’s a ridiculous notion. LT doesn’t share credit, but he’ll pass the blame.
LT found himself in the limelight, and he basked in that limelight like a true locker room Cancer.
Not a Terrell Owens in Philadelphia type cancer, but a born in the month of June or July Cancer. We’re talking astrology here.
Tomlinson worked hard. He worked tirelessly. He consulted with the great Emmitt Smith on how to become a great runner. He didn’t do this for the fame or money! He did it because that’s who he is. That’s a great strength of the Cancer.
LT had his chance to become an inspiration to young Jay Cutlers everywhere. He could have fought to leave San Diego after his rookie deal was up. San Diego was a terrible team. Instead he fought to stay with his football family like a loyal Cancer is supposed to do.
As LT’s weary legs began to fail him, the villainous San Diego General Manager AJ Smith sensed the decline and looked to move the Chargers on without him. The perceptive LT was able to sense AJ Smith’s cold-hearted business mentality and went to the team CEO Dean Spanos for support. He obtained it.
The Cancer’s ability to perceive and project emotions (and therefore intentions) shot LT in the foot as he had a horrendous season to end his Hall of Fame caliber San Diego Chargers career.
It seems that AJ Smith was correct and the finger pointing began.
Over the years, we’ve seen a moody LT angrily storm away from a struggling Philip Rivers only to look like a fool when Rivers delivered the win in the end. We’ve seen the emotional LT embarrass himself, the team, and the entire city of San Diego with his outburst after an error filled loss the the New England Patriots. We’ve seen the sensitive, but indecisive LT say he doesn’t care with the Chargers think one day only to fire back the next day.
The spiritual Tomlinson obtained glory and adoration in the city of San Diego only to be humbled time and time gain. I happen to believe that it’s because he is loved by the one who matters most.
If the one who matters most loves the man, then I can set aside my petty anger over the Jets tattoo and appreciate the hard work, dedication, and enjoyment LT brought to the San Diego Chargers organization even in his worst season.
Thank you LT for the time you spent in San Diego and good luck!