Monday, July 7, 2008

Unrealistic Expectations; at least I'm not a Chargers Fan

Well it’s time for part 3 of the incredibly popular series, “At least I’m not a fan of (insert AFC West team here).” And the time has come to dissect the San Diego Chargers and why it’s just not worth it to root for this team.

Unrealistic Expectations

You may think that I’m stepping out on a Limb here labeling the Chargers as the holders of false hope for their fans. They are the defending AFC West Champions, and many feel if not for LT pulling up lame in their playoff game vs. New England they could have won that match-up. Hell if you listen to the pundits in both print and broadcast, the Chargers are a prohibitive favorite to compete with New England and Indianapolis for the AFC Super Bowl berth this season. Charger fans should have high expectations, right…Wrong.

There are several factors working against this team in their quest to finally bring a Lombardi to San Diego. Here they are in no particular order:

Norv Turner – Turner is an outstanding offensive coordinator, but he is a lousy head coach. Ask any Redskins or Raiders fan about Norv’s ability to run a team, and you may have to wait a few minutes for the laughing to subside before you get your answer. Last season he took a team with arguably the best talent in the AFC to the Conference Championship game. Sorry San Diego, you have just seen what will be the high point of the Turner regime.

Turner has a rep of being a RB’s dream, his teams consistently churn out running backs in the top 5 yardage wise in the NFL, well early on his watch anyway. What most fail to recognize is that he runs these backs into the ground, and they rarely reproduce these grand numbers ever again. has done a great study of the effects of getting too many touches in the run game on running backs. Norv obviously has not read this research.

Turner has no control over the squads he coaches, and that is magnified in San Diego where A.J. Smith is the uncontested boss following his ousting of Marty Schottenheimer. The players have no reason to listen to Norv, and on this team the potential for this to blow up is huge, as other than LT, there are few perceived character guys on the squad.

Ladainian Tomlinson – How the hell can I list LT as a reason that this team will fail? He is considered to be the NFL’s best back and one of the top players in the league. This one is easy for me. NFL backs are not a long-term investment. LT is nearing the end of his run as an elite back, and we may have already seen the wheels fall off last season.

Take a look at the top backs in NFL history, how many of them put up gaudy numbers for more than 5 years? Emmitt Smith and Curtis Martin come to mind, but they were both grinders, they were not likely to get you more than 15 yards a clip. Now maybe LT can evolve into this dependable role, but the home run threat is about to disappear. And due to that, the Charger’s offense is about to get neutered.
Philip Rivers – So with LT breaking down, whom does the pressure of carrying the offense fall to? If your answer is Philip Rivers, than you may be in trouble. I’m not going to lie to you and say that Philip doesn’t have a good supporting cast around him. But it is not the kind of excellent support a player like Philip needs to overcome his shortcomings.

The pending breakdown of LT is going to free up defenses to cover the HB 1 on 1 with a LB. This will force Philip to focus on Gates, who while a great TE can’t carry the offense on his own, and with defenses free to go man on the RB, his production will drop. At WR, the Chargers have a great group of #2’s. But one need only ask Donovan McNabb, a far superior QB to Rivers, how far you can get with only #2 receivers on the field.

In the end, Philip’s crybaby act does not lend him to being a leader of men. If Philip is going to lead this team, he needs to pull a complete 180 and change his attitude. Unfortunately for Charger fans, he needs a strong coach to pull him through this change, and A.J. fired the strong coach who could have done this in favor of a sock-puppet.

Shawn Merriman – Merriman came back from his steroid suspension no longer looking like a potential hall-of-famer. I have always questioned the love that Shawn gets from the media. He is a one-dimensional player; he can pass rush, that’s it. He is a liability in coverage, and not much help in the run game. These holes in his game have only grown worse since his suspension.

IMO, Shawn does not recognize these weaknesses in his game. To me Shawn seems to be the kind of player who buys into his own hype. He has shown no improvement in his game in his time in the league, and the fact that endorsements continue to role in despite his drug issues and the holes in his game, leave him with little motivation to improve. Once again San Diego, you have already seen this player at his best, expecting more is unrealistic.

Jamal Williams – Despite all the accolades that get handed out to other members of the Charger’s D, the lynchpin is Jamal Williams. The last 3 seasons Jamal has been arguably the best NT in the NFL, and it is no coincidence that the Chargers D has been at the top of the league over that time.

Unfortunately Jamal is nearing the end of the line. Jamal struggled with ankle problems at the end of last season, and for a 350+ lb’er, that is a huge red flag. If Jamal cannot return to 2006 form, the middle of the D will be open for business for opposing RB’s. Those LB’s who looked so good when he was eating double team will quickly look average.

There it is, if you are a Chargers fan, you may be looking at this season as the one where the Lombardi finally comes to San Diego, you may look at the relatively young age of your roster, and the fact that most of these players are signed long term and feel that multiple Super Bowls are in your immediate future.

But I am here to douse you with a cold glass of reality. Your best players on offense and defense are at the end of the line, at least as far as being premier players. The emerging faces of your team are hardly the kind of guys to build around, and are just as likely to cost you victory, as win you championships. And the man who will lead you is Norv Turner, a man who inspires confidence from no one.

Unrealistic expectations, which is what you have been blown up with San Diego. That is why I wouldn’t want to be a fan of your team. Because when you look at it you are destined to always fall short of the prize, and become a footnote of a great team that never could get it done in the end. Welcome to the Eagle fan’s nightmare of earlier this decade, the Bills fan’s nightmare of the 90’s, and… well your nightmare of the early ‘80’s. I guess you have been here before, sucks to be you. At least as a Raider’s fan I don’t have to worry about unrealistic expectations.

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