4th And Goal With Jeff Williams

Today is my birthday, and all I wanted for my birthday are a couple of Chargers playoff victories. So much for that idea! Now I come out of my week-long exile to discuss what happened, and what the future holds for the Bolts.

The Chargers ended the season on an 11-game win streak because of better talent, incredible ability on the offensive side of the ball, and a renewed focus on game awareness and character. Finally, we all thought, these guys have grown up and are now living up to the hype that has followed them for 3+ seasons.

But in the playoffs, they became everything they were not.

The Chargers lost to the Jets because of a poorly concocted game plan, an inability to make plays on offense, and a self-indulgent, irresponsible performance that bordered on asinine. The Jets didn't beat them, the Chargers beat themselves.

Let me give some credit where credit is due. The Jets' gameplan was to stick around long enough for the Chargers to implode, and it worked out pretty well for them. Even though the Chargers outgained them 359-yards to 269-yards, the Jets held Norv's high-powered offense in check almost as often as the Chargers shot themselves in the foot.

So enough about that painful end to the Chargers season...what is coming this offseason? Let's look at some of the big topics that will be discussed in the weeks and months ahead:


Due $5-million in 2010 and with a $2-million roster bonus to be paid in March, we are likely to know sooner rather than later if LT will be back next year. Personally, I think he is Chargers history, not just because of the money but also because of the offense. With Philip Rivers and a ton of good receivers, we don't need to spend a lot of money on a running back.


He made over $6-million this season. Do not expect that to happen again. The Chargers will work on a signing him to multi-year deal, but that may expose him to the free-agent market before it gets done.


In what may become a more debated issue than the potential release of LT, Merriman's off the field drama, his penchant for injury, and the big bucks he will demand all make his status on the team a big question mark. There's a good chance he will return on a one-year deal as a restricted free-agent, but would you be surprised if AJ Smith invited some other team to take a chance on him?


It's great that we have all of our top draft picks available this year. As was previously reported here on BOLTHYPE, the Chargers could go in any number of directions. In evaluating AJ Smith's draft history one thing is clear: you can identify the team's greatest weakness, and then assume that AJ Smith will not draft for it in the first round. The Chargers will need a new running back, a lot of help on the defensive line, and I would still argue for a right tackle. Assume that none of those positions are taken in the first round.

*My picks for today's games: I'm pulling for Drew Brees, but it will be Colts over Jets and Vikings over Saints.


Agree or disagree with anything I said? Has the past week giving you time to reevaluate your stance on the Chargers? What would you like seen done in the offseason? Let's chat in the comments section below...

January 24, 2010

Join our team:


Anonymous said... Jan 24, 2010, 12:35:00 PM

To: chargers now! they (1/3 of your Team!!) can go party!! all they want!!..i sure know what would happend if i did not take my job seriously!

Avenger-in-Chief said... Jan 25, 2010, 9:50:00 AM

English needs to start next year which means that either Merriman or Phillips needs to go.

I would have ZERO problem seeing Phillips get dealt. He had a nice season and probably has some value. I'm completely tired of listening to the guy though. He's also an idiot (see: playoff head-butt. Your opponent is wearing a helmet you a$$hat!) also (see: @shaunphillips95 Twitter Account. Further proof of idiocy).

If they can tender Merriman a contract and then a suitor comes calling with the required high draft picks to take him away then that's an option too. I think Shawne will be solid next year. Expecting a guy who plays at his demanding position, to do it well, after less than 1 1/2 years post op knee reconstruction is fool hardy. He'll be better next year.

So if I had my choice: I would want to see Phillips dealt with Merriman and English starting on the edges in 2010. Merriman will then be gone in 2011 which opens the door for AJ smith's 2nd greatest* long term contract of all time.....Jyles Tucker!

* The first Greatest? Why Matt Wilhelm of course.

Rob Zepeda said... Jan 25, 2010, 11:52:00 AM

Unfortunately I'll have to leave the "putting guys on blast" up to you. It doesn't a guy in my position any good to bash the players and make enemies, but feel free to give your takes in these comments sections, I do appreciate hearing you're takes.

Anonymous said... Jan 25, 2010, 4:51:00 PM

The stage is set, the Colts and the Saints...at least the Jets (who we all know played well but really) finally got cut and at least two top teams will play. Should be a shot out for sure...if the Jets went I would have to "pass" on watching. The Chargers coulda=shoulda but recall it took a few tries for the Colts (so similar to the Bolts) losing either the Divisional or Championship rounds (sound familiar) to finally get to the show. And now twice within a short period. This will be the same for the Chargers, a few key trades and drafts, another focused season, an easier schedule (in my opinion) than this year, and we will get there. I also hope LT will return so he can get a chance to get the ring...that is a tough call both for him and the Team given the $$$ and what you could get for that. I think AJ and company will get a couple key players, some more future players through the draft, and some will be gone. I don't think it will be a huge mix up though, a Team that puts that kind of season up (despite the Big Loss) is one you only want to improve on, not rebuild. I would spend my money on a power running back, LT or not he is getting near done...some key defensive players for the line and perhaps an upgrade DB to replace Cromarte. Maybe I am over the shock of the game, but I have been a fan since 1974, I have seen the best Bolts never get it done, I have seen the worst and sat in a half full "Murphy" stadium (that's what it was) and wondered if we would ever get to .500. We are very very close, our QB is solid and will be our leader for awhile. The depth of the Team was obvious just reflect on how many newbees played outstanding this year thanks to injuries. Running game, poor but the Chargers history had always put the run as secondary to the pass...look it up that is who we are since the beginning. I doubt that will change anytime soon...the defense, well all the way up from the worst rankings to the middle of the pack. There is the key, look at the Jets...wow! If we had a D close to them, with our offensive packages, we would wipe out any Team...period. The best news is the draft is only 3 months away, trades will start up soon, and the new and improved Team will start to take place before we know it. Lastly, we get to watch 6 Chargers play in the Pro Bowl...I look for Rivers to be MVP with balls thrown all over the place!!! See ya in the stands soon....oh yeah...I will take the Colts by 10.

Anonymous said... Jan 25, 2010, 6:47:00 PM

Gosh, how I *wish* the above writer could be right, but I just can't force myself to believe it. I love me my Bolts (since '62 at Balboa Stadium) now and forever, but right now they are a team poised for decline; not on the rise. Many of their most stalwart fellows have seen their careers peak and/or are clearly on the downhill side of their apex. To this list belong All-Pro's Jamal Williams, Shawne Merriman, and LaDainian Tomlinson; followed by lots of Question Mark players who are getting up in years now too, or have shown they are sometimes prone to instability: Antonio Cromartie (confirmed cupcake), Shaun Phillips (loose cannon), Vincent Jackson (call a cab!), Malcolm Floyd (injuries), Quentin Jammer (flags/hammer hands), Stephen Cooper (not big/strong enough), Kevin Burnett (neck injuries), Luis Castillo (again, why the big buck$?); and a WHOLE LOT of other guys who may never rise above being "prospects", much less NFL stars. I won't even mention a certain confirmed choker kicker going to the Pro Bowl.
Really, besides Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, and (somehow) Norval, who is untouchable on this Charger squad at the end of the 2009 season? Maybe Scifres, but that's about it.
McNeil is facing a contract negotiation, as is Jackson, the whole right side of the O-Line and *ALL* of the D-Line is suspect, and our Defensive Coordinator is looking to be a Head Coach anywhere in this galaxy. Meanwhile Dean Spanos speaks about the team with the passion of a toll booth attendant, and A.J. is just A.J.; his usual charming self.
Gosh I *hope* I'm wrong, but I have a hard time seeing Larry English or any of the '09 rookie class making much of an impact, or Darren Sproles staying much longer, or even much from the '08 draftees (and we all know A.J. & Spanos won't even consider the free agent market). Add it all together, and you have a LOT of erosion. The Chargers are a ship that's taking on water..., and that's not good.
Please, someone show me how this is just clinical depression and *not* what otherwise seems so obviously in front of all our eyes. Please.

Rob Zepeda said... Jan 25, 2010, 7:05:00 PM


I appreciate and applaud the high standards for which you hold your beloved Bolts, but I'd ask you to show me a perfect team in the NFL. Just what team is the benchmark, exactly? Every team has their flaws, it's part of the game. It's about compensated for those shortcomings and exploiting the matchups as best you can.

Certainly the Chargers have been and will continue to be a very talented group, but they've been a young team that has lacked vocal, veteran leadership. I think it's about striking that every so elusive balance. We'll get there...the Chargers are not as bad off as you may think. Perhaps you view them in such critical light because they command so much of your attention, but if you look around the league, a perfect team you will not find.

Anonymous said... Jan 25, 2010, 8:30:00 PM

Your question is fair, but the point is not so much about finding other NFL "perfection" as identifying where along the scale the bulk of talent a team seems to be massing at, and on which side of the fulcrum. But I'll still try to offer a two-point answer to your question:
(1) By default, the most "perfect" team in any NFL season should be the defending Super Bowl winner, although we all recognize that the NFL also is *designed* to then dismantle that very team via free agency and the de facto twin penalties of a harder subsequent schedule and lower draft choices.
(2) The only team I've always followed very closely is my "beloved Bolts", and the closest to a "perfect team" they've ever had (to my eyes) were the Hadl-led squads of the early-1960's (Alworth, Lincoln, Lowe, Garrison, Faison, Ladd, Sweeney, Duncan, and the "Intellectual Assassin" Ron Mix, etc., etc. - featuring a new, cutting-edge fair-weather passing game via Sid Gillman). They were Awesome..., still are.
My larger point is my growing concern when looking over the Charger draft choices of the last three years, and especially the last two. While it's true we enjoyed at least three phenomenal (even GREAT!) drafts earlier, the trend seems to be spiraling down. In the meantime, I also can't help but note that the A.J.-connected Chargers have rarely even *tried* to seek suitable draft pick "compensation" when losing very talented players (Michael Turner, Wes Welker, Chris Chambers, Donnie Edwards [all All-Pro caliber], and even obvious leaders (i.e. a very talented Super Bowl-bound Drew Brees). All this, in conjunction with missed draft day opportunities (whiffing on Troy Palomalo for two also-rans was, I believe, pivotal in the Chargers failure to reach a Super Bowl this decade) has basically squandered the great L.T.+ trade for what would turn out to be the disgusting Michael Vick. So I don't mean to insist that it's "all bad" for our Chargers, or that they are "as bad off as [I] think", just that I see them as currently headed in the wrong direction; toward decline. I think it's obvious, but I just as obviously want to be 100% wrong, even "perfectly" wrong.
But like my rant-down-the-roster the night of losing (again) after the 2008 season playoffs, that's only hindsight. Yet when I re-read my rant, I see that the players I questioned or saw as flawed are now often OFF the team! So my perceptions (although I'm no Insider or "pro") would seem to have at least some validity, even if not perfect either.
Bottom line: I just want our Chargers to do better, with character, and gather those hard-to-find skills and characteristics in order to actually capture "lightning in a bottle" just one year. And I've/we've all been waiting a long, long time. Now it isn't just that our Bolts lost the playoff game to the Jets, it's HOW they lost. Disgracefully. That is much harder to reconcile, and much more troubling to consider.
Do you see the Chargers as IMPROVING next year and in 2011? If so; How so? And if not; Why not? I really would really like to hear other opinions less gloomy than my own. I really WANT our Chargers to win it all, and I definitely thought this was "their year" based on how they all rallied together through injuries and with their "scrubs" rising to the occasion..., but (sigh), no. It still really, really hurts.
I just don't know if I can take the pain like that again, honestly, and I'm not trying to be melodramatic; I'm telling the simple truth.
Go Bolts!?

Rob Zepeda said... Jan 25, 2010, 8:47:00 PM


I will continue to believe that as long as the Chargers have an elite, franchise QB, that we'll always be competitive.

Your point of character is valid and is worth heavy consideration. However to play devil's advocate, which is preferred? Cultivating very talented football players who's character you hope to mature/develop, or acquiring football players who are of strong character but are lacking in the talent department?

Anonymous said... Jan 26, 2010, 3:42:00 AM

@ Rob
In my opinion, the easy preference is strong character players who may be perceived as "less talented". Why? Because while "character" people may not be able to increase their speed or vertical leap, they are much more likely to work longer and harder *together* toward a team goal, listen, learn, adapt, and I-M-P-R-O-V-E. I'm sure you remember that Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf were considered "pick-'em" #1 draft picks out of college, although Leaf had a physical "edge". But their respective character issues revealed themselves within the first week (Peyton requested the playbook and rented a studio apartment near his QB coach and practice facility, while Leaf stopped off at Las Vegas on the way to San Diego).
A perfect current Charger example is Antonio Cromartie, a physical marvel with the grit of a Barney Fife. I don't think Cromartie is any less physically "talented" than, say, the Jet’s Darrelle Revis. But after that the differences could hardly be more dramatic; its obvious that Revis studies and breaks down his opposition with his brain and work ethic at least as much as his muscles. That makes Darrelle a "baaaad man" on the football field, and Cromartie as just a perennial prospect, even though Cro may win in a track meet. Football ain't track.
Another important aspect, often overlooked, that "character" guys bring to the table is seriousness of purpose and a concentration that can optimize the learning environment for ALL their teammates, and football is (first and foremost) a *team* game. That's my opinion, anyway.
Go Bolts!
And BTW, an elite, franchise QB might always keep a team at least close (especially nowadays in the pass-friendly, absurdly QB-protected NFL), but line ANY of them up without a decent team around them, and they are D-O-N-E. Keep in mind that Peyton's and Eli's QB Dad Archie was (in my recall, at least) every bit as talented as his son's, but on a truly awful team; ditto a young Doug Williams (later a Super Bowl MVP for Washington here in San Diego) or even a rookie O.J. Simpson (Oops!!).
Personally I would take a Doug Flutie over a JaMarcus Russell any day of the week and twice on Sunday; even TODAY!!! With Flutie you get effort.

Anonymous said... Jan 26, 2010, 4:58:00 AM

I still havn't gotten over the loss.. I've been faking a smile for two weeks when I leave my house. I was there at the stadium to witness the loss. This is the second time I witnessed the Chargers lose to the Jets in the playoffs. Both times Nate Keading failed to perform in the clutch. I don't blame him totally for the loss their were too many penalties, untimely turnovers and lackadaisical effort put in by the Charger offense.

Jeff williams said... Jan 26, 2010, 8:40:00 AM

Can someone give me the cliff notes for this conversation?

Anonymous said... Jan 26, 2010, 2:32:00 PM

Mr. Williams: My apologies for going so far off-topic. To address your questions properly, I'll say;
(1) IS LT DONE AS A CHARGER? – Yes, there is no way the Chargers will pay him $7 million at his age *and* knowing that one whole side of their offensive line still can’t reliably run block. It makes no sense, and would just exascerbate the many problems this roster is facing.

(2) CAN THE CHARGERS KEEP DARREN SPROLES? – No, because of the same problems with the offensive line AND because Sproles is simply too small to be an “every down” back throughout a 16-game season and (presumably) a few playoff games. Darren is *GREAT*, but there is also the likelihood that the Chargers won’t want to pay him his current rate as a back-up, and in the free-agent market he’d probably get offered more and leave (hopefully to a top contender) to go join a team that can block for him. The Chargers will really, really miss him, L.T., and Turner.

(3) IS SHAWNE MERRIMAN WORTH KEEPING? - No, because of both his on-field problems with multiple, chronic injuries AND his ongoing off-field instabilities. I like him in most ways, but he’s not getting it done on the gridiron now (his numbers are off 70-80%!), and that’s the bottom line.
Also, Merriman’s public reprimand of A.J. for expressing the opinion that the defense looked “soft” (after an embarrassing thrashing by Pittsburgh) was beyond moronic; preferring to kill the messenger (even the boss!?) instead of facing the message. That clearly revealed Merriman as a boy among men, in a man’s business. I can’t help but notice that it’s been all about anything-else-but-football on the field for Merriman ever since. Now he’s just posing, an inflated Cromartie living off his old press clippings.

(4) THE NFL DRAFT! – This is the area where I think I went off on a tangent (sorry), recalling previous choices and their respective reasons for success or failure, and assuming to notice a decidedly downward trend in recent Charger drafts. That veered off into discussions of the relative merits of "character" versus "athleticism" in those choices, past and present, and it all got overly murky. Again, my apologies.
Go Bolts!

Stephen said... Jan 28, 2010, 2:02:00 PM

With Phillip Rivers still having potentially another 10 years with us, i'd say that one of those years we will have a decent enough defence to maybe win a superbowl or at least get to one. We need a ray lewis type who can fire up our defence. If we can pick up a truely emotional leader we might be able to may big key stops on 3rd downs and get off the field to allow rivers to do his thing.

Oyun said... Jan 30, 2010, 12:27:00 PM

Happy birthday then :)

Brian said... Jan 30, 2010, 2:56:00 PM

If anyone is thinking that Sproles is expecting to make $6 million next year, you are crazy. He's proven his worth. He'll take an offer for $2-$3 million. That's reasonable, given his value as a situational back and full-time kick returner.

I think the ???'s surrounding Merriman make him the perfect candidate for a franchise tag this year. One final chance to overcome the knee reconstruction and return to form. I'm really getting sick of people thinking that his sack stats are the only measure by which he can be judged. He led the team in QB hurries this season, and showed that he just might return to his old form once his injuries have fully healed. His new injuries are primarily a result a overcompensation for the weak knee, and they should become a thing of the past. However, he still has his off-the-field issues and some problems with AJ. If the Chargers cut him loose, I wouldn't necessarily be surprised.

To anyone thinking Phillips should be cut from the team, I don't think you are worth even responding to. Shaun's contributions resulted in AT LEAST 2 wins this year. He led the league in forced fumbles, and he also did a lot to keep the defense rolling as a unit throughout all the injuries and the uncertainty. He's a true team guy, and to look at one game where his frustration got the best of him as if that's all he does is, to be blunt, ignorant! He's very competitive, and it can happen to the best of us. But he also has freakish talent, and accepts his role on the team without fuss or fanfare. Cutting him would be as good of an argument for firing AJ that I could imagine.

To Mr. Williams, I feel I must remind you that the Chargers DO need to spend money on the RB positions. Norv's offense revolves on balance, and he NEEDS to be able to run the ball in order to free up the passing game. Despite LT's age and difficulty this year, every single team we faced STILL had a gameplan for #21. Removing that dimension to the offense would be the most surefire way to prevent this team from improving.

I stopped reading the JLM comments about the point he said he "can't see any of the '09 draft class making much of an impact." Vasquez played VERY well this year, and will only improve during this offseason. He had a very big impact this year, as I was really worried about the effect of losing Goff. I can't act surprised that our run game suffered, as Louis came from Texas Tech, but his development has been remarkable for a guy that played on the most extreme version of a spread in college. Then, of course, there was Ellison...he played EXTREMELY well this year. He might not have huge stats, but 52 tackles out of a rookie 6th-round strong safety who didn't start until game 6 (and missed 3 games entirely) is a very good first season in my book. He was a MAJOR factor in the win @ NYG, which I understand may not be very fresh in fans' minds after our playoff loss. Vaughn Martin wasn't even supposed to play this year, as he was picked with the intention of hanging with Tyronne Green in practice, bulking up and improving technique. I think he may turn out to be one of the biggest steals in the 2009 draft. Finally, I don't think many people noticed that English had just as many tackles as Merriman this year (in a LOT fewer snaps) and 2 sacks. He played better than many of us expected, given the move from DE to OLB and questions about his speed, strength and ability to drop in coverage. Aside from the Gartrell Johnson situation blowing up in AJ's face (he didn't expect the kid to get snagged by NY when he cut him, rather hoping to put him on the practice squad), the 2009 draft was an OK one for the Bolts.

Brian said... Jan 30, 2010, 3:02:00 PM

Am I the only one who looks at a lot of the team's roster moves and draft picks, and wonders if the overall plan is to implement some aspects of the old Bear46 defense in the next year or so?

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