Another season has come to a close, with the Chargers finishing 2009 on an 11-game win streak only to lose once again in the playoffs. For those just getting over the misery of another early playoff exit, sit back and enjoy the 2009 season in review...
Following a Divisional -Round playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Steelers, the Chargers settle in for a long, hard look at what turned out to be a mostly disappointing 2008 season. After being handed the AFC West crown by the biggest Denver nosedive since John's last flight, the 8-8 Chargers had to figure out if they were a team on the rise, or a team falling back down to the dregs of mediocrity.
In the 2009 NFL Draft, the experts speculated that the Chargers would be taking a running back, an offensive lineman, or a defensive back. As a big fan of NFL Draft experts, the Chargers AJ Smith selected a defensive end, Larry English, and told him that he would be playing linebacker. And to continue the trend of injuries that persisted throughout the previous season, the Chargers drafted injured WR Demetrius Byrd with their final pick. Said GM AJ Smith, “Injuries are a part of the game, and we will continue to corner the market in them!”
It was a mostly uneventful preseason, with the Chargers going 2-2. In an effort to increase the effectiveness of LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers gave their star running back his first substantial preseason playing time since his days playing for the Waco, TX YMCA. The Chargers only had one significant injury during the preseason, losing backup defensive tackle Ryon Bingham for the season. To provide depth on the defensive line, a trade was made to acquire Travis Johnson, who had battled injuries for most of his career. Upon joining the Chargers, Johnson promptly hurt himself.
Shawne Merriman made headlines early in the month for mistaking Tila Tequila for a mentally stable, somewhat attractive celebrity. Said Merriman, who was accused of beating Tila, “I apologize to all my fans, because I thought that girl was actually a shorter Hines Ward. Lasik, here I come.”
The Chargers went 2-1 in September in regular season games, with wins over the Raiders and Dolphins, and a close loss to the Ravens. In the loss to the Ravens, coach Turner’s play-calling came into question when he chose to rush himself up the middle on 4th down, promptly getting stuffed by the Raven’s Ray Lewis. Almost as disappointing was the Chargers win over the Raiders. Playing as if this was a Wednesday walkthrough, the Chargers played touch football and got pushed around and beat up by the more physical Raiders, losing starters Nick Hardwick, Louis Vasquez, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jamal Williams, a water-boy, two hot-tubs, and Norv Turner’s lucky rubber ducky.
It was in the month of September that Norv Turner issued a motivational speech on-par with the likes of the greats of this country. Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, even Martin Luther King Jr. would have been lucky to match the eloquence of Turner when he said, "I don't think right now we're as good as you that cover us think or expect us to be; I don't think we're as good as what our fans want us to be." That was on par with Donald Trump saying "I like money," or Rosie O'Donnell saying "I like cheese fries."
In October, the struggling Chargers went 1-2. They suffered an excruciating loss to the Steelers to kick off the month. While the Chargers mostly got beat on both sides of the ball in Pittsburgh, one play worth noting involved the Chargers' special teams. After a Chargers' punt, Jacob Hester stripped the ball from the Steelers Tila Tequila and returned it for a touchdown. A disappointed Tila left the game and tweeted "I was not ::hiccup:: drunk!" and then made out with ESPN's Suzy Kolber.
In what was seen as the game that would determine the rest of the season, the Chargers returned from their bye week ready to trounce the Denver Broncos. Most Chargers fans called this a must-win game over an AFC West rival, and the Chargers lived up to the hype. Until kickoff, where they promptly lost to Denver to fall 27.5 games behind the current AFC West leader. Only a colossal collapse by the Broncos, unlike anything seen since way back in 2008 could help the Bolts get back into the playoff race. And a win against the Chiefs the following week was the first step toward recovery.
October saw the Chargers continue their 2009 season theme, "Hurt for all and all for hurt!", with an injury to Antwan Applewhite sending him to the IR, and injuries to Merriman and Kevin Burnett slowing their seasons. In other news, Clinton Hart was released after 6 years with the team because of his believable impersonation of a special teamer playing strong safety.
The Chargers carried their season-long one-game win streak into the month of November, where they eventually went 2-2. Just kidding Chargers fans! You probably already know that they went undefeated in November, winning 5-games using the proven strategy of starting players no one has really heard of. Mainly due to injuries, Chargers players who saw significant playing time in the month of November included Kevin Ellison, Paul Oliver, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Aaron Boone, Kris Wilson, Scott Mruczkowski, Brandon Dombrowski, and LeeLee Sobiesky. Again, I'm kidding! That wasn't actress LeeLee Sobiesky trying to tackle in the backfield, that was Antonio Cromartie.
The month of November also saw the premier of the "wild-frog" formation, with former TCU Horned Frog LT taking snaps behind center, and then sitting on his lilly pad until his offensive line remembered how to run-block. Wide receiver Chris Chambers was also released in November, amid news that he was cheating on his wife and teammates with none other than Tila Tequila. Chambers' release came before he was able to officially become the 1000th member of the Facebook group, "Chargers Who Make Dumb Decisions".
On a positive note, it was in this month that Philip Rivers led his team to a last-minute victory over the New York Giants, forcing the national media to continue to blame Rivers for Jay Cutler being a total tool. Said Eli Manning after yet another loss to the Chargers, "Drool, Duh, Snorrrrrrt, Drooooooool."
Not to be forgotten, the Chargers released their list of the 50 Greatest Chargers, a list of some of the greatest players ever to never win a Super Bowl. Left off the list was former QB and occasional fugitive Ryan Leaf, who's poor play made him the person most responsible for many the Pro Bowl players the Chargers have on their roster today. Who said nothing good came from the drafting of Leaf?
Moving ahead to complete their list of the 50 Greatest Injured Chargers, Jerome Clary, Eric Weddle, Kevin Burnett, and Luis Castillo all missed significant time due to injury.
The Chargers took a 6-game win streak into December, with their eyes set on the playoffs and the Pro Bowl. While the team clinched their 4th consecutive AFC West title, which is as many titles as the Raiders have averaged wins in the last four seasons, players like Antonio Cromartie tried to pump up their Pro Bowl bids. Proving that marketing is more valuable than tackling, Cromartie took to Twitter to solicit votes for his Pro Bowl campaign, successfully earning a 3rd alternate selection.
In an exciting Christmas Day game, the Chargers beat the Titans 42-17. While the Chargers put their dominant offensive capabilities on display, the Titans, who left their playbook in their other pants, could only call one play: 34-Power-Chris-Johnson-needs-2000-yards.
And it wouldn't be the Chargers without a number of significant players out due to injury. Shawne Merriman, Eric Weddle, Luis Castillo, Scott Mruczkowski, and Jacques Cesaire all missed time due to injury. For those keeping score, the Chargers used 127 players just to make it through the season (for comparison, the Raiders had as many coaching staff fight-club injuries throughout the season).
Having locked up their spot in the playoffs as the AFC #2 seed, the Chargers took their final week off to go to Seaworld, beating the Redskins 23-20. In the two weeks between the end of the regular season and their first playoff game, LaDainian Tomlinson released his viral video campaign for Nike entitled "Pants On The Ground", a tribute to his offensive line's run-blocking techniques.
In their first playoff game, the heavily favored Chargers faced off against the Jets, who squeaked into the playoffs on the strength of everyone letting them win. As expected, the Chargers destroyed the Jets, and tore through the Colts in the following week to face the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. I'm sorry, I meant Super Bowl LXXV, played in the Golden State Retirement Community (home of the Golden State Raiders!). No, this season the Chargers actually lost to the Jets in one of the greatest mental breakdowns since Gary Bussey did anything.
Speculation about potential roster changes is running rampant with the looming expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. The Chargers have a number of key players who should remain the property of the Chargers for another year before any decisions have to be made regarding long-term commitments. Still, players like Merriman, Cromartie, Jackson, and Clary are on the hot seat due to injury, inconsistent play, and poor judgment. It is all but certain that LaDainian Tomlinson will be released, a move that will obviously fix the teams run-blocking problems. That's what we call thinking outside of the box.
In other outside of the box roster moves, the Chargers will also trade Cromartie for a toaster- "It's cheaper and tackles as well," said coach Turner. They will allow Merriman to return and earn the astronomical long-term deal that they are unwilling to pay him. Inspired by the movie "The Blindside," Vincent Jackson will be adopted by the Spanos family and converted into a right tackle- "I'm not sure, but I think his problem is that he just doesn't make enough money yet," said team President Dean Spanos. And Jerome Clary will stick around because AJ Smith will not draft an offensive lineman in the first three rounds, instead choosing three running backs. You know, to improve the teams run-blocking.
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