Tell me if you've heard this one before, because I know that I have. Like a team stuck on permanent rerun, the Nick At Night inspired Chargers have started yet another season with a 2-3 record by playing uninspired, mistake filled football. And for yet another season, there is no reason why the Chargers can't pull it together and win the division in the end. Could this be the year that the Chargers fail to recover from their sub-500 record?
Unfortunately that feeling of deja vu is not a figment of your imagination. The Chargers really have continued their early season mediocrity against the easiest schedule I've seen since the Harlem Globetrotters planned another road trip with the Washington Generals. Sure, anything can happen on the football field, but it's hard to label the Chargers inept play on the road as the result of domination by their opponents.
Strangely enough, for the fourth year in a row I feel like I'm writing the exact same column. In fact, looking back to last year's column following a similarly dreadful 2-3 start, most of what I wrote about the beginning of the 2009 season seems to apply to this 2010 season as well. Here are a few nuggets that I wrote around the same time last year (you can read the entire column from last year here- 4th And Goal With Jeff Williams):
"The most popular reason for the Chargers' downfall starts with Norv and ends with Turner."
The annual fire Norv chants always seem strongest this time of year, at least until the annual playoff implosion. Here is another strangely applicable quote from last year:
"The players share a lot of the blame for their poor play and lack of consistency, but the one thing you can't blame them for is injuries."
Injury issues are not quite as serious as they were last year (when the Chargers lost Jamal Williams and Nick Hardwick) but the Chargers have still lost key players for parts of this season (Stephen Cooper, Louis Vasquez, Ryan Mathews to name a few). Injuries effect the Chargers roster depth and roster depth effects the Chargers performance, or lack thereof, on special teams.
Lastly, my favorite quote from my 2009 post-Week 5 column:
"Norv and his players share their part in the problems with this team, but it all starts with AJ (Smith). Instead of addressing needs through free agency and the draft he ignores most free agents and consistently reaches for guys in the draft who aren't contributing. Regardless of the outcome of this season, he has to have a HUGE off-season or we will stand the chance of falling behind the Broncos AND the Chiefs in the coming years."
Ouch...perhaps I should have included Oakland in that last statement. The AFC West is still not a dominant division, but you can't deny that the Bolts' division opponents have improved. The Chargers continue to lack major contributions from recent high draft picks, and eventually the talent of the competition will pass them by.
As good as the offense and defense have been at times against average opponents, the Chargers lack of depth hurts the team and this is most visible on special teams. But depth aside, overall you have to wonder what the team is doing between games to get better. Are the Chargers coaches demanding enough from their players in practice? Are the Chargers players believing that they can ride their reputation into another post-season appearance? If previous seasons are any indication, any answer will likely lead to another division championship and an embarrassing loss in the playoffs.
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