It was easy to deny after tough road losses to the Chiefs, Seahawks and Raiders, but after losing to the St. Louis Rams and their rookie quarterback on Sunday, the situation has become clear: the Chargers are not Super Bowl contenders.
It had to happen some time.
San Diego has won the AFC West five out of the last six years, but what has it gotten them? At no point during this run has the team showed the mentality of a Super Bowl winner. Whether it has been the constant turmoil in the front office or inconsistent coaching philosophies, the Chargers have shown that they lack the details to win championships.
But there is plenty of blame to go around.
The Spanos family has shown the willingness to spend money when it was the logical step by giving out large contracts to key players, but will continue to be criticized for those they leave in charge of the team.
AJ Smith was once touted as the best General Manager in the NFL but has failed to produce a productive player out of his last few drafts. While there is an argument to be made for regression to the mean, a team that does not receive a strong influx of talent in consecutive years is in grave danger of failing. Also, his pure inability to clearly communicate with players and coaches in the organization has been legendary. Many players will tell candid stories of passing Smith in hallways without so much as a word coming out of his mouth. In an interview during his client’s holdout, Vincent Jackson’s agent said he had not even been contacted by Smith to resolve the situation by any means. It seems Smith is more set on controlling than leading this franchise.
Norv Turner is underwhelming yet again, but this time he may actually pay the ultimate price. After taking Marty Schottenheimer’s team to an 11-5 record in 2007 and making it to the AFC Championship game, Turner has seen his playoff games per year drop from three to two and finally down to a first game knockout last season. He has shown an inability to prepare his team for a very easy schedule the first six weeks of this season, and lacked the killer instinct against weak opponents – the four Chargers losses have come to teams with a combined 15-49 record in 2009.
What has become an annual struggle for the Chargers in the first six weeks of the season only accentuates the difference between Turner and the class of NFL coaching. Norv has an 11-13 record as the head coach of the Chargers in the first six games of the season. When you compare that to two of the top coaches in the NFL Bill Belichick and Andy Reid – 19-5 and 13-11 respectively over that same span – Turner does not quite stack up. (As another side note, Reid and Belichick are a combined 18-0 when coming of bye weeks in their head coaching careers) Even the major fumbling problems the Chargers have had this season eventually have to fall on the coaching staff. If one player has a fumbling problem there is a good chance that he is what’s wrong, but when it’s an entire team messing up it may just be improper technique being taught from the beginning.
While things look bleak for the Chargers this season there is still a very real chance they will win the West. Kansas City is loaded with talent and Denver has shown a dominant passing attack, but neither is built to win over the course of a season. But what will another banner hanging at Qualcomm mean when the team is watching the Super Bowl from their couches.
I’ll leave you with one final thought: Do not buy into the stat that San Diego has the first ranked offense and fourth ranked defense. Sure, the Chargers may have out gained their opponents by more than 1,000 yards on the season, but it’s all for not when coaching mistakes and mental errors are costing the team games. After all, the 1-4 Dallas Cowboys currently have the top ranked defense in the league and had one of the highest-ranking offenses before a pitiful showing against the Vikings in Week 6 – a true example of leading the league in mental errors.
Labels: NFL Season 2010 Week 7
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