The Chargers are Jekyll and Hyde at home and on the road. But why is that? And what specifically are they doing wrong? Here, we'll look at several areas that are, or aren't, cause for concern....
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is the original title of a novella, written by a Scottish author, which was first published in 1886. So how is the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde”, which comes from some random book, written by a Scot, so prevalent in America over a century later? The San Diego Chargers are leading the NFL in Offense (YPG) and are second in Defense (YPG). So how does a dominant team that's played mediocre competition have a record of 2-3?
The mystery of the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” becoming a commonplace American colloquialism is as difficult to explain as the Chargers’ Jekyll and Hyde behavior so far this season. The book is known for its vivid portrayal of a split personality; split in the sense that within the same person there is both an apparently good and an apparently evil personality, each being quite distinct from the other. It appears that could be a very similar description for the 2010 Chargers.
Bad Chargers. Good Chargers. Bad Chargers. Good Chargers. Bad Chargers. Each week we’ve witnessed a different performance. The high quality performances have come at home and the low quality ones on the road.
We know the Offense and Defense have statistically been consistent, but obviously there are some things the team is not doing consistently.
ON THE ROAD
Lost Fumbles: 1/3/3/2.33
Total Turnovers: 1/5/3/3
Kick/Punt Return Avg. Yards Surrendered: 27.4/42.4/22.8/30.9
Defense & Kick/Punt Return TDs Surrendered: 2/2/2/2
AT HOME AVERAGES
Lost Fumbles: 1/1/1
Total Turnovers: 3/1/2
Kick/Punt Return Average Yardage Surrendered: 18.7/17.3/18
Defense & Kick/Punt Return TDs Surrendered: 0/1/.5
Granted, it’s a small sample size. We’ll continue to track these numbers over the season to see how they trend. But so far on the road the Chargers are losing 2.3x as many fumbles/game, giving up 42% more return yards/kick, and giving up 1.5 more TDs/game on Defense and kicks!
Why is this there such a large discrepancy in these key categories on the road?
Historical numbers across the NFL, prove that there is some amount of advantage for the home team. Whether this is because they don't travel, they know the stadium particulars, the fans make a difference, or any number of other theories is unclear. What we do know is that when you take a large sample of games, the home team will score on average between two to three points more per game than the road team. Still, this doesn’t explain the mistakes.
Brian Burke from Advanced NFL Stats notes in this NY Times article that there are many theories. Crowd noise is one, but teams without large or loud crowds enjoy about the same advantage as those that do. Travel fatigue and jet lag were assumed to be a big part of it, but connections between travel and the size of home-field advantage are hard to find. He personally favors the theory that it’s primarily due to overall environmental unfamiliarity, similar to the response that most people have in unfamiliar surroundings.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU SAY, “HMMMM…”
There is the Social Facilitation Theory, which “contends that an audience creates arousal in the performer, which hurts performance on difficult tasks that have not been learned (or learned well) and helps performance on well-learned tasks”. But this theory shouldn’t really affect performance, right? After all, they’re professionals; which means they should be able to ignore any psychological effects of having a crowd cheer against them and increase the pressure to perform.
This actually seems to be a plausible theory for explaining the Chargers’ struggles on the road and I do think it’s cause for concern. The theory states that the audience can hurt performance on difficult tasks that have not been learned (or learned well). Maybe we can pin these losses and mistakes on the coaching to a large extent. The coaches prepare the players and the players play, so I’ve never been one to hold the coaches accountable to fumbles, etc. However, the players do seem to be deficient in some areas when they’re on the road. Perhaps it’s some of the fundamentals that are required for professional level performance haven’t been learned (or learned well). The coaches have to take responsibility for some of this.
Toward the end of the book, Jekyll is writing a letter. He realizes that the special potion he had been using to change back from Hyde (evil) into Jekyll (good) wasn’t working any longer. He notes that the end of his letter marks the end of the life of Dr. Jekyll. He ends the letter saying "This is the end of Dr Jekyll. Goodbye... Good..."
Let’s hope the Chargers’ tale this season has quite a different outcome. Let’s hope the coaches, or somebody, can kill off Mr. Hyde. Goodbye...Bad.
So, what do you think is to blame for the woes on the road? Coaches? Players? Football gods? A.J. Smith? El Niño?
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