The Chargers lost to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, ending the Bolts bid for their 5th straight AFC West Championship and, more importantly, eliminating the team from the playoffs. And in a game that the Chargers knew they had to win, their play Sunday was representative of their entire season, led by costly mistakes, key injuries, and an inability to stop their opponent when they needed to the most.
Obituary: San Diego Chargers, 2006-2010
The 2006-2010 Chargers were a team that preferred to live on the edge. We may never know if it was the excitement of fighting for their playoff lives each and every year, or if slow-starts were just part of their mental makeup, but the Chargers were perpetually slow starters, who would consistently fight back to win the division and hit the playoffs running.
Through a head coaching change and more roster turnover than one would expect from a perennial playoff contender, the 2006-2010 Chargers consistently featured one of the top offenses in the NFL, averaging over 25 points a game during that five year span. Once one of the youngest and most talented teams in the NFL, it seemed that this team was headed towards establishing itself as an NFL dynasty. Instead, an unreasonable lack of heart and focus seemed to ruin most every opportunity in the post-season.
Looking back on the life of the 2006-2010 Chargers, the 2007 season may have been the team's best opportunity to bring the Lombardi Trophy to San Diego. Playing the undefeated New England Patriots, the Chargers had a shot to bring down the odds-on favorite Patriots. But a serious ACL injury to Phillip Rivers, as well as injuries to Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson effectively kept the Chargers out of the end zone and ultimately out of the Super Bowl.
History will surely look back on the 2006-2010 Chargers as one of the best teams ever...to not make it to the Super Bowl. Over the last five years the Chargers may have been picked by preseason prognosticators to go to the Super Bowl more than any other team in the NFL. Unfortunately, with each passing year Chargers fans became more uneasy about their teams' chances, and rightfully so. Over the last five years, the Chargers' postseason record has been anything but spectacular.
In the 2006 season, the Chargers could not win a single playoff game, losing a heartbreaker to the New England Patriots following a first-round playoff bye. In the 2007 season, the Chargers won two playoff games before losing in the AFC Championship game. In 2008, when the Chargers went 8-8, the team won one playoff game. Last season, the Chargers went winless again in the playoffs. And this season...no playoff games to worry about losing.
For a team that had such high hopes, with incredible talent on the roster and an offense that seemed to be able to score at will, you can only look back on the 2006-2010 Chargers seasons as absolute failures. It's not just the fact that the Chargers could never go all the way, but it was really how the Chargers lost important games with everything on the line. Prior to 2010, the Chargers consistently beat themselves with ridiculous mistakes and unacceptable penalties. In the 2010 season the Chargers still had the ridiculous mistakes and unacceptable penalties, but for the first time in years, the Chargers were also beaten down by teams that just played better, exposing a lack of heart and depth that had been growing like a cancer within this team for years.
It is that lack of heart and lack of depth that should have Chargers fans most concerned in 2011? Can the Chargers front office make the changes necessary to put the team back on the right track? Only time will tell, but at this point the Chargers are a team in decline.
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