As we end the 2010 NFL season, we found our Chargers watching the Super Bowl from the comforts of their homes...not the situation we were hoping for. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, our beloved Bolts didn’t even make it into the playoffs for the first time in five seasons! For those who thought the misery was over, let’s take a slightly exaggerated look back at the 2010 season…
After rising to a 13-3 record and a first round playoff bye, the Chargers lost in the Divisional Round to the New York Jets, thus opening their offseason a few weeks premature. With a team that had one of the league’s worst rushing offenses (ranked 31st) and one of the most average defenses in the league (ranked 16 overall), the 2010 offseason for the Chargers was sure to be full of change. Following the Chargers policy of firing head coaches who earn one of the top records in their conference and then lose their first game in the playoffs, Norv Turner was summarily dismissed. Just kidding, actually Norv Turner was given a contract extension almost immediately following that demoralizing loss to the Jets.
Those who were dismissed from the team included LaDainian Tomlinson, who was apparently most responsible for the poor rushing offense of the Chargers in 2009. This move was seen by the front office as an apparent improvement to the team’s run-blocking.
Others removed from the team included human reproduction specialist Antonio Cromartie, who when traded to the New York Jets immediately increased their city’s population by 30%. Also traded from the team was backup backup Charlie Whitehurst, who provided the Seattle Seahawks with the clipboard support they so desperately needed. Said Charger GM AJ Smith about the Whitehurst deal, “Yes, they seriously gave us a better 2nd round pick this year, AND a 3rd rounder next year!”
In the 2010 NFL Draft, the Chargers packaged their 1st round pick with their new and improved 2nd round pick to move up 16 spots and draft Fresno State RB Ryan Mathews. Mathews was expected to dramatically improve the team’s biggest weakness, that being run-blocking. Also taken in the draft were five other talented players, all of whom were immediately placed in the Injured Reserve list.
In what eventually became the summation of the entire 2010 season, the Chargers began the preseason with the realization that their players were not good enough. Missing their Pro Bowl caliber number-one wide receiver, the team traded for Dallas WR Patrick Crayton. The veteran WR was immediately placed on injured reserve. Also absent was starting left tackle Marcus McNeill, who was replaced by The Blind Side actor Quinton Aaron, or at least an equally talented actor.
The Chargers went 1-3 in the preseason, losing to the Cowboys, Saints, and 49ers, while beating only the Chicago Bears and Tila Tequila. I’m kidding, Tila-beating was the punch line of last year’s season recap column. Unfortunately, a year-old joke was Shawne Merriman’s only contribution to the 2010 Chargers. He joined the team at the start of the preseason but was never healthy enough to make a serious contribution. Still suffering from supposed-actress-possible-model beating related injuries, Merriman was placed on Injured Reserve and eventually released. To improve their own lacking Injured Reserve list, the Bills claimed Merriman and sent him to their IR. Said Bills GM Buddy Nix, “That’ll show the rest of the league what the Bills are all about!”
As big believers in tradition, the Chargers continued their consecutive slow-starts streak by going 1-2 in the regular season in September. Hoping to instill his place in Chargers history, long-snapper David Binn was injured after a Week 1 loss to the Chiefs and placed on the Injured Reserve list. Long-snapper James Dearth was signed to replace Binn, and, when told to try to "Be like Binn," immediately placed himself on the Injured Reserve list. Ryan Neill was signed to solidify the long-snapper position, and was also immediately placed on Injured Reserve.
Beginning a season-long example of ineptitude, we saw the first of many special teams disasters play out in September. Chargers special teams gave up a punt return for a touchdown against the Chiefs, followed by a much more dreadful performance in Week 3, when the same unit gave up two kickoff returns for touchdowns against the Seahawks. And that was not even the worst of it, as the Chargers headed into an even more embarrassing October…
The Chargers went 2-3 in October, and showed some signs of being great on offense but historically bad on special teams. The Chargers routed the Cardinals and came back from behind to beat the Titans. Key to the win over the Titans was an impassioned halftime speech by coach Turner, where he rallied his team with more ill advised challenge flags.
Their three losses in October were all huge disappoints, starting with a loss to the Raiders which included two blocked punts and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. The loss to the Raiders began a series of roster changes intended to fix the Chargers’ special teams woes. Among those brought in to shore up the special teams problems and overall not-good-enoughness were LB Antwan Barnes, LS Mike Windt, Charger Girl Anjelica, and the Kathy Ireland from the movie “Necessary Roughness”.
October is also the month that Marcus McNeill rejoined the team on the active roster, while Vincent Jackson signed his restricted free agent contract tender. Jackson celebrated his greatly reduced salary by taking a shot and adding himself to the Injured Reserve list.
In November, the Chargers turned things around like they always do in November, posting wins over the Texans, Broncos, and Colts. QB Philip Rivers continued to play like an MVP candidate posting league-leading stats for yards, touchdowns, and “golly's”.
November was also the month of the Chargers annual blood drive, where Chargers players mingle with fans as they donate blood, always a worthy cause. Adding extra excitement to this blood drive, the Chargers announced that the day’s leading donor would be signed to play special teams for the remainder of the season.
The Chargers annual late-season win streak came to an early end in December, when they lost to the Raiders…again…at home. Raiders fans, assuming this was yet another Super Bowl victory (don’t they think they win it every year?), immediately reported to their parole officers.
The Chargers were able to earn their revenge against the AFC West leading Chiefs, and then beat the 49ers the following week. Other highlights in December included the annual Marine Corp toy drive. All toys collected were subsequently put on Injured Reserve. Also, the band Foreigner played before the Chargers’ regular season finale, and followed up their stellar performance by blocking a Chargers punt.
A loss to the Bengals in the final weekend in December ended the Chargers four-year playoff streak. Angry fans, booing from their couches, demanded change in the front office and/or coaching staff. In reaction to the demands of the fans, the Chargers put a few more players in Injured Reserve and signed a secret deal to move to Los Angeles. Just kidding, it was more of a verbal handshake.
With the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement looming, and much uncertainty in what this coming offseason will really look like, the Chargers enter this offseason with many tough decisions to make. The offense should remain fairly well intact, but some tough decisions may be made at the wide receiver position. Defensively, a unit that ranked number one overall in the league may have an entirely new look, proving that NFL rankings are as blind as OJ Simpson looking for the "real killer". Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is history, most of the top Chargers’ linebackers are free agents, and there are obvious needs on the defensive line and in the secondary.
The obstacles facing the Chargers are not impossible to overcome, especially with AJ Smith at the helm. Known as a free agent maverick who can replace holes in the roster almost at will…no wait, that’s the Patriot’s Bill Belichek. Well, at least we have an expert draft analyst like AJ…no wait, this isn’t 2004. Well then, with needs on the defensive line, at linebacker, and at safety, one could expect the Chargers to make a draft day deal to move up in the first round and select…a fullback.
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