This was not a post I wanted to pen. I thought long and hard about how to approach this; and after a good 27 minutes and a string of emails it still remained as it was. I thought, "Approach this creatively. Self, be creative." Yeah, that thought was extinguished rather decisively. I then thought, "Go for anger, yes, anger." And again, extinguished rather quickly. You've played that card out. So I settled passively and selected my angle. Honest feelings. Sucks, doesn't it?
Sunday morning was a glorious day out here in the town. Rolled out of bed dodging text messages about where and with whom the Bolt party would be taking place, and responded to most of them, "I'll be watching at home so I can curse at the t.v. in peace." And curse I did.
I'm not going to waste my time and yours with a full recap. Read any of the game recaps from this season, or even last season particularly during the first half of the year. Read any recap from any time of any year where losing was en vogue and shitty football was the recipe. There were some particular moments in this one that I will focus on later, but if I was grading this game I'd give it an F. Well, maybe an F+. Which as we know is like trying to watch porn in church. Totally pointless.
I held my breath in anticipation of Lord General Corleone's 2nd Quarter evaluation speech all day Monday. Nothing. I immediately popped open the computer Tuesday morning just for the sake of seeing if The Godfather had bestowed his words of wisdom, talking us off of the edge of the win wagon poised to leap as it careened out of control. Still nothing. Just strange silence. Then in an unprecedented move, we heard from the Dark Smith Lord. The axe finally fell. On the defensive coordinator. Ted, you will not be missed.
Replacing Teddy will be Ron Rivera, formerly of the Chicago Bears. Ron was interviewed prior to last season for various head coaching vacancies. Word was he'd make a fine head coach for any professional organization. The offseason came and went and Ron had not been selected for any of the vacant lead posts. In fact, he didn't even catch on as a Defensive Coordinator. He became our linebackers coach under Ted Cottrell.
Needless to say that if you'd like to focus on two of this team's most unflatteringly glaring weaknesses, first you'll have to ignore the lead incompetent and turn your gaze to the defense. The aspects of the defense that include but are not limited to, the pass rush and the linebacking. It's safe to say that both were demonstrably attributed to 'schemes' or a lack there of. Ted maintained that his 'schemes' did not change from last season. And I'd submit that they hadn't, during last season's slow start the defense looked eerily similar. It seemed as if there were a turning point last season, Teddy, newly motivated, turned the beasts free and an 8 game winning streak suddenly reared its mighty head. Turns out Ted may have not played any different schemes this year, but would he have, he may still be employed and we may not be 3-5 heading into a bye week I'm not sure we aren't going to lose.
Enter Ron Rivera to save the day. Mentor and coach to what would be the worst group of linebackers I've seen in Bolt uniforms in some time. Color me not impressed. Perhaps something should have been seen as wildly amiss, when as a favorite for a head coaching position, Rivera struggled to even find an assistant's job. I've heard of people not being good interviews and having that impact their ability to find work. Ron must have done something wholly inappropriate in order impact his employment status so dramatically. Thankfully, our excellent judges of character, namely the Spanos' found Ron a home here. And lo and behold, he's now by default the defensive coordinator. A defensive coordinator that couldn't coach the linebackers basic fundamentals of tackling again evidenced on Sunday. A linebacker coach that couldn't coach the linebackers to cover space in slant routes, cutting off angles, or teach them to protect the soft middle of the field. Might as well hire Lehman to manage your Washington Mutual deposits.
Much like the departure of the last head coach, this felt like a reactionary move that didn't really address the true problem. And to a degree it was. Does the defense have problems as hard to ignore as tits on a bull? Yes. Is this the move that will save the disaster that has become the first two quarters of the season, or where I come from a half season? That remains to be seen, but there are many other items that need to be addressed as well. Someday I'd like to see that bull though. I do like tits.
The elephant in the room is still the lead incompetent. I'm not willing to ignore or make excuses anymore for Norv Turner. His record was less than stellar prior to coming to San Diego. Better than 20 games under .500. Since becoming the head man here, his legacy as a loser has hardly been changed. As the driver of the Win Wagon, he's managed a 14-10 record. A 3-5 record with a team that has been described in the last calendar year as many things, 'superbowl favorites', 'most talented team in football', 'deepest squad', 'promising with a large window of opportunity', 'young and built to win'. Take your pick, they've all been used at one point or another. Yet, Norv, described as never having anything to work with in Washington and Oakland has managed to take our highly cliched, and heavily talented football team and steer them into a 3-5 record halfway through the season. Or as A.J. would put it, two quarters in. That my friend is a loser. Cemented by a legacy of losing. There is really no disputing that. He is not a leader. He is not a motivator. He is not a coach. He is an offensive coordinator. Coaches make a difference. Good coaches do not go on losing streaks as Turner has historically done. This man turned a Redskins team that started 7-1 (1996) into a 9-7 football team. He continued to turn the same Redskins franchise into a 7-6 team after a 6-2 start prior to being summarily fired before seasons end.
The discussion I've had a few times today is what to make of this. How deep does this loser mentality permeate the organization? Can it be measured? I say no. Is it obvious that there must be some correlation here? To me, I think it foolish to ignore that someone who is tainted by losing doesn't bring that in some way to the table each and every week. At each and every practice he leads, during each and every game. It's a stench that cannot be cleansed from his approach. It should not have been ignored during his hiring, and it should not be ignored now.
A.J. seemingly got his man. A man that would be a non factor in decision making with regard to personnel. Just run your offense Norv, seemed to be the message. Fear not, no one is asking you to be a leader, or to do the intangibles like making adjustments when plan A is no longer effective. Just captain the Win Wagon in the right direction and all praise will be heaped upon the Bad Ass Motherfucking John Wayne Cowboy Mafia Boss Corleone General Manager A.J. Smith. Dark Lord Smith for putting together this deep, talented, built through the draft home grown genius battleship of a football team. So, why is Norv not being held feet to the fire strung up in the town square by his neck as Marty seemingly was the entirety of his tenure here? Because Merriman is hurt? Injuries in the AFC Championship game? You can't tell me about the genius that is A.J. building the deepest team, and then in the next breath say we're not deep and can't overcome injury. Jyles Tucker got an extension for what I still don't know and there has been crazy talk that we won't be resigning Shawne Merriman. If Tucker really is the second coming of Merriman, how can you blame injury for our defensive woes? Perhaps we should revisit the fact that Marlon McCree is no longer with the team. A veteran leader playing safety has been replaced by a second year draftee who to date should be widely criticized for not being a professional football ready player. On Sunday, he received a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty for celebrating an interception with a hardly entertaining dancing fit epileptic in nature. Compounding the problem was that he celebrated an interception he didn't even make that was overturned via replay after having additional time to see the play on the jumbotron. I guess you really do need to wait three years to evaluate a draft.
That being said, we gave up some picks for both Weddle and our first round pick this year , Jacob Hester (Ed Note: Yes I'm an idiot, he was our third round pick, Cason being number one), who has yet to see the light of day in the regular season to any degree. To date, a third round draft pick who has 2 carries for 3 yards. Quite an impact player no? I hesitate to wonder where this is all going. Sure, many of A.J.'s moves have been successful, Merriman, Castillo, Rivers, need not argue any of those. Even Antonio Gates, who he signed as a free agent, then made demands of during a contract negotiation that went south and set an ultimatum for Gates to report or be suspended. Gates failed to meet the deadline, was suspended, and the game which he missed was lost. What needs to go not unnoticed are the other moves, the release of Marlon McCree, the release of Lorenzo Neal, and the ungraded last two drafts as well as the future drafts that are affected by having fewer draft picks as a result. The future doesn't look so bright I need shades to quote a relatively obscure Canadian pop icon that contributed to the downfall of American Music. IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT COREY HART!!!
I find it entertaining that the last time we had this modern day cowboy type for a general manager, and heaped praise on him for his drafting philosophy and successes, he was eventually run out of town tail tucked firmly between his balls after failure after failure mounted up and the future of the squad had already been mortgaged. We called him Bobby Beathard. Are the Weddle's and the Hester's of this new class the updated versions of the Mikhael Ricks' and Brian Still's? Still to tough to say, but parallels be damned.
Again, after all the doom and gloom I watched a football game Sunday morning. I saw some more of the same and a bit of the unfamiliar. I was tremendously irate with a 3rd and 5 running play on the game's potentially tying drive, that drew a net of two yards and put us in a 4th down situation, limiting the play book. I hated that call and we know where that came from. I did however enjoy the resurgence of LTD. His greatest game of the season, real passion showed from him for the first time in a while. I was a little disappointed they didn't screen him more, yet I'd let that slide. I liked seeing Gates finally getting involved to a degree in which I recognized him. I didn't like Vincent Jackson's dropped 72 yard touchdown pass. I didn't like that at all. I was mostly disappointed all the way through though, and it didn't get any better when it was over.
I took a bike ride to a local watering hole to grab a beer and try to forget the most recent debacle. I was doing a bit of a fishing expedition as well, to gauge the fervor of the fans, the ones proudly displaying Bolt Blue with their favorite numbers adorning their backs. Most everyone was disappointed but optimistic. Some had derogatory things to say about some aspect, the refs blowing the Cletus Gordon pass interference call, only one mentioned the coaching. I asked a trio of jersey clad 'locals' what they thought of the coaching. If they in fact thought that anything needed to be done. The response was, "You're off the bandwagon already? Typical don't you think? First sign and you're gone huh? Good. Stay off dude."
Yep. That's what I got as a response. Instead of pursuing a situation where I crack a barstool over his head, I just nodded and acknowledged that no I was not in fact off of the bandwagon, but I had in fact hijacked the fucking thing and I was careening it into the nearest fire engulfed brick fucking wall. Yep, it's all my fault and I'm willing to take that responsibility on my own. Norv, you are off the hook for at least two weeks, this one's on me...