Monday, January 20, 2014

I'm Already Missing this Chargers Team

It's hard to talk about it while Peyton Manning is still out there throwing 1 yard touchdowns and on his way to the Superbowl, but we probably really need to go ahead and talk about this season.

The bottom line is that you have to be pretty happy about the overall return on a season that those "in the know" all claimed would be some sort of rebuild or the final nail in Phillip Rivers' coffin. Even I, who pegged us at 12-4 and winning the division (a feat not so far off had we not given up a few games we had no business losing), am tickled pink by what this group was able to accomplish this year. A 9-7 record and a playoff win on the road is nothing to scoff at, even if bitter dickwads want to continue to complain that we should have been eliminated by a silly ticky-tack penalty that went uncalled and that clearly if the refs hadn't been in the bag for us the Steelers would be taking their rightful place in the Superbowl on the strength of their wicked 8-8 record. Pfft. Win more games, Pittsburgh.

Obviously there are things that will stick in our craw about the season.

1) That crap penalty the officials did call on a field goal in the first game of the season that led to an opening Monday night loss to a team that went on to garner a 14 game losing streak. Where's the outrage on that one Sports America?

2) The mere fact that we once again were forced to open on Monday night for the 3rd time in 4 years. Get used to it, I guess. Fact is, we're pencilled in there going forward because they aren't going to punish the Seahawks or the Niners with that shit.

3) That last desperate TD pass by Jake Locker to steal a victory in Tennessee. Jake Locker?! That pass made everyone believe Locker was a viable solution in Tennessee for like four weeks!

4) Moving the Raiders game to 8:30 Sunday Night because freaking baseball! I'm not going to blame that loss completely on that move, but it was still pretty weak. I mean, it's not like they just this year realized baseball is a thing. Seriously, look at half the fields in football in September. There's a frickin' baseball diamond on there and it isn't because Russell Wilson is about to start hammering dingers at halftime! He was a two sport athlete, so it makes sense.

5) The Redskins game.

6) Ryan Mathews capping off an outstanding season by being injured once again and when we needed him most. Look, injuries happen, but if they're your thing, they're your thing, and I don't know how that doesn't factor into what we decide to do with him during the offseason.

7) The coaching staff inexplicably refusing to acknowledge that the running game wasn't going anywhere without a healthy Mathews and refusing to go down field until the final minutes of our playoff loss to the filthy Broncos. That's a tough pill to swallow. And I don't think it has as much to do with job interviews as it does with a stoic refusal to bail out on a gameplan that was not paying any dividends.

That's a long list. I hate to sound gloomy there, because I don't feel gloomy about this season. Damn if there weren't things to be happy about.

1) The draft. The jury's still out on Teo, but there's still time. Next year hopefully he'll have a full training camp and be up to game speed opening day. Fluker is a monster on the line and Keenan Allen is a superstar. Everything else is gravy in a draft like that.

2) Phillip Rivers proving a lot of fans wrong. It takes a line, people. And this season we managed to field one. Rivers looked like he's got at least five years left in him. No chants for Whitehurst from frustrated fans this year. Hopefully never again.

3) The police docket. I'm not sure if you noticed, but aside from one scrub LB getting tossed by the SDPD for a barroom scuffle after the last regular season game, no Chargers showed up on the police report this season as far as I can remember. No DUIs. No domestic disturbances. No champaigne bottles upside the skull. While we may miss the on field production of a guy like Shaun Phillips, I dare say we don't miss the locker room presence.

4) Rehabilitation. When the team was 5-7 and a lot of people-myself included-had all but written them off for the postseason, nobody even wanted Melvin Ingram to try to return for the season. Why risk aggravating a serious injury for a lost season. Well, Ingram came back, contributed to great effect, and apparently gave a struggling defense something to rally around. Things never got perfect on defense this year, but they definitely showed us something in those last few weeks, and much of that starts with Ingram's unlikely return.

4) Danny Woodhead.

That shifty little SOB. You gotta love him. Especially if you drafted him late in a PPR league. His output diminished some as Mathews came on late, but what a season he had. So many people like to refer to him as Sprolesish, but Norv never used Sproles the way this staff used Woodhead. No disrespect to the very deservedly beloved Sproles, but Woodhead's performance far eclipsed anything Sproles ever did with this team. Lock him up.

5) Ryan Mathews. It's only fair after blasting Mathews for being injured during our dimissal from the playoffs, to point out what a tremendous year Mathews contributed. Protected the ball well and achieved statistically on the same level as a guy like Shady McCoy. No matter what happened to close out the post, it would be crazy not to see if you can keep this guy in the stable.

6) Competitiveness. So many of our losses by a pittance. That's a sign of a team on the come. A field goal here, a stop there. We're a team getting better, and those things will start to go our way. Being in every game means something. It'll make these players hungrier. We have guys who've accomplished those things and guys that will yearn to do so after being so close. And I think this management and coaching staff will nurture that. It's a fabulous mix right now.

7) Discipline. This goes hand in hand with #3, but this team sure seemed focused on the fundamentals this year. Protecting the ball. Controlling the clock. At times it was frustrating to watch them do things by the numbers or too conservatively, but I can't help but feel that the idea was to lay a foundation for the future. In that respect, maybe this was something of a rebuild. A rebuild with a side of success, perhaps?

And for the first time in a long time I feel like there is success on the horizon. I'm not worried that our management will decide to throw the locker room into turmoil by making an example of our most talented players in off-season negotiations. I'm not concerned that our coach will merely update the cover sheet on the playbook to read 2014. I'm excited to see what new talent Tom Telesco will bring in. I'm excited to see the way the current roster responds to this years' accomplishments and I can't wait to see what new wrinkles the coaching staff will have in store for next season. Man, it's been so long since I could say "Wait til next year" like it's a good thing, but I feel like that right now.

Thanks for a fun season, Chargers. Thanks for making me care again. Go Bolts!!!

Friday, January 10, 2014

We Should All Watch the Game on Sunday

Okay, it is getting cray-cray around here. My esteemed cohort is predicting blowouts and people I don’t even know are vociferously defending this guy’s hairdo.

Look, I get it, everybody loves Eric Weddle. I’m in. I’m with you guys. He’s been real good. He made the Pro Bowl. He’s an undersized white guy and that is national media bait. And somehow that is not at all racist! Shit is off the hook. On Inside the NFL, they mic'd up Weddle and spent the whole Chargers-Bengals segment pretending we are a defensive team and it was actually pretty convincing. We are Cinderella. We are wildcard darlings. This is playoff football. And not Norv Turner Playoff football, but pre-Turner “This Could be Real” Playoff football.

Nick Canepa is seething, Kevin Acee is begging and the real sports jerks are actually talking about us. Of course, no one out there on the national landscape really believes we have a chance. Sure, they’ll pay lip service to our “nothing to lose” status and whacky Superbowl trends like the Philadelphia Prophecy, but in actuality, no one is putting their money where their mouths are. And why is that? Because, as I said a million times before so it must be true, people who get paid to talk about sports have no cajones. There’s no skin in picking the Chargers. If you pick us, and we lose, you look stupid. If you pick Denver, and they lose, well who could have seen that coming? They like who they like and it almost always coincides with the public sentiment as it’s reflected by Vegas. Allow me to illustrate. Most people are picking the beloved Seahawks to clobber the Saints this weekend. As evidence of this, they recall the regular season loss to the Seahawks that the Saints suffered already. Conversely, the same people treat San Diego’s regular season win in Denver as a complete anomaly.

The truth is, no one knows who’s going to win. But if I were to pick us, here’s why. Peyton Manning cannot put the game in any other person’s hands. Never has been able to. We will get after him and we will rattle him and he will continue to go out of his way to prove that it’s him and his stat sheet and his lousy playoff record against the world. If they want to counter our ball control, time of possession offense they would need to apply a healthy dose of Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball.  Peyton just can’t help himself, though. He’ll throw the ball inside the five and he’ll try to convert everything through the air. That’s the Peyton way, and that’s why he usually falls short in the post.

If I were to pick the Broncos, here’s why. Ryan Mathews will not be 100%. Mathews has become the bread and butter over the last 5 weeks. Moving the chains and making plays. When he went out against the Bengals it severely hampered our ability to convert the short downs. We need to be able to grind clock. We need to score TDs in the red zone. Mathews is an essential part of this. Can we beat Manning in a shootout? Maybe. But we’ve been better when we can keep it in the trenches as well.

Given those two options, I like us Sunday (of course I do). Peyton’s ego is a certainty, but Mathews is expected to play. Look for him to finally earn that second “T” for his last name.

As for Weddle’s grooming situation, maybe my problem is that he appears to have modeled his look after this guy.

One of the worst characters in one of the worst movies ever that I cannot stop watching. Seriously, if they had a channel that just played Prometheus and Point Break back to back 24/7 I’d quit my job and in a year they’d have to remove the wall to my house and surgically remove me from my couch before taking me to the hospital in a forklift. But hey, Weddle can do whatever the hell he wants if he helps us get a championship here in San Diego.

Go Weddle! Go Bolts!!!