Tuesday, October 27, 2015

It's Halloween-Time: Let's Talk About Ghosts

This town is full of ghosts. When you have no tradition of success it’s hard not to dwell on the mistakes of the past, or at least those things that seem like mistakes. Hindsight is, after all, 20/20. The Padres have the ghost of Bruce Bochy, who went on to win three Series titles with one of our greatest rivals even if they don’t really consider us the same. Bochy’s ghost probably forced us to hold onto Bud Black longer than we should of, but there’s certainly reason to believe Black might become a ghost as well. The Dodgers recently fired their manager and they are a team on the cusp of greatness. They could use a ghost from San Diego just like the Giants did. Bochy wasn’t going to take the Padres to a Series and it’s unlikely that Black ever could have taken them either. The problems run deeper than that. There are foundations in baseball that make success difficult for many teams. Sure, there are always teams that rise from the depths to find a modicum of greatness, but in baseball it takes a lot of cash to do it overnight, and that kind of success is typically fleeting. True success takes time and patience in baseball, but time and patience get you fired more often than not, restarting the process before it ever bears fruit. Baseball’s ghosts can live forever if you don’t learn from them. Study your ghosts in baseball and let them make you better.

Football is a different animal with the same goal. Championships. Turnaround happens fast in the NFL, so it’s a sport where you have to give up the ghost or die on the vine. But the Chargers have ghosts. An entire graveyard’s worth of them. The ghost of Bobby Ross. The Ghost of Marty Schottenheimer. The ghost of Drew Brees and the ghost of Ryan Mathews. It’s become paralyzing and it’s cost us our identity. Rivers is every bit the QB Brees was and Brees wouldn’t have won here with Norv any more than Rivers has. And neither one of them could win it with Marty, who still looms large as the greatest franchise ghost of the millennium so far. Melvin Gordon is not Ryan Mathews just because we traded up for him and he put the ball on the ground a couple of times. We’re killing this young man’s potential while Mathews looks resurrected in Philly, to be honest. McCoy is looking less like the true successor to Schottenheimer and more like an extension of his true predecessor, Turner, whose mumble-mouthed ghost still haunts these halls as what should be a cautionary tale but will be forever at odds with Marty’s spirit. It's starting to look like McCoy needs to become a ghost soon. Telesco might be friendlier than AJ, but he seems to be just as lost at this point. AJ’s ghost is laughing at the way Eric Weddle has treated this team in crying about an extension and Telesco seems powerless by comparison. We're nearing the point where Telesco needs to be exorcised.

The Spanos family is the problem, of course. And not just because they want to move the team out of the haunted confines of Mission Valley, but because no one has been through the life and death of nearly as many ghosts in the modern sports history of this town. It’s time to forget the past. It’s time to find the future. Whether it be here or up the road, it’s time to open up the checkbook and bring some real football Ghostbusters to San Diego. Don’t be fooled when this team scraps its way up to a “respectable” 9-7 record by the end of the year. Don’t be paralyzed. As much as it pains me to say this, the new regime is not better thus far than the awful regime it succeeded and there's little reason to believe it will be. Rebuilding happens overnight in the NFL, but it takes great architects and right now that is what we are lacking. It’s time to tear down this cursed edifice and find a Michelangelo to build us a cathedral of success for it's in cathedrals that the best ghosts dwell. The alternative is so frightening that it's downright spooky. More of the same.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Silver Linings

Here we sit, at 2-4 and blaming yet another rash of injuries for our failures. I can accept that. Excuse making is human nature in today’s society. I personally believe that is a product of living in a world without accidents. Fault must always be distributed these days or how would anyone know who to sue? That’s a discussion for another day and another site. I’m here to talk about silver linings.

A lot of people would say-and I agree!-that good teams should measure themselves by how they manage against other good teams, and on that front we have fallen short. Given opportunities in Cincinnati and Green Bay, we showed that we are not ready to play with the big boys right now. But all is not lost. This is the time to find our true selves. There is not a team left on our schedule that you can say is clearly a stronger competitor than our Chargers. Even the 6-0 Broncos have warts that all but portend the certainty of their eventual collapse this season. Before you tout their impressive defense, go look at who they’ve actually played so far. A real murderer’s row consisting of offensive powerhouses like the Ravens, Lions and Browns. No one else on our schedule has more wins than we do right now. Not a one. So now is the time to assert ourselves. Now is the time to turn it around and take advantage of a league of NFL misfits laid out before us by the scheduling Gods. Some of those teams will rise from the ashes, but so must we. It’s time to be the best of the worst.

Even if we do crush it for the rest of the season, though, I’m inclined as many of you no doubt will be, to say who cares? If we make a run and find the postseason on the backs of the corpses of lesser teams, so what? Surely we’ll be swept clear by the real contenders before the playoffs start in earnest. But winning begets winning in this league. We have the talent. A string of victories, no matter who’s on the other side of the ball, can only sow the seeds of our success and assure that we rise up and reach our full potential. It can be done. There’s a lot of football left to be played. Now let’s go smash the Raiders. Go Bolts!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I’m stewing right now, as I’m sure the rest of you are after last night’s monstrous let down. There isn’t a lot to say about what led us to that loss, but I’d like to make a couple of points.

First and foremost, Chuck Pagano runs a vanilla defense. People love Pagano because he makes the “right” calls, but I can see no evidence that he has taken his players into consideration when it comes to his schemes. Down and distance seem to be the only determining factors when it comes to defensive play-calling. That’s fine, though. You can have a serviceable defense doing that, but you’ll never have a dominating defense going that route. The great coordinators take chances. Does Denver take the pressure off because Jamaal Charles slips one by here and there? Hell no, they double down on that shit. And not with rote blitz packages, but with complex plays designed to overload offenses at varying points of attack that utilize the talents of their defensive playmakers. Melvin Ingram would be unstoppable in Denver. Wade Phillips is one of the great defensive coordinators because he knows what his players are best at and what they like to do and he turns them loose accordingly. It’s no coincidence that he coordinated San Diego’s last truly great defense. But fine, we’re not going to be dominant on that side of the ball. It’s cool. We don’t have to be as long as...

…this offense is and must be the dynamic driver of this football team. I realize we have issues on the line, but then explain that beautiful opening drive for us last night and then explain to me where that offense went for two and half quarters afterwards. There are ways to beat pressure and we exhibited those at times and abandoned them at others. The strange decision to pick last night to minimize Danny Woodhead and establish Melvin Gordon’s role in the offense had a lot to do with what went wrong there. I still believe Gordon will be a very good back in this league, but with the personnel we have, what’s the rush to prove it? We need to win games. We’re not going to do that if our offensive identity is to idle through three quarters and ask Rivers to pull it out of his ass in the fourth quarter every week! Mike McCoy and Frank Reich need to be creative, but instead they are every bit as vanilla as Pagano.

This boring offense and defense combo gets you perpetual 7-9 to 9-7 seasons and all but guarantees we’ll never see a championship in this town. This team certainly won’t do it unless somebody on that coaching staff grows a pair. This story is getting old.