Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NFL season. This team-by-team preview details why your favorite franchise might have to start looking forward to next year — and highlights at least one reason for you to be hopeful. Today: the San Diego Chargers are as screwed as ever.
Welcome to a new era for the San Diego Chargers. Kinda. Norv Turner is no longer the head coach and A.J. Smith is no longer the general manager, at least. The team that those two put together was pretty good in the mid-to-late 2000s, led by an up-and-coming quarterback Philip Rivers, MVP runner LaDanian Tomlinson and explosive pass-catchers like Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates. Those guys all played together for the last time back in 2009. Since then, the offense has devolved into one of the league’s worst, and as a result the Chargers have been mired in mediocrity and are slowly getting worse: 9-7, 8-8 and 7-9 since 2010.
A new era for the Chargers can’t begin until they start taking this “offense” thing seriously.
A new coaching staff, including head man Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, has arrived to turn around an offense ranked 31st overall last year. Only the Cardinals were worse at moving the ball. THE CARDINALS. And guess who was the head coach of the Cardinals last year. KEN WHISENHUNT. Huh? Yeah, you can’t blame Whisenhunt for having epically horrible quarterbacks on his roster, but hiring the guy who oversaw 263 yards a game last year isn’t the most inspiring move.
Not that this Chargers offense needs is inspiration. What they need is a new offense.
Here’s a basic rule of thumb about the Chargers offense: If they’re decent, they’re probably injured or about to get injured. That’s why Danario Alexander is now out for the year with an ACL tear (the fifth ACL tear of his career). That’s why Malcom Floyd’s preseason is over and he might miss a few regular season weeks with a strained knee. That’s why Ryan Mathews missed most of last year with clavicle injuries.
Here’s another basic rule of thumb: If a player is not injured, he’s probably past his prime. Antonio Gates is a legendary tight end… on the wrong side of 33. And Philip Rivers…
Philip Rivers had his chance. His window of opportunity to be great was wide open, when he was quarterbacking teams that went 14-2, 13-3, when he was throwing for over 4,000 yards a season, when he had real weapons. Now he’s this guy. While other members of his draft class have gone on to win multiple Super Bowls, Rivers has cemented himself as your typical middle-of-the-road passer. He’ll win you a few games, he’ll lose you a few others, and he won’t get you over the top. In all likelihood, he gets down on his knees every night and thanks God for the existence of J.P. Losman.
So the Chargers need to wipe the slate clean. This offense had its shot and that shot is gone. New playmakers, including quarterback and running back, need to be obtained. Hopefully McCoy does the smart thing and bombs this season entirely, putting the team in prime position for a good young QB in next year’s draft. Until then, this organization will still stink of the unfulfilled promise that Norv Turner left behind.
Why you might not be screwed: The defense is pretty good. They probably wasted a high pick on Manti Te’o when they already had a top-10 unit — especially because third-round pick Keenan Allen probably isn’t the answer on the outside — but whatever. If the defense stays solid, that will keep the team in games, particularly against division rivals. Then it’s just a matter of hoping the offense stays healthy enough to compete and the offensive line improves enough to give players time to play.
Actual season prediction: 7-9, second in the AFC West. That’s a tough schedule you guys got there. Not a ton of winnable games. Good luck.
Photo via Getty