It’s pre-season football, and hopes are high for the Los Angeles Chargers, and expectations are too! The team returns almost all of its offense from the previous season, while also adding key contributors back from injury in Tight End Hunter Henry, and Guard, Forrest Lamp. Phillip Rivers is coming off maybe his best season in his 15 year career, and was in the discussion much of last year as league MVP. The loss of receiver Tyrell Williams hurts, but with the 7th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, Mike Williams, is primed for a breakout season. Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are all young backs with different running styles and big play making ability. The Offensive Line, while notably thin, is still anchored by Left Tackle, Russel Okung and pro bowl stalwart center, Mike Pouncey.
Defensively, the Chargers boast the best defensive end tandem in the league. Joey Bosa is a Defensive Player of the Year hopeful. Melvin Ingram is a disruptive force off the edge as a strip sack specialist. The interior of the line is home to Rookie 1st Round Draft Pick, Defensive Tackle Jerry Tillery, 2nd year man Justin Jones and long-time veteran Brandon Mebane. The Linebacking core has young, rising players with Kyzir White and Ochenna Nwosu. The team resigned thumper Denzel Perriman and signed long time Carolina Panthers Linebacker, Thomas Davis. The Jackboys consist of All-Pro Corner, Casey Hayward, 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year Derwin James, Nickel Corner Desmond King, All Pro dime linebacker and safety Adrian Phillips, and 2nd round pick Nasir Adderley, who is expected to be the perfect compliment to Derwin James.
Special Teams includes the Money Badger kicking field goals and a camp battle between Ty Long and Tyler Newsome as the teams punter. The team will have Desmond King returning punts for which he scored two touchdowns last year for and got him voted to the pro bowl. The team has the roster to compete with any team in the league and continuity among starters and coaching. This has to be the year the Chargers win the Super Bowl right? Right?
Fast Forward to December 29th, 2019. The Chargers are 5-11 and hold the 6th Pick in this years upcoming draft. They lost to some really bad teams along the way. The Broncos, twice, once lead by rookie Drew Lock. They lost to a Steelers team lead by a guy name Duck, also a rookie. They were only able to score 10 points on the lions, who have given up defensively the 2nd most points per game, at 26.4. They had 5879 total yards of offense, yet only allowed 5009 on defense. Let that sink in for a second. They had 3 players score over 1000 yard receiving. Ok Ekeler was like 6 yards off, still something doesn’t make sense here.
So it’s time to play detective. Who is to blame for the chargers disastrous season. Obviously, there’s a multitude of reasons that the Bolts embarrassed themselves and their fanbase, but I want to point fingers. I want to grab my pitchfork and go on a witch-hunt looking for the culprit. How did a team with so much talent, so much to look forward to, end up with the same record as the Dolphins. The Dolphins traded away all of their talent, and were trying to tank, yet still won as many games as the bolts in 2019.
Injuries can never be to blame. Sure it plays a part, but every team has injuries. A strong football team has depth at all positions to account for the bleeding that hits everyone. If Tom Brady can break his leg, and have Matt Cassell or Jacoby Bresset still lead the team to the playoffs, then injuries can not be used as an excuse. Nick Foles won a Super Bowl as a backup just to be trash everywhere else he’s been. The Steelers remained relevant for most the season with a quarterback named Duck and and a guy who now has brain damage from attacking a defensive lineman twice his size. QB is the hardest position group to take injuries to, yet teams still find ways to win, so I can’t allow injuries to be the reason why we lost. It’s a bullshit answer anyways.
The coaching staff and front office definitely takes its share of the blame. I applaud Tom Telesco and the roster he’s built. He has swung and missed on many free agents and draft picks in his time here, but he also has some big hits. Donald Brown, Orlando Franklin, and Jacoby Jones even out signings like Casey Hayward, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Flowers. He hit on draft picks Joey Bosa and Derwin James, but wiffed on DJ Fluker and maybe Jerry Tillery. He has also hit on undrafted free agents and late round picks. I’m glad he didn’t over spend on Gordon. He has handled the situation as best he could. I like Anthony Lynn and his approach with this team. 1 bad season isn’t enough for me to put him on the hot seat. I’m glad Ken Whisenhunt is now unemployed. Shane Steichen playcalling became more interesting when he took over and I’m actually excited to see what his offense looks like next year.
I question Gus Bradley and his decision on player personal. A 36-year-old linebacker played over 90% of the defensive snaps. While he may of had over 100 total tackles this season, his stats were padded due to all the tackles he made after the catch. He was considerably slower then our more athletic linebackers like Kyzir or Drue. I’d take either of them over Thomas Davis or Denzel Perriman. Davis should be a rotational player at this point in his career. Denzel shouldn’t be here next year. Gus chose veteran leadership and awareness over athletic ability and development. Im hoping he changes that stance next year.
Gus has built the defensive line to get pressure on the QB at the DE and DT positions, without many blitz packages. The issue is it isn’t working at the DT position. Jerry Tillery was drafted to make it happen, yet he was almost non-existent, and I would have like to have seen Isaac Rochell there instead. Tillery is very tall and lanky and, not what the Chargers envisioned him to be. Desmond King did not play well this year, and made some questionable attempts at catching punts leading to turnovers. I’d like to see him do more then sit in the slot and I think he has room to grow. I’m not totally out on Gus yet, but this defensive philosophy isn’t exciting,and more importantly, non effective.
Everyone points to the offensive line. I have to agree, at least to the degree that our tackles were the worst in the league. Looking at what Tom Telesco envisioned, I can’t really say that it tells the full story. Russell Okung isn’t Joe Thomas or Tyron Smith, but he’s a quality player that I trust on Phillip Rivers blindside. Dan Feeney was a 3rd round draft pick, and a young guy who is being groomed into his role. He will be the starter next year with 3 years of experience and growth. He’s not been great, but the offensive line problems don’t fall on him. Mike Pouncey is easily the best player on the line and isn’t given the credit he’s due. He’s a top 10 center in the league and Scott Quessenberry filled in nicely for him after injury. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bolts let go Pouncey and rolled into camp with Quessenberry at center.
Schofield was an average starter and Lamp has barely any experience playing, and that falls more on the coaching staff than his availability. He’s a 2nd round draft pick that the team wrapped in bubble wrap last year, and he wasn’t given an opportunity this year until the week before he broke his ankle. He should of had more opportunities. That leaves Sam Tevi, Trey Pipkins and Trent Scott, who took over after Okung’s Pulmonary Embolism. I can’t say much more then they were both really awful. The problem of the offensive line falls on the tackles. Especially for Tevi, who as the incumbent starter, wasn’t trusted with Rivers blindside. Still, even for how much pressure Phillip Rivers saw off both edges this year, he was the one who threw 20 interceptions last year.
How dare I? Well facts are facts. Phillip Rivers himself threw so many games away. You don’t throw 20 interceptions and have a winning season. Yes the offensive line forced some errant throws, but many of Phillip Rivers bad passes came when he has plenty of time to throw. He let loose some really mind boggling 50-50 balls into double and triple coverage. He is the reason for the Chargers 2019 season. In fact, i’ll take it a step further. The Phillip Rivers is responsible for all the 1 score losses over the past 10 years and there’s been a lot of them. Trust me, I have watched most every game over the past 10 years.
He’s a gunslinger, and a gunslinger has to do what a gunslinger has to do. But Phillip has put this team in some really bad situations. I love the man, but it makes you wonder if he’s really the best option for the team moving forward. Can he still play? I believe so, but he needs to change. I would like to see him take a step back as more of a game manager, then “the guy.” He has so many weapons, but he’s a turn over machine. Trust you team, trust your receivers, but also protect the ball, and stop trying to win the game from behind.
Look at the games where Phillip protects the ball. Indy, Miami, Jacksonville, Green Bay, which is a really good team. Minimal turnovers and all wins. Go back to last year and you’ll notice that the games the chargers lose all have multiple turnovers. We live and die by that Alabama arm. Where Phil’s decision making gets really dicey is in the 4th quarter on the final drive of a 1 score game that seems to be every game. There was actually a game where he went 4 and out, had a penalty give him a 1st down and he went 4 and out again. Thats hard to do. The fact of the matter is Phillip Rivers keeps the game close, and keeps hope alive, but he hasn’t been a reliable closer since his younger days, and its been heartbreaking to watch.
So there it is. Phillip Rivers is your murderer. Case closed.