Let's face it, a lot of us expend mental energy in pretending that we're an NFL player, coach or General Manager. We discuss play-call like we've been studying film for a week, break down drafts and depth charts as if we have an entire team of scouts at our disposal, and criticize players for not doing what we're able to do with them on Madden. These jobs are hard, harder than we typically give credit for, but even knowing that and acknowledging that will not keep me from daydreaming about what I would and wouldn't do if I were ever lucky enough to find myself in the shoes of Norv Turner, A.J. Smith or any of the San Diego Chargers players.
So, after the break, I'll be as clear as day: If I were Norv Turner, this is what I'd do. It is not based on stats or scouting or anything but what my eyes and brain have told me while digging through the numbers sporadically and watching each game. Join me though, because I think I have some good ideas.
I'd name a starting Strong Safety, and I'd do it quickly.
If you think that C.J. Spillman is more of a Free Safety, which is where he was listed on the depth chart last year but played a little bit at both spots, then you can leave him out of this discussion. That leaves Kevin Ellison, whom the team has openly admitted to not being real excited about, and Darrell Stuckey (rookie). Each of these guys would benefit greatly from being named the starter, and having the veterans around them know "I'm going to be on the field with you."
Let them battle it out in camp and then give each of them a start in the preseason. After week 2 of the preseason, make your decision. If Stuckey is the future there, then let him take his lumps rather than trying some SS by committee approach. He's not going to ruin the team, Ellison will always be there as insurance, and Stuckey should be well-seasoned by time December rolls around. I think one of the biggest issues Ellison had last season was not getting much time on the field until Week 6.
I'd make a plan and label it "If Mathews gets injured". Then I'd bring it to A.J. Smith.
Because there doesn't seem to be one now. Darren Sproles? Curtis Brinkley? Marcus Mason? Do any of these seem like RBs that can start a game for your team and help you get a balanced offensive attack? No. The only one that might have just the size to be more than just a receiving threat is Mason, and none of the guys besides Sproles have ever carried the ball more than 6 times in an NFL game. Sproles has gotten more than 10 carries in a game only 5 times in his 5-year career (twice in the playoffs).
When roster cuts start happening, I'd have my eye on a veteran with something left in the tank (kindof like Michael Bennett) that could be the Emergency Plan B should Mathews go down for any length of time. Despite how bad LaDainian Tomlinson was last season, we all remember how the running game dropped off even further when he wasn't on the field. It's not a good recipe for winning football to not have a plan for that.
I would be very honest with those guys that are on their last chance.
Nick Hardwick, I am a huge fan of your work. However, you haven't played in 16 regular season games since 2006. I'm not blaming you for the broken leg, obviously, but if we need consistency anywhere it's at the Center position. Please do your best to not get injured this year.
Antoine Cason, I like what I saw from you in college and the few times I've seen you on the outside. I hate to sound impatient, but as the new starter we need to see that talent on the outside immediately. Mental mistakes cannot be, and will not be tolerated. Show us why you were the best CB in college, and why the Bolts used a first-round pick on you.
Buster Davis, I have always given you the benefit of the doubt. You're young, and when you're healthy you make explosive plays. We've invested a lot of time and money into you, in hopes that you will eventually grow into your body and become a dominant stretch-the-field type of receiver. At some point this season, you will get your chance. Don't blow it.
Stephen Cooper, I know you're our captain and a very smart player. Last year, your body couldn't do what you wanted it to do. Whether that was because of your injuries or because father time is catching up, I don't know. But if it's the latter, and you can't improve, you will not be brought back.
I would fire up the troops (realistically).
I'm not stupid. This game is not what it used to be. Now it's a career, a business. You play well for a while, you get a shoe or a t-shirt with your face on it and that's more income. The more people know your face, the more jerseys you sell and the easier it is to get a job like Michael Strahan has with Fox or Tiki Barber has with NBC. The team is no longer a family, it's an office.
An office works most efficiently when it works together. Jobs get passed down from one department to another seamlessly, and work gets done on time. Morale stays high because everyone knows that they're an important part of a successful team, even if they're still thinking about that raise they want in the back of their head.
So do this for yourselves. You want to be a star? You better learn how to work with the people around you. They're the ones that are going to make you a star. Working with them is going to be your advantage when you're going up against your opponent. The more they help you, the better they look and the better you look. It's win-win.
We can win as an office. We can win as a group of individuals that understands that we can get the most for ourselves by working together. We are tired, our bodies are beaten and broken, but so much of this game is desire and heart. Do you want that big paycheck so that you can buy that house for your mom or send your kids to any school they want? Fight through the pain. Do you want that stardom so that people remember you long after your body has made you irrelevant as an athlete? Work as a team. Do you want to be introduced, for the rest of your life, as part of a World Championship team? Of course you do. Everybody does. And nobody gets there alone.
I would be Philip Rivers' best friend.
Do you need anything, Philip? Some Gatorade perhaps? A shoulder rub?