The one thing that my position as Managing Editor of this community has afforded me is a finger on the pulse of the San Diego Chargers fanbase. Right now, they're not feeling real proud or happy to be Charger fans.
Last night was a horrible choke job at home, in front of a national TV (primetime) audience, against a division rival. Terrible, yes? However, the Chiefs game on Halloween/Monday Night Football last year was similar. Why didn't everyone freak out nearly this bad then? Well, because that was a fluke and the loss to the Broncos last night wasn't.
Even with a 24-0 lead at halftime over Denver, with the Broncos playing some brand of Raiders football, Chargers fans were not comfortable. Heck, I wasn't comfortable. Was it because of Peyton Manning? Well, a little bit. It was mostly because nobody beats the Chargers quite as well as the Chargers do.
Had I been watching the game with my uncle, he would've given his usual "The Chargers have a big lead at halftime" speech. It goes a little bit like this....
Okay, now. No turnovers. No stupid fumbles, no dumb interceptions and no prevent defense!! The second you start playing a soft defense against Peyton Manning, you've given him a new life. We need to blitz him and get pressure on him and make sure we don't turn the ball over. This is when good teams prove that they're good, when they put the nail in the coffin early.
He's not wrong. If there's one thing that could define the Norv Turner era in San Diego, it's the inability of his teams to put other teams away when they have the lead. This means that nobody, not even the most die-hard of Chargers fans, trusts this team anymore.
It really does come down to trust. We don't trust the Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator. We don't trust the QB or the RB to not turn the ball over. We don't trust the defense to get a pass rush. We don't trust a GM because, well, let's look at his first round picks:
- Sammy Davis, CB (out of football)
- Philip Rivers, QB (averaging 2 turnovers per game in 2012)
- Shawne Merriman, OLB (backup for Buffalo Bills)
- Luis Castillo, DE (out of football)
- Antonio Cromartie, CB (starter for New York Jets)
- Buster Davis, WR (out of football)
- Antoine Cason, CB (below-average starter)
- Larry English, OLB (backup)
- Ryan Mathews, RB
- Corey Liuget, DE
- Melvin Ingram, OLB
We can say that we're still waiting for those last three, but at least two of them look promising. However, playoff teams are built on a solid base of mid-round picks (which A.J. Smith has been good at) to support the stars taken in the first round (which A.J. Smith has been terrible at). Having Philip Rivers and Antoine Cason as your best first-round veterans is a recipe for 8-8 every season. Smith's best teams were built on a combination of his mid-round picks (Mike Scifres, Nick Hardwick, Shaun Phillips, Michael Turner, Darren Sproles, Vincent Jackson, etc.) and the first-rounders taken by his predecessor, John Butler (LaDainian Tomlinson, Quentin Jammer, Drew Brees).
As I stated in the comments of the post game article last night, Chargers fans have a lot of options for fall/winter fun. We can still go to the beach. We can go to the mountains and ski. We can go out with our friends. In places like Kansas City, those things are not options in November and December. They're stuck with their team as their source of entertainment. Chargers fans will just abandon the team, if they don't trust/believe in them, and come back later when there's something to believe in.
The rest of this season can go one of two ways:
- Philip Rivers turns back into pre-2011 Rivers and Norv Turner figures the rest out. The Chargers go on one of their legendary winter winning streaks (winning games in Pittsburgh and New York) and squeak into the playoffs.
- The team doesn't change at all and finishes 7-9 or 8-8, missing the playoffs by a game or two. Fans remain disconnected, most of the home games are blacked out in Southern California, and the cries for firing Norv Turner and A.J. Smith are the most popular conversations regarding the team.
This team has been terrible at identifying and fixing problems for ages now. They're good at finding patch-work solutions (hello, Antwan Barnes), but they're never able to actually identify what the issue is and fix it. I doubt this regime will ever be able to fix Philip Rivers, which is the only thing that could save this team. All they'll do is wait for Jared Gaither and Vincent Brown to get healthy and hope that fixes things. The fans won't be so patient.