In 2009, the chargers went 13-3. Despite a tragic playoff loss, it's evident they were a good team. The Chargers of 2012 are sadly not. The question every charger fan is asking (along with Dean Spanos) is this: are they struggling because too little talent has been brought in, thus implicating the GM? Or have good players been provided and simply under-coached?
To explore this, I'd like to compare the 2009 and 2012 rosters. A while back John wrote a similar post comparing 2008 and 2009. See: http://www.boltsfromtheblue.com/2009/9/6/1018033/san-diego-chargers-roster-2009-vs
I've used his format here, and copied his lists of the 2009 rosters, (thanks John) . Same as Johns original post, we'll look at each group, and rate it as better or worse than 2009. We'll also take a quick look at roster turnover.
So, has AJ fielded a team of scrubs, or is Norv misusing the talent he has? Lets find out. First up: The Offense.
Position Group Comparison
QB (2012): Rivers, Whitehurst
Verdict: I'm not ready to say Rivers can't return to his previous elite form. Tie.
Verdict: Worse. I’ll take 2012 Mathews over 2009 Tomlinson, but Tolbert and Sproles brought much more to the table than the current backups.
Verdict: Were it not for Alexander this would be an easy 'worse'. Because of him, and because Vincent Brown is showing more promise than Buster Davis, we'll go with 'Better'.
Verdict: While Gates is older, the depth behind him has definitely improved. Better.
OT (2012): Clary, The-Ghost-of-Gaither, Michael Harris, Dombrowski
Verdict: A seldom-seen left tackle (does he really exist? or is he just a concept at this point?) , a guy who "might could be good one day" and a declining Clary. Worse.
G (2012): Green, Vasquez, Rex Hadnot, Troutman
Verdict: The loss of Dielman hurts. Worse.
C (2009): Nick Hardwick, Mruczkowski
C (2012): Hardwick, David Molk
Verdict: Hardwick is still playing well, tie.
In a surprise to no one, there seems to be a net loss of talent on the offense side of the ball. Most troubling is the inattention paid to the offensive line. Pro bowl talent has been replaced with 2nd stringers, and struggling starters have not been pushed. The young skill-position players such as Mathews, Alexander, Brown and L. Green show promise, but veteran free agents have underperformed.
Starters returned from 2009: 5 (Rivers, Gates, Hardwick, Vasquez, Clary)
2009 backups who are now starters: 2 (Floyd, T. Green)
I find this stat somewhat worrisome. It shows that while the 2009 starting roster was good, the depth behind it was just that, depth. Players slotted as 'the future' seem to have simply slid off the roster.
From a talent perspective AJ Smith has allowed the offense to erode. You could make the case that some of the players have not been coached up (EX: underutilization of Mathews). But would Tyronne Green and Jackie Battle be All-Pros under a different coach? I don't think so. When it comes to the offensive struggles, I believe most of the fault can be laid at AJ Smiths feet.
What says the community? Let me know in the comments and the poll if you disagree with my analysis, and your thoughts on the position groups. Also, 2009 was a ways back, so if I've incorrectly listed a player, shout out and I'll update the post.