After three consecutive impressive victories, some people are starting to wonder if maybe we got ahead of ourselves a month ago when we called for Norv Turner and A.J. Smith to be fired "no matter what". Maybe the circumstances were simply wrong and now they're being made right.
Here's what the 2011 San Diego Chargers have had to deal with:
- Losing their highest paid defensive player (Luis Castillo) in Week 1.
- Losing their Kicker (Nate Kaeding) in Week 1.
- Losing 3 Linebackers that were expected to contribute (Jonas Mouton, Stephen Cooper, Larry English) early on in the season.
- Losing their Pro Bowl LT (Marcus McNeill) and Pro Bowl LG (Kris Dielman).
- Losing their starting SS and key offseason free agent acquisition (Bob Sanders) early on.
- Having their Pro Bowl TE (Antonio Gates) miss games or play at half-speed (without practice) due to injury.
- Having their top two WRs (Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd) miss games and plenty of practice time due to injury.
- Having their Pro Bowl QB (Philip Rivers) go through the worst 6-game stretch of his career without any real explanation.
- Having a brand new Defensive Coordinator and new Special Teams coach, without the benefit of an offseason to install their schemes.
There's no denying that the team playing now is a good football team. The injured guys are gone, their roster spots filled by healthy and hungry kids, or have gotten healthy. The fate of this team always rested on the shoulders of Philip Rivers, and he's showing once again that he's capable of handling that. If he were to come out and say that he played through most of this season with an injury (say, a broken collarbone) that, plus the rest of the injuries, would lead me to place the blame of that 6 game losing streak on the doorstep of the training staff (and, to a lesser degree, luck).
Still, Rivers says he wasn't injured. That it was simply a rough patch (maybe caused by the lockout?) and now it's done with. It's obvious that there's something here that works when the players are healthy. Is it worth blowing up? Is it worth franchising Vincent Jackson once more and letting everyone stay around with a new training staff?
What if the Chargers (currently with a <15% chance of making the playoffs) squeak into the playoffs and make it all the way to the Super Bowl? Did we make our minds up too early?