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Bolts from the Past: Best and Worst of the San Diego Chargers

I love going through old game records and re-living the past. Maybe that's why I wrote this column all through the regular season. As part of that, I like comparing. When was the best of this? When was the worst of that? So along that vein, I came up with an idea: I'm going to go through the stretch of recent Charger history (call it the AJ era, 2003-2011) and find out things like, "What was the worst pass defense performance in a game?" and "What was the best run offense performance in a game?"

And then I came up with a way to improve it even more. What if I found out the best/worst performances during different important individuals' tenure (for example, quarterback, head coach, or defensive coordinator), and pit them against each other cage match style to find out who is responsible for the best and worst moments of recent Charger history?

That's what I'm going to be doing this offseason. Maybe I'll even throw in some polls to find out if fans' subjective memories match up with the objective reality (for the objective measure, we'll be using Football Outsiders' DVOA). I'll go week by week and look at the different games before putting them in the bracket. Then I'll match them up and see where it leads us. Sounds like fun!

This week, I'm going to start by asking this question: What game featured the worst pass defense by the Chargers? We'll begin by looking at the short tenure of our most recently departed defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky. There are three candidates, and the winner will be revealed at the jump. Quick, without looking, which game do you think it was?

All VOA, DVOA, YAR and DYAR statistical values are developed, calculated and reported by Football Outsiders. Their explanation can be found here.

If you guessed "Week 11: @ Chicago", you'd be correct. That game featured a pass defense DVOA of 92.2%, just barely edging out the Detroit game (91.4%), and handily beating the New England game (68.7%). Remember, for defense positive DVOA is bad.

That afternoon, we saw Jay Cutler complete 18 of 31 attempts for 286 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception, which was good for 9.2 yards/attempt and a 58% completion percentage. Now, I know what you're thinking: "That's not that bad! They did way better there than against Brady or Stafford!"

Here's the thing though: Chicago's offense sucked. Like, really sucked. Their overall offensive DVOA for the year was -15.7%, and the pass offense wasn't much better, at -15.4%. And yet the Chargers let them go up and down the field on them and hit numerous big plays. This is why it's important not to just look at raw yardage; you have to take the quality of the opposition into account. And the Bears were not very good at offense in 2011.

The Patriots, by contrast, were incredibly good at offense, so in retrospect what the Chargers allowed to them wasn't too out of the ordinary. Still bad, but not horrible given what they were capable of doing.

So there we have it: the worst pass defense game of Greg Manusky's short tenure was against our good buddy Jay Cutler and the Bears, and is our first entry in this little tournament. Next week, we'll tackle Ron Rivera's tenure, and see what game saw him the most embarrassed through the air. I hope you guys enjoyed the first installment. If I'm not lazy, I may even make a real bracket.