Last year, ESPN released it's initial Future Power Rankings, where they project where every team will rank three years from now. Here's the methodology they use, which is a pretty sound. The results, however, are a little sketchy. The Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles ranked respectively at 6 and 7, which is blasphemy. The Chargers came in at a respectable 15. Here's how they ranked for the 2015 season:
That seems fair. San Diego is coming off of a 8-8 season, Philip Rivers' first year of really struggling and questionable front office decisions. I have no complaints with that. If anything, it's a touch high.
A year later, ESPN's 2016 power rankings dropped the Chargers 10 spots to 25th. Welp. Quite the nose dive for a team that regressed only one game. The lack of depth at primary positions like secondary, defensive line probably have a lot to do with this. Not to mention consecutive years of Philip Rivers playing more like Matt Cassel than Matt Ryan.
Here's how they scored in 2016:
It's hard to assess how the coaching will be when we don't know what kind of in game adjustments new Head Coach Mike McCoy will make, or if he'll actually play his best players.
Based on the half year Tom Telesco has been the General Manager, signs are pointing in the right direction. He's drafted players who have been productive, signed free agents that can come in and help right away. He's been proactive and it's been pretty refreshing to know that this go round there's a guy in charge who's not
an arrogant asshole about proving people wrong.
Here's how ESPN broke each part down:
Roster: This used to be a roster with a lot of quality and depth -- but no more. They have decent young talent at RB, WR, LB and even D-line, but the O-line continues to be a mess. And it is really hard to find enough defensive difference makers to counteract that. The problem for the Chargers is that they no longer have the flexibility of a deep roster and that means that these young players must "hit." -- Horton
Quarterback: Philip Rivers will turn 35 late in the 2016 season. He looked like an "old" 31 in 2012, but some of that had to do with his supporting cast falling apart. The situation in San Diego had gone from stale to rotten, but Rivers should benefit from the team's fresh direction. His contract runs through 2015 and there's a decent chance he'll still be the Chargers' quarterback in three years. He hasn't missed a regular-season start since taking over the job in 2006. -- Sando
Draft: The Chargers have added a ton of value in the draft over the past few years, but they've been hamstrung by poor O-line play in front of Rivers, something they tried to address in 2013 when they added the massive D.J. Fluker out of Alabama. This is one of those teams where the talent they've accrued doesn't seem to match the results, but isn't that the storyline in San Diego every year? The Chargers have all their future picks, and I think dividends from a quietly very good 2012 class could play a role in 2013. -- Kiper
Front office: New GM Tom Telesco and new coach Mike McCoy inherit a team whose personnel really was not as good as its record. Rivers, although much maligned, kept this team afloat in a relatively weak division. There are many questions on offense. Can Ryan Mathews be a top-flight NFL running back? Can Antonio Gates continue to play at a high level and challenge Father Time? Can Keenan Allen come off injury and become a force as a rookie? Can King Dunlap, Rich Ohrnberger and Chad Rinehart get the job done on the O-line? Ironically, the offensive lineman who will have the easiest transition is likely to be first-round draft choice Fluker. The loss (to an ACL injury) of OLB Melvin Ingram is a large one. It's time for Larry English to produce. The addition of Manti Te'o, teaming with Donald Butlerat inside linebacker, gives them a good base from which to build on defense. Eric Weddle is a very solid performer at free safety, but other than that group, young players such as Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes and Marcus Gilchrist have to step up. -- Polian
Coaching: McCoy has big shoes to fill after Norv Turner was fired. A former quarterback, McCoy must help to get Rivers' confidence back. As Denver's offensive coordinator, he helped revamp the offense for both Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning, so he knows how to tailor a scheme to a quarterback's strengths. This team wasn't bad defensively, but Rivers must get back on track for San Diego to have a shot in this division going forward. -- Edwards
Based on the young core of the front 7 on defense alone, I think it'd be easy that the roster is in better shape than they suggest. It seems like this is more based on last years results, than the actual future. The offensive line is still a question mark, with four new starters and Nick Hardwick on the decline, who knows who the starting five will be in three years.
According ESPN, there's only 3 teams who have a roster worse than the Chargers. That would suggest that luck was on their side in 2012, or they had really good coaching to make up for their lack of talent. Yeah, didn't think so. When healthy, they actually have one of the deeper receiving groups in all of football to go with great youth and talent along the defensive line. Unfortunately, the depth isn't anywhere where it needs to be and that likely caused the plummet in rankings.
So, are the Chargers headed in the wrong direction as a franchise? Will El Captain be around in three years? Tough to project these things, but the worldwide leader thinks San Diego isn't as close to a playoff team as we think.