San Diego Chargers fans are really happy. They're bordering on "high on life" this offseason. I can't tell you how many times I've heard them, already, tell me about this being the best Chargers team they've ever seen.
The players are so friendly! The coach has his head on straight! The GM is a wizard! This team is destined for greatness, not like those dreaded Norv Turner years.
In all honesty, I couldn't agree more. This offseason has been a blast and the team looks ready to repeat their playoff run from last year based on the job Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy have done.
However, I had to ask myself....haven't we been here before? All at once, the answer to my question hit me, and I started laughing like a crazy person.
The 2008 Chargers Offseason
Boy, were we pumped during the 2008 Chargers offseason....and with good reason! The Chargers had all the talent, and now they had the coach to lead them!
In his first year replacing Marty Schottenheimer, Norv Turner had lead the Chargers to six consecutive wins at the end of the season to make it into the playoffs, where they went all the way to the AFC Championship Game. Here's an example of something I would've maybe written during that offseason:
If Norv could get the team to the AFC Championship Game in his first year, surely he can do even better in his second. Just think of all of the talent on this team! They have LaDainian Tomlinson, who was great in the regular season even if he faded in the playoffs, and he's backed up by Michael Turner and Darren Sproles. Young WR Vincent Jackson seems ready to make "the leap" to a Pro Bowl-level and will pair up nicely with 27-year old Antonio Gates. Buster Davis and Chris Chambers proved to be perfect 3rd and 4th options, and Davis has tons of room to grow. Philip Rivers is the perfect QB to drive this talented offense.
Oh, and the defense! The team has two stud pass rushers in Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips, two stud CBs in Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie, two stud ILBs in Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm, and Eric Weddle looked good in limited time during his rookie season.
We haven't even talked about the special teams, with Nate Kaeding making 88.9% of his FGs in 2007, Mike Scifres bombing coffin-corner punts and Kassim Osgood chasing everything down.
This team is absolutely loaded and now has the right leadership in place.
Remember how good that felt? It was the same feeling you are having this offseason.
The 2014 Chargers Offseason
New coach who brought the team to new heights in his first season after? Check. (Added bonus: Both coaches needed a late-season run of wins to sneak into the postseason.)
A GM many believed to be a wizard? Check.
Running back who had a strong regular season but faded in the playoffs, with a talented power RB and a talented 3rd down RB behind him on the depth chart? Check.
A young WR ready to make "the leap" to Pro Bowl-level? Check.
A young, talented TE? Check.
Philip Rivers? Check.
Stay calm. Stay realistic.
Yes, there are obvious differences between the teams. Specifically, on defense. That 2007 team had a much better defense than the 2013 Chargers. They also probably had a better offense. If they were the exact same team, this would be The Twilight Zone.
My main point here is that there are enough similarities between the two situations that we should probably keep our optimism in check. We can be happy about where the team is going without tearing down the past. Norv was also riding this high once. Just because things appear to be heading in the right direction after year 1 of the new regime does not guarantee success.
Where it all went wrong
So, uhh, what should the 2014 Chargers try to avoid? What was the thing that killed the momentum of that 2008 offseason?
Well, without realizing it at the time, A.J. Smith put together one of the worst drafts in history. The 2008 draft class netted the team an underwhelming CB (Antoine Cason), a below-average FB (Jacob Hester) and that's it. It also robbed the 2009 draft class of a 2nd round pick because of that Hester trade.
There's no way to tell if the 2014 draft is going to be good or bad for the Chargers. Tom Telesco kind of needs Jason Verrett to be better than Antoine Cason was, but at this point a lot of what will determine that is luck and chance.
The team also lost Merriman without really realizing it. He played less than a half of football in 2008 before missing the entire season and was never quite the same after that.
For now, let's try not to get ahead of ourselves. This offseason isn't all too different from the 2008 offseason. Mike McCoy's first year isn't better than Norv Turner's first year. Tom Telesco's first few years don't put him lightyears ahead of A.J. Smith. The Chargers, and the fans, have been down this road before. It's a good road to be on, but it doesn't guarantee that you'll get to where you're going.