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Grades for the 2014 Regular Season

As befitting a team with a 9-7 record, and an identical number of points scored and points allowed, the 2014 Chargers graded out as a pretty average football team.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Season Grades

Opponent Score Result QB RB Rec OL DL LB Sec ST Coaching
Week 1 at ARZ 17-18 L C+ C+ C C B B B A- D
Week 2 vs SEA 30-21 W A B A B- B B B B+ A-
Week 3 at BUF 22-10 W A- C+ B+ C+ B+ B B+ B B
Week 4 vs JAX 33-14 W
Week 5 vs NYJ 31-0 W A- A- B+ B A B+ A B A
Week 6 at OAK 31-28 W A B+ A- C D+ C C+ B C-
Week 7 vs KC 20-23 L C+ B C+ D C- D+ C- C+ D-
Week 8 at DEN 21-35 L B- C B D D D- D+ C+ D
Week 9 at MIA 0-37 L F F D- F D- F D- D- F
Week 10 BYE
Week 11 vs OAK 13-6 W C- C+ C+ D+ B B B A- C-
Week 12 vs STL 27-24 W B A- B+ B- C+ B- C+ C- B
Week 13 at BAL 34-33 W A C- A C- C D D+ D C
Week 14 vs NE 14-23 L D- C D+ F B B+ C+ D D
Week 15 vs DEN 10-22 L F C- C+ B- B- B- C+ C- C
Week 16 at SF 38-35 W B- B- B B- F D+ C+ C C-
Week 17 at KC 7-19 L C B- C+ D- B B- B D+ F

Note: There are no grades entered for the Week 4 home victory against Jacksonville, as I was on vacation at the time. It's likely that most all positions would have received a positive bump in the grades if the results of that game were factored in.

Second, here's the scale I used to convert the grades:

Grade Scale
Grade A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D D- F
Points 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0

Last are the Grades, converted into a number value, and the corresponding average grade for the season:

QB RB Rec OL DL LB Sec ST Coaching
Total Points 97 96 106 64 88 85 93 86 66
Average Points per game 6.47 6.40 7.07 4.27 5.87 5.67 6.20 5.73 4.40
Average Grade per game C+ C+ B- C- C C C+ C C-

Overall total average: 5.78 = C.

10 Observations.

Here's a brief rundown, based on the information above.

  1. The Receivers (WRs and TEs) graded out as the best position on the team in 2014. This isn't surprising, as this group suffered the least amount of injuries (until Keenan Allen was lost for the end of the season).
  2. This was a truly schizophrenic season from QB Philip Rivers. There were brilliant performances, such as the games against Seattle and Baltimore. There were horrendous performances, such as the losses to Miami and Denver #2. There were both in 1 game, against San Francisco. Ultimately, the grade reflects Rivers' 31 TD passes (3rd highest in his career), as well as his lowered Yards Per Attempt (7.5) and increased turnovers (18 INTs, 3 lost fumbles).
  3. Rivers' play was especially ragged following Week 6 against Oakland - he posted only 4 above average grades from Weeks 7-17. However, some of the drop off in efficiency from Rivers can be directly linked to issues with the playcalling.
  4. The Offensive Line graded out as the weakest position on the team in 2014. Certainly, this group was severely hampered with the loss of veteran players like C Nick Hardwick and RG Jeromey Clary. Also, the inability to consistently field a healthy C was a disaster for the line in terms of continuity and stability. That said, the only player who could remotely be considered to have had a solid season was LT King Dunlap. LG Chad Rinehart, RG Johnnie Troutman, and RT D.J. Fluker all regressed from 2013.
  5. The second worst position grade belonged to the Coaching. If anything, Mike McCoy might have been even more conservative in his game management decisions. Worse however, was the often bizarre game planning by first year Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich. It was largely apparent in his play-calling that Reich wanted to be more aggressive, and take more shots down the field. That said, he didn't have an offensive line that was capable of sustaining blocks long enough, a consistent running game to keep opponents honest, or a true game-breaking player on offense who could stretch the defense. Though it wasn't the disaster it was for Norv Turner in 2012, the bottom line is that the Chargers offensive staff regularly used a gameplan which exposed their players' weaknesses and minimized their strengths.
  6. To emphasize the last point made above: If you really want to attack vertically, then how is it TE Ladarius Green received only 25 targets throughout 2014, with 19 receptions for 226 yards? Donald Brown was targeted 41 times. WRs Dontrelle Inman and Seyi Ajirotutu combined for 29 targets. How on Earth does the combination of those 3 players get targeted 45 more times than Green?
  7. Regarding the Defense, the grades really do reflect a midseason swoon - starting with the Week 7 game in Oakland and running through the game in Miami. Following the bye week, it appears that a lot of Defensive Coordinator John Pagano's adjustments in personnel paid off, both with better overall play and better on-field results.
  8. The secondary really missed CB Jason Verrett. Following his injury against Oakland in Week 7, the Secondary failed to post an above average grade for the remainder of the season, excepting Week 11 against Oakland and Week 17 against Kansas City.
  9. Other than the Offensive Line, the only group which failed to post at least one A- or A grade this season was the Linebacker corps. This was a reflection of the lack of game-changing plays generated by the group (i.e. sacks, fumbles, and interceptions), as well as the struggles of ILB Donald Butler to consistently make routine plays.
  10. The Special Teams unit took a nosedive following the Week 7 game in Oakland, even despite strong play from Darrell Stuckey, Ajirotutu, Mike Scifres, and Nick Novak, Special Teams posted only one above average grade for the rest of the season; an A- in Week 11 vs. Oakland. Even including that game, their graded average for Weeks 7-17 was a D+. In fact, the Week 17 loss tin Kansas City highlighted the importance Special Teams can have, as the Chiefs terrific Special Teams buttressed a strong defense and pedestrian offense enough to knock the Chargers out of postseason contention.

10 Biggest Hidden (i.e. non-scoring, non-turnover) Plays of the 2014 Season:

  1. Week 1 at Arizona. ARZ 3rd and 10 from the ARZ 9. 6:10 4th Qtr. Against a 4 man rush, Palmer finds an open lane and scrambles 12 yards for a 1st down to sustain what turned out to be the game-winning drive.
  2. Week 7 vs Kansas City. KC 2nd and 10 at KC 8. 1:57 4th Qtr. Smith scrambles up the middle for a 9 yard gain, and draws a face mask call against Liuget. 3rd and 1 at the KC 17 with a running clock becomes 1st and 10 at KC 32, losing only 8 seconds off the clock. The Chiefs take the lead on a 48 yard FG with 0:21 remaining.
  3. Week 7 vs Kansas City. KC 3rd and 5 at SD 15. 0:16 3rd Qtr. Smith is sacked by Freeney and Weddle forcing a FG attempt, except CB Richard Marshall is flagged for defensive holding. With the resulting 1st down, KC scores a TD on the next play.
  4. Week 12 vs St; Louis. Rams 2nd and 14 at STL 49. 2:00 2nd Qtr. Shaun Hill finds WR Kenny Britt past the defense for a 51 yard TD pass and a potential 17-3 lead, but the TD is overturned by an Illegal Hands to the Face penalty against LT Greg Robinson.
  5. Week 13 at Baltimore. 1st and 10 BAL at BAL 33. 0:09 4th Qtr. Flacco completes deep down the right sideline to Aiken at the SD 43, who is just barely tackled inbounds by Flowers, resulting in a running clock and preventing BAL K Justin Tucker from having a chance to win the game on a long FG attempt.
  6. Week 14 vs. New England. 4th and 2 SD at the SD 28. 5:36 2nd Qtr. Branden Bolden beats Donald Brown's block, and blocks Scifres' punt. Scifres suffers a broken collarbone, and the Patriots score a TD with the short field 4 plays later to cut SD's lead to 14-13.
  7. Week 15 vs. Denver. 3rd and 20 at the SD 44. 5:02 4th Qtr. Manning throws complete to Demariyus Thomas for a 13 yard gain, setting up a 49 yard FG by Connor Barth and a 19-10 Denver lead.
  8. Week 15 vs. Denver. 3rd and 12 at the DEN 22. 7:54 left in the 4th Qtr. Protecting a 16-10 lead, Manning escapes the pocket and throws incomplete to Welker, but Welker draws a Defensive Interference Penalty against Wright, resulting in a 9 yard gain and a 1st down.
  9. Week 16 at San Francisco. Chargers 4th and 10 at SF 26. 0:54 4th Qtr. Rivers converts his second 4th down on the drive, this time to WR Dontrelle Inman for a 17-yard gain and 1st and Goal at the 49ers' 9. Floyd scores the tying touchdown 2 plays later.
  10. Week 17 at Kansas City. 1st and 10 SD at SD 12. 9:44 2nd Qtr. Donald Brown carries up the middle for 5 yards, and D.J. Fluker gets rolled up in the pile. He leaves the game temporarily, then returns injured. All of Justin Houston's 4 sacks followed this play, with 2 coming on the next 7 plays against reserve OT Willie Smith.

In Closing

2014 closes the "handicapped" stretch of the Tom Telesco / Mike McCoy era. Most of the dead weight from the previous regime has been cleared away. While the team failed often failed to use it, they have established an identity. They should have a very clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

2015 presents a clear opportunity to move the Chargers from the "competitive" level they've been stuck in for 5 seasons, and into the more rarefied air of "contenders." There should be a sense of urgency, as Philip Rivers cannot be counted on as an "in his prime" QB for more than the next 2-3 seasons. It will depend on making the right free agency moves, a little bit of injury luck, and some growth out of a 3rd year Head Coach and his staff.

While 2013's playoff appearance was a welcome surprise, and 2014's near miss qualifies as a disappointment, anything less than double-digit wins and playoff berth in 2015 would be an unmitigated disaster.