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The G-L Review: Let’s Address the Badger...Er, Elephant in the Room

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Is Melvin Gordon truly the next Chargers great? Plus: recaps, previews, and more.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

When Tom Telesco traded up to draft Melvin Gordon in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, he—and the organization—justified the selection with tantalizing promises of game-breaking ability, as well as greatness.

Melvin Gordon flashed that potential against one of the best run defenses in football last Sunday, capping off a wild turnaround in a career trajectory once deemed to be doomed.

Now, let me backtrack a little bit to that fateful Thursday night, a night when the Chargers’ GM spent both a fourth- and fifth-rounder just to move up two spots in the draft. Not only did I consider the move to draft a running back in the first round to be sheer idiocy, losing two picks in the process made the burn sting more.

NFL: 2015 NFL Draft Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, we can argue about the value of late-round picks, and how for every Jatavis Brown and Kyle Emanuel, you get a Tevin Reese and a Marion Grice. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that the draft is a crapshoot, and the more chances you get to hit on players throughout the process, the better. That’s why, regardless of the 2016 Cleveland Browns’ bid to match the 2008 Lions’ win total, I think Paul DePodesta and Hue Jackson truly have that franchise steered in the right direction. Not like that’s the first time the Browns have ever had a glimmer of false hope, though...

But enough about the Browns. Back on Draft Night, I expressed my displeasures to my brother about the decision to trade up and select Gordon. His response: “Eh, it’s not like you’ll care about his draft place when he starts tearing it up,”.

I thought about that statement. Is that the hypocrisy of being an NFL fan, and a sports fan in general?

Look at Joey Bosa, for example. The dude had all the negative press in the world. He had Chargers fans telling him to back to his momma if he wanted to cry about money. And once he got on the field and started playing at a high level, all those Internet trolls started buying his jersey.

I rooted for Melvin Gordon through the thick and thin of a 4-12 season. I appreciated his physical gifts that made him a first-round draft choice. And unlike most NFL fans, and even some Chargers fans, I held away from using the “B” word to label Gordon.

You know...“Bust”.

Seriously, how could anyone call a guy a bust after a rookie season lost to terrible coaching and O-Line play? It was not only an example of people overreacting to his status as a first-round draft pick, it was also an example of angry fantasy owners suckered into picking him as early as the second round. And angry fantasy owners take the cake for getting the angriest about incredibly low-stakes situations.

I did not give up on Melvin Gordon after his rookie season. Nevertheless, I never really felt like he could justify the value of being taken in the first round, no matter how unfair that may be.

I mean, that 2015 Draft was stacked at running back! Besides the two big names in Gurley and Gordon, you had guys like Duke Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, Tevin Coleman, and David Johnson rounding out the first few rounds, and even more depth at the position with guys like Buck Allen, David Cobb, Matt Jones, and Malcolm Brown. That’s not even mentioning my guy throughout the entire process, Boise State’s stellar Jay Ajayi.

No, I’m not hopping on the bandwagon now that he’s tearing it up for the Dolphins. I thought Ajayi provided all the talent as a Gordon or Gurley, and at a fraction of the cost. Seeing the Fins take him in the fifth round was therefore pretty painful, degenerative knee condition be damned.

With Gordon totaling 261 yards of offense last Sunday, we knew his name would be tossed around by the likes of ESPN, The Ringer, and other assorted sports media outlets. Many a sports pundit and junkie have been eating his respective words about #28.

Should they? Time will tell. But as the Gordon conundrum rages on with Chargers fans, I’d like to state that I think Melvin will be a Top Ten back for years to come. He has the talent and he has the work ethic, and that rare and powerful wombo-combo will trump any inconsistent O-Line play or coaching blunders.

Does a solid, above-average career at running back warrant a first-round draft selection, along with a fourth- and fifth-rounder to boot? No, I don’t believe so. Their careers are too short, and the position is too deep with talent. That means it’s up to Melvin to prove me wrong and become the next great Chargers running back.

And if he gets anywhere near LT’s records, you can damn be sure I’ll eat a hat. That’s the G-L guarantee.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

More Thoughts on Last Week’s Game

  • I don’t really have much to say about the game last week, as it played out pretty much exactly how I predicted. I will say that with some more pieces and a better coach, I think the Titans will take the league by storm for years to come. It’s easy to forget that they were 2-12 last year, reeling after letting their rookie quarterback get sacked beyond oblivion. And Titans GM Jon Robinson did it right: build up both the O-Line and D-Line, then focus on the skill positions such as DB and WR. That’s something I’ll address in the next section.
  • Even with a win, the Chargers coaching staff did nothing to tell me they’re capable of leading a team to sustained victory. Pagano’s defense did keep Mariota from beating the Bolts with his legs, but in return, Mariota shredded the secondary. This further convinces me the label placed on McCoy during his first year on the job: he’s a great coach for six days of the week. Having a great gameplan results in wins against subpar competition during the regular season. But when (or if) this team plays in January? Not so much. That’s when clock management and game time decision-making distinguish the Belichicks and Tomlins from the McCoys of the league.
  • Man, Antonio Gates must’ve been taking some big portions of “holistic medicines” this past week, ‘cause he sure dialed back the clock in the run game. Move over, Hunter Henry—the old man wants his job back!
  • Can we have Kevin Harlan as an announcer every week? I mean, he solidified his legacy after his famous Week 1 call, but that game really reminded me of how soothing his golden voice truly is.

A Look Forward to Next Week’s Game and the Rest of the Season

  • Did you think I pulled that straight from an NFL.com preview of this week’s contest? Because that’s what I picture the national storyline to be going into this game. Ajayi and Gordon are two of the biggest names in football nowadays, and rightfully so. But will the game really tilt in favor of the better back come Sunday? No, I do not believe so. The X-Factor here is QB play, and when you pit Felipe Rios against a struggling Ryan Tannehill, the choice is obvious. Chargers take this one comfortably, going into the bye week at 5-5 and preparing for a wild sprint to the finish with the easiest schedule in the NFL. Will it result in a playoff appearance? There’s still too much football left to be played for me to give you a confident answer. Let’s see how the team performs this week, then we’ll talk.
  • The Raiders are sitting pretty after dethroning the Broncos as the division favorite. They go into the bye week with a record of 7-2, making me look silly after I said there was no way in hell that the Broncos would lose that game. I still do not think the Raiders are as good as everyone thinks they are. There’s no question they have the pieces to be a dynasty for the next several years, but I just don’t see them contending with the likes of the Patriots for a Super Bowl 51 berth. The Sunday Night game confirmed to me, however, that the Broncos are on the decline. I just don’t see that swagger, that absolute dominance emitting from John Elway’s team anymore. I’d even be quite surprised if the Broncos made the playoffs this year.
NFL: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
  • Don’t forget about Andy Reid’s quiet-as-always Chiefs team. The man just knows how to whip up a winning formula, churning out Ws without the likes of franchise stalwarts such as Justin Houston and Jamaal Charles. My preseason favorite to win the best division in football remains as so. If the Chargers are still in contention come Week 17, this will be a nerve-racking game, with nothing short of a game to the wire. See: Week 17, Chargers-Chiefs, 2013 and 2014.
  • In the AFC, it’s honestly the Pats and everyone else. I’ll stick to my gut call and proclaim another Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl, with the winner being too hard to call.
  • Looking towards the future, the game against the Titans convinced me that for this team to be successful in the years to come, Telesco has to invest almost exclusively in the Offensive Line. It’s that simple. I don’t care about who’s getting however much money, or the actual depth we now seem to have. Inject this team win big-bodied talents, Tom, and let them fight for their jobs. That’s the best way to protect Rivers as he gets long in the tooth, as well as providing a seamless transition of the offensive focus from #17 to MGIII. The team is currently showing a surprising amount of depth at receiver, linebacker, defensive line, and cornerback. Telesco still needs to find a good safety, maybe even two, and finding a backup for Brandon Mebane couldn’t hurt. But assuming Melvin Ingram is still wearing lightning bolts next season, I think that with the return of Keenan Allen and Jason Verrett, this team could be a true contender. Just follow the Titans’ model, Tom. Just do it!

Some Final Thoughts on Life, the Universe, and Everything

  • If you haven’t seen Doctor Strange yet, and you’re considering it, I advise you to see the film on either an IMAX screen (like I did) or in 3D. As a novice video editor, the visual marvels that Marvel crafts onto the silver screen never ceases to amaze me. The story and villain may have been lacking a little, but the movie really feels like a cinematic milestone in animation and is worth the price of admission on that alone.
  • The hype has not died for Arrival! Sure, it dropped to a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the sci-fi thriller sure seems to be generating noise. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a huge cinephile, but I’m not really a huge fan of true sci-fi. If anyone does see Arrival and likes it, let me know, and I’ll be sure to get my tickets soon.
  • No, I won’t talk about a movie every week. I just really like to geek out when big-name movies drop, and I felt the need with these last two weeks.
  • I want to, but I will not dive deep into my thoughts on the election and President (-Elect) Drumpf. The only thing I’ll leave here is this slice of news that broke today, and I’ll remain in ambiguity about how America should feel about this.

I’m working on a Week 10 Chargers hype video, which I would like to make a weekly thing. I’ll make sure to update the article with the video once I’m done!