Given that when I looked at the schedule in August I thought 7-9 would be the team’s most likely record at the end of the year, it seems silly that I am so disappointed by the Chargers sitting at 4-6 at the bye. That’s just the way it goes, though, when you are emotionally invested in the team you support.
Right up until Keenan Allen went down in the first half of the first game of the season, it looked like 7-9 and was the very low end of this team’s range of outcomes. Philip Rivers looked like he had as many weapons at his disposal as he has ever had. Ken Whisenhunt’s offense was clicking just like we all hoped it would. The front seven looked passable thanks to a strong secondary. Everything was roses.
Then, Allen went down with a non-contact injury. Then the offense and defense both fell apart. What looked like it was going to be a very important statement victory on the road against a division rival instead became the first of a series of terrible collapses.
Our pain was only interrupted by a fun game against a hapless Jacksonville Jaguars team that could barely get out of its own way.
By the end of week 5, the Chargers were 1-4 and a lot of us were able to make peace with the lost season. But the emergence of rookie phenom Joey Bosa and back-to-back wins against the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons gave us all false hope. Two back-breaking losses sandwiched a career-game from Melvin Gordon against the Titans and has us spending the bye week looking to 2017 instead of week 12.
While the season as a whole is reason for a depressed fan base, there were and are bright spots. Fifth round pick Jatavis Brown looks like a future Pro Bowler. Joey Bosa realistically has a chance to be one of the best defensive players in franchise history.
Korey Toomer, a guy that was signed off the Raiders practice squad, looks like a credible starter. He has had games in which he looked like one of the league’s best players.
Prior to getting injured, Jason Verrett was cementing himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Casey Hayward, a quiet free agent signing this offseason, has been one of the best defensive backs in football. Prior to getting injured, Brandon Mebane showed he could be the answer at nose tackle.
On the offensive side of the ball, Tyrell Williams has proven himself to be one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league on crossing routes. And he is still very raw. He should be even better next season.
Hunter Henry is the most complete tight end I can remember watching play for the Chargers. We all knew how good his hands were. But it’s his run blocking that keeps the defense on its heels. He should be good for a long time.
Other signings have not worked out quite as well, obviously. Travis Benjamin has been a disappointment as a returner and has been too injured and inconsistent to make up for it as a receiver. The re-signing of Joe Barksdale was necessary, but he has been awful. D.J. Fluker is never going to be a dominant player. He might not even ever be consistently good. Orlando Franklin has been a bust of a signing. King Dunlap looks more like the player the Eagles allowed to walk than the guy we saw in his first year as a Charger.
It was encouraging that Tom Telesco poured resources into the offensive line, but it’s discouraging that he only managed one above average player in Matt Slauson.
It was encouraging that John Pagano found creative and effective ways to use Joey Bosa in his first few weeks. It was discouraging, however, when he went back to the vanilla we have all come to know and loathe.
It was nice to have a real offensive coordinator back, but Whisenhunt still has not figured out his red zone woes.
Mike McCoy, at least, has been consistent. He never tricks you into thinking that maybe he has turned the corner. He’s bad at his job and he never wavers. You have to appreciate that.
Here’s hoping the last six games give us something worth getting excited about.