Thank you, San Diego Chargers. Genuinely, thank you.
Thank you for the good moments over the years (even if I can count them on one hand). Thank you for letting me watch one of the most entertaining QBs in history every week. But mostly, San Diego Chargers, thank you for not ruining my day on Sunday. Sure, you lost. You lost badly. In fact, you got humiliated. But guess what? I didn't care.
You have a loyal fanbase in San Diego, Dean. At least, you did. You've worn out your welcome.
You've treated the San Diego fans like dirt on your shoe ever since the words 'Los Angeles' popped into your head. When your Carson stadium plan was defeated, you flipped a switch. You promised that you’d work really gosh darn hard to get a new stadium built in San Diego. Instead, you scratched together a terribly thought out plan that involved taxpayers funding your new stadium - which is always a terrible investment.
The Chargers are 9-20 in the last two seasons, Dean. They've managed to do that with a pretty good roster. They're coached by someone so clearly out of their depth they drowned years ago. Before Sunday, they were 5-7, with the playoffs out of reach and destined to be picking in the top 10 of a second consecutive draft. And you want us as fans to care?
I do care, Dean. I cared as much about losing to the Panthers on Sunday as you do about San Diego. Zero.
It hasn't really gone to plan lately, has it, Dean? The on the field product is terrible. The coaching is worse - not to worry because it looks like Mike McCoy will be given a contract extension. I guess Jeff Fisher being fired opened up room to have a new horrible coach in LA.
You want to leave San Diego, Dean. It's clear. It's been clear from Day 1. It's business? Try and tell that to the hundreds of thousands of fans of the Chargers. It's personal to us.
You were born into this franchise, Dean. The Chargers are all you've ever known. In that respect, you're similar to your fans. The only difference is, the San Diego Chargers are all they've ever known. That San Diego bit is quite important.
I know you're not going to listen to this, Dean. You're not even going to read it. Go ahead, Dean. Move to LA. It's a big market, right? It doesn't matter that the Chargers have no history there, the on the field product is terrible, Mike McCoy is about as inspiring as a brick, and LA fans will put up with a lot less of your bullshit than the San Diego ones have. It'll be good for business. Sure, it hasn't exactly worked out for the Rams, but you'll work it out, right?
It can't go any worse than your usual plans, anyway.
I wonder if stadium contracts include offset language?
1: Kenneth Farrow
I think it's a bad sign when a UDFA RB is the only player keeping the offense going, personally. It's also a bad sign when an RB with 3.4 YPC is the biggest winner from a game. Welcome to your 2016 Chargers, ladies and gentlemen.
In all seriousness, congratulations to Kenneth Farrow. When Melvin Gordon went down with a hip injury, Farrow suddenly found himself as the only active HB on the Chargers roster. Going from 6 snaps to 55 snaps - and having to be a bell cow - is no easy feat. I'm not going to say that Farrow looks like the second coming of LaDainian Tomlinson (because that's Melvin Gordon's job, obviously), but Sunday showed that he may have a future in this league.
The rookie still has some work to do - mainly in pass protection. As the inferior Jamie pointed out in his excellent film study, the second fumble from Rivers was caused because Farrow completely whiffed in pass protection. If you want to be an RB in the modern NFL, you need to be able to pass block. It's that simple.
Still, I'm being harsh on Farrow. Pass protection is something he'll (hopefully) develop with experience. He showed some real ability to run the ball as well as catch it out of the backfield - surprisingly, these are good things for an RB.
The thing that impressed me most about Farrow was the way he fought for extra yards. He might not have broken any runs for a huge gain, but time and again he put his head down and powered through contract, picking up an extra couple of yards a clip. In fact, on one play, Farrow had his helmet ripped off, but kept on going and picked up about 8 or 9 yards - those are yards that didn't count - and running around without a helmet on is dangerous - but that showcases an impressive level of determination to pick up every last yard.
Football is a game of inches, and any RB who can consistently add one or two yards to the result of a play is going to have a market out there. The Chargers now have a real decision to make at RB next year. Melvin Gordon will be the starter, but who backs him up?
Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver are FAs. There's an argument to be made that both should be brought back - but where does that leave Farrow? What if the Chargers want to draft a complimentary RB to Gordon?
Is Kenneth Farrow a better player than either Woodhead or Oliver? No, he isn't. That doesn't mean that I don't envisage a 2017 Chargers roster that includes Farrow instead of Woodhead or Oliver - or maybe instead of both.
Good job, Kenneth.
2: Casey Hayward
I haven't actually written about Casey Hayward yet on Winners and Losers this year. That's a testament to his ability. Oh, he got an interception? Big deal. He's done that six times already.
When Hayward came over from Green Bay, I was pretty happy with the signing. I thought he was a good slot corner who should fit in well as the third guy behind Verrett and Flowers. A friend of mine who supports the Packers wasn't so complimentary of Hayward, saying that he was, at best, the fourth CB on the Packers roster, and there was a reason they let him walk. How's that working out for you, Green Bay?
Hayward is phenomenal. There are no two ways around it. Up until as recently as a few weeks ago, I was still convinced that he was a slot corner who couldn't really deal with guarding true #1 WRs. That's just not true. Hayward is a legitimate #1 CB. He's one of the best in the league.
There are no two ways around it - Casey Hayward is an All-Pro. He leads the league in interceptions. I can't remember him having a bad game - or even an average game. Week in, week out, Hayward is just making plays. He's not just one of Tom Telesco's best signings, but one of the best FA signings in the entire NFL over the last couple of years. Elite players should not come this cheap.
I really hate to say "look at next year!", but I can't help myself. Verrett and Hayward is a match made in heaven. Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams on the other side of the ball is just as good. If the Chargers can stay healthy - which they can't, because they're the Chargers - they could have a very special 2017.
Dreaming about 2017 is a lot more fun than paying attention to 2016. That's largely down to Casey Hayward. While 2016 is still here, though, I'm going to eke out every last second of enjoyment possible. Casey Hayward makes that a lot easier.
3: Trovon Reed
I'm doubling down on CBs - and that's partially because I didn't actually realize Trovon Reed was on the roster. I saw his name somewhere, thought that he'd been activated onto the Practice Squad and forgot about him until I saw a #38 on the field and couldn't work out who that was.
Reed had an impressive day for the Chargers, with an interception of Cam Newton in the end zone that he promptly returned 100 yards for a TD. He was eventually ruled down at his own 2-yard line instead, but it was still a game-changing play (at least, it would have been if the Chargers offense was functioning). A WR at Auburn, he made the switch to CB in his final year, but has bounced around the NFL ever since - as far as I can tell, this is the first time he's ever even made it to an active roster.
Is Reed going to be on the Chargers roster next year? I honestly don't think so. The silver lining is that turnovers make people sit up and take notice. A near 100 yard pick six? That alone may not be enough to get Reed onto an active roster next year, but it might get his file looked at a second time. Winners and Losers is about players who help or ruin their personal stock the most, and Reed definitely improved his cause on Sunday.
1: King Dunlap/Orlando Franklin/D.J. Fluker/Joe Barksdale
If you had to ask me who the four people stopping the Chargers from making a SuperBowl run are (I'm not sure why you would because it's a weird question, but humor me), there's no other answer but these four.
Football is won and lost in the trenches. The Dallas Cowboys are the best team in the NFL right now, and that's not because of their skill positions. Ezekiel Eliott might be the real deal, but even Travis 'please don't touch me' Benjamin could run for 1,500 yards behind that OL.
On the other hand, you have the Minnesota Vikings. Quite possibly the best defense in football, with solid talent at the skill positions on offense. Combine that with a terrible OL and they're barely scraping above .500, on the outside looking in at a playoff race that they're destined to miss out on.
The Chargers have a superb amount of talent at the skill positions. Their OL is ruining all of that.
Philip Rivers had a terrible game against the Panthers - but, without making excuses, it's not hard to see why. The Chargers OL couldn't block a soul. Mario Addison alone had 12 pressures on the day. That's ridiculous. (As an aside, Rivers belongs on this list, but Jamie Hoyle did a great job of breaking down his game, so there's no point regurgitating everything he said.)
Matt Slauson is fine. He's not the best center in the league, but he's a reliable, dependable veteran. Everyone else around him - everyone - needs to go.
King Dunlap was completely woeful at the Eagles. He turned that around at the Chargers and earned a lucrative contract, but he's 31 and has an injury history so long you'd need to chop down a large part of the Amazon Rainforest to print it out on paper. He's just not capable of playing at a high level anymore.
Orlando Franklin has to be one of the biggest busts of the Tom Telesco era. A major force on the Broncos OL, he's been a complete nightmare to watch on the Chargers. If he's not lying down hurt after a play, he's lying down on the floor after getting beat. He has one or two 'big' plays a game, usually to spring Melvin Gordon for a decent gain, but he's in contention for the worst lineman on this team. That says a lot, because...
D.J. Fluker is horrendous. You cannot justify keeping him around next year. He's been in the league for four years and he still fails to recognize the most basic of defensive schemes. Stunt? Twist? Not a clue. If there's a free rusher getting a hit on Rivers, it's probably Fluker's fault. Not that he's much better when he actually recognizes the man he's supposed to block, either.
Joe Barksdale... I don't know. He was superb last year, and he's been the complete opposite this year. He's the only one of this four I'd keep around next year - and that's only because his contract makes it impossible to do otherwise. He may rediscover his form, but I'm not holding my breath.
The Chargers have a real chance to make a deep playoff run next year - if Fluker, Franklin, and Dunlap are gone. They have to be. Not one of them is good enough to be on an NFL team, let alone start for one. I don't know who replaces them. At this point, I don't particularly care, either. I've got a half-empty Pringles can on my desk that could probably play RG as well as D.J. Fluker. I also have a matchday program from a
football soccer match that could slide in at LT and a fairly big mug that's potentially an upgrade on Orlando Franklin. Just give me a call, Tom Telesco. Or give John Gennaro a call and ask him to pass on the message. Seeing as you have his number, that is.
2: Drew Kaser
I like you, Drew. I really want you to work out, and be the punter for the Chargers for the next ten years. That doesn't mean I'm going to let you off the hook. Quite frankly, you haven't been anywhere near as good as you need to be.
The frustrating thing about Kaser is that he showcases so much ability. On one punt, he'll drill it 60 yards downfield with major hangtime and pin the opponents deep. On the next, he'll shank it 35 yards; that is, 35 yards before it bounces back into the Chargers own half of the field.
Punting is such a huge part of the NFL. You simply need to have a good one to flip the field when needed. Kaser can do that, but he can't do it consistently. That's not good enough. If he can't fix that, he's going to need to look for a new career.
This season is over for the Chargers. There's no reason to cut Kaser now. If I were to guess what would happen, I'd say that the Chargers will sign a veteran punter in the offseason and let Kaser compete for his job.
When you draft a punter in the sixth round, you're expecting them to be around for a long time. You're certainly expecting them to last longer than a year. Kaser still might be the Chargers punter of the future. That's not out the window yet. Like I said, on his day, he looks like one of the best punters in the league.
The problem is, that day doesn't come often enough with Kaser. This season has been a nightmare for the Chargers, but that rings true for Kaser more than most. He's now on the hot seat, so to speak. Perform or you're out. It's that simple.
If only the same were true for the coaches...