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The G-L Review: Trust the Process or (The Unexpected Virtue of Tanking)

Despise the concept of tanking? It’s understandable. But it doesn’t make you a bad sports fan to root for next year.

NFL: San Diego Chargers-Joey Bosa Press Conference Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

There’s always next year...right?

But seriously, that sure is what it feels like for Chargers fans. The current product we’re given is usually sub-par, so we look towards the ‘14 ‘15 ‘16 ‘17 season as The Year.

I do understand why people hate the concept of tanking or losing games in order to improve a team’s draft stock. I really do. Sports teams are million, sometimes billion-dollar organizations that are meant to put a good show out for the audience by competing to win. Losing sucks, especially for the emotional and monetary values of aptly following a team.

That does not mean it makes you less of a fan to root for better draft position as opposed to wins.

Look, it all comes back to how you view sports. If sports is a bonding time that you and your fellow fans spend either in the living room or at the stadium, watching the game and bonding, it’s only natural to root for your team to win. But if you’re a well-read football fan, you know that dynasties are built through the draft. The higher you pick, the more likely chance you’ll be selecting future contributors, not guys you end up cutting before the season even starts.

For most teams, at least. Not every GM is as talented or smart as John Schneider or Ozzie Newsome. Not every team has the pleasure of having both the best coach and general manager in the league either—Darth Hoodie, the man known for turning water into wine, then bundling up that wine and selling it to Cleveland if the wine does not feel like fitting into his system.

A guy like Tom Telesco needs good draft position in order to field good talent. Because let’s face it: his first three drafts, by now, can generally be categorized as mediocre, maybe even below average. I won’t bother combing through it all, as that stuff can be over-analyzed once the season officially ends and draft season begins. But for all the players Telesco has acquired through the draft, a good amount are not even on the team anymore, and even more can’t seem to stay on the field.

If all signs are go, though, Telesco’s 2016 draft looks like it could be shaping up to be an all-timer. The third overall pick, Joey Bosa, looks like the next big thing; Hunter Henry has the makings of a Top Five tight end; we have yet to see Max Tuerk, though he showed a lot of promise at USC; Joshua Perry is, at worst, a solid special teams guy; Jatavis Brown was the steal of the draft; Derek Watt and Drew Kaser were instant starters found in the sixth round (though I thought back then and still think to this day that the Watt pick was highly questionable); and Donovan Clark shined during a preseason cut short by an ACL tear.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

What does this say about TT? Yes, he knocked it out of the park. However, this is the first time he got to work with a Top Ten pick, previously picking eleventh, twenty-fifth, and seventeenth, respectively.

Of course, I don’t want the Chargers picking Top Ten every year, as that would mean that the team is so bad that not only do they keep getting top draft picks as a product of being terrible, it means that they are so incompetent they can’t even win with all of that premier talent. See: Jaguars, Jacksonville.

If us fans want the team to make a run at the Big One while Philip Rivers still remains under center, getting mediocre talent won’t cut it. You can lament Telesco for his struggles at picking in the middle of the draft board, but the reality of the NFL is that most teams do not have a Belichick-esque mastermind who can draft well no matter where their picks lies. If we want quality players flowing onto this team, a high draft pick is a necessity.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that there is absolutely no reason to not #GetDownWithTheTank. You should not feel bad about it; it does not make you a bad sports fan. Philly fans might have ousted Sam Hinkie when they clearly did not Trust the Process, but the way things are looking up with Joel Embiid and the 76ers, I’m sure some of those same people will be backtracking pretty soon.

Where does that leave me, you may ask? As much as I value good draft position, I’d be lying if I said I did not root for the Chargers to win week in and week out.

However, similar to last year, I believe that there’s more than one benefit to the Chargers flopping down the stretch: the firing of Mike McCoy. As I learned last year, though, even a terrible season won’t warrant a dismissal from good ‘ole Dean Spanos.

Maybe this is the best situation to be in if your team does not make the playoffs. Wins feel great, as always, but losses don’t hurt too bad either. Or maybe that’s the worst situation to be in. Who knows. All I know is that if Trusting the Process can land you players like Joey Bosa, rooting for the tank may not be as unthinkable as some fans choose to believe.

More Thoughts on Last Week’s Game

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
  • Everyone saying Philip Rivers should be shown the door immediately following the Bucs game...please, just sit back and take a chill pill. If you want to argue that this is a young team, and by the time the Bolts will be contending, Rivers will be too long in the tooth, that’s fine. That’s a valid argument. If you think cashing in on his trade value while he’s still a top-flight quarterback is the right move, I may not agree with you, but I’ll respect your opinion. But saying he’s trash? Complete garbage? Done? We should cut him tomorrow? Knock it off. Starting quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. Good quarterbacks certainly don’t either, and franchise stalwarts like Rivers come once in a generation. Yes, I know many of you are upset with the team’s playoff success under #17, but it’s quite naive to ignore what he’s had to work with and blame the founders squarely on his shoulders. That interception was terrible. TERRIBLE! I screamed at the TV as he threw it, thinking he’d toss the safe check-down to Gordon the entire way. I mean, the Bolts were driving, and on 2nd-and-1 with plenty of time left to score, Rivers went for it all! A veteran quarterback should never make those throws, especially not one as smart as Rivers. But to say that he alone lost this game is unjustified. No, I’m not being a ‘Rivers apologist’, as many of you love to use that label. I’m just arguing against a point that’s inherently stupid. If you wanna replace Rivers, fine. Replace him with a mediocre QB—Alex Smith, for example. With the Chargers O-Line, and receiving corps, does Alex Smith put 21 points on the board against a solid Buccaneers defense? Does Tyrell Williams turn into the potential stud he looks to be? Does Melvin Gordon do as well with opposing teams stacking the box against him, similar to the Rams’ situation with Todd Gurley? We’ve held Philip Rivers to such a high regard in the past that when he does the boneheaded poop that we categorize with the worst of the worst, it’s incredibly dismal and is a clear sign that Rivers is no longer a starting quarterback while ignoring the poor talent he constantly elevates. Yes, he played terribly in the Colts and Dolphins game, and the pick this week was horrible. But you can’t just acknowledge the bad. Where were all the haters last week after the Texans game, when Rivers beat Houston for their first home loss? I don’t think they’re that good (mainly due to their quarterback situation), but the defense is fantastic, even without J.J. Watt in there. Does an Alex Smith-led Chargers team beat the Texans? No way. Does Ryan Tannehill go out and beat the Broncos on Thursday Night football? Are you kidding me? In conclusion, if you want to get rid of Philip Rivers and hope that the Chargers somehow stumble upon a star QB in the draft, go for it. Just don’t come back to me when the team officially becomes the West Coast version of the Cleveland Browns.
  • Melvin Ingram recently signed with Roc Nation. Melvin Ingram is trying to further his rap career. Melvin Ingram gets mentioned by every single announcer as the underrated guy we never talk about. And Melvin Ingram does not deserve whatever he’s going to ask for. Yes, I think the team should resign him because the depth chart is rather thin at the OLB position. But he’s always been more flash than substance, which is okay in your rookie year and not so much in your fifth. He does not deserve the hype some outlets have been giving him, and he should definitely not be touching something north of ten million a year when it’s all said and done. TT, please do not give him as much as most certainly will ask for. Eight million is pushing it, but I think the fanbase will be able to swallow it as a whole. Just please, pretty please, don’t start thinking he’s the next Von Miller. Because as he showed yet again on Sunday, he still does not know how to finish a sack.
  • Korey Toomer? Boomin’! The dude is a star, and he’s calling the plays for a defense he’s been on for about two months now. Our ILB unit looks very strong going into next season. Te’o is now 100% expendable.
  • What happened to Melvin Gordon after that first quarter? Who knows—McCoy and Wiz certainly do not. This team is stuck in trying to feature Gordon more and letting Phil run the show. If anything, Phil plays better with a good run game. He’s that much more dangerous when the defense has to respect the RB, and for this team to be ready for the twilight of #17’s career, the offense must become feature Melvin more.

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

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
  • Go figure I’d finally go to a Bolts game once I no longer lived in Cali. Anyway, the Panthers are bad this season. Real bad. Most of us still hold some shred of belief that they’re a good team, but the reality is, their defense is putrid and Cam has not been able to carry the load. I’m predicting that Rivers will get his in a huge bounce-back game after the way last week’s contest ended. Newton will respond, as Craig Mager trying to cover Ted Ginn makes me want to puke in my mouth, but in the end, I think the Chargers are the better overall team and will proceed to win.
  • Looking towards the future, it does not matter if Keenan Allen and Verrett come back healthy next year because, with this coaching staff, we ain't going anywhere. What happened to the beautiful screens, the quick passing game that was unstoppable in 2013? Where did it go? We thought the problem was Frank Reich, but it seems like Ken Whisenhunt was not the answer. I still think he’s a fantastic, overqualified offensive coordinator that should survive a McCoy firing. And while John Pagano’s defense has shown improvement with the influx of defensive talent, he still does not have much to add to his job resume. I mean, we think he’s doing a good job this year because the defense is mediocre, and that’s a huge step up over whatever we’ve trotted out the last several years. One thing has stayed consistent, though: that bend-but-don’t-break system is not the way to go. Keep Wiz, get rid of McCoy, Pagano, the O-Line coach, and the Special Teams Coach, and that’s a start.
NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

I was here in the past hyping up Jabrill Peppers, but the more I look at it, Jamal Adams has to be the pick. He’s well-respected, well-liked, and insanely talented. He’d slot in as the starting FS immediately and be an instant game-changer at the position, without a doubt in my mind. Peppers, on the other hand, might not have a true position in our defense, as he seems to be trending towards a similar position to Jatavis Brown. Besides, he might be gone by the time we pick, while Adams will hopefully be available around in the teens. Just imagine if we had kept Eric Weddle, though, and paired him with a guy as good as Adams...

Some Final Thoughts on Life, the Universe, and Everything

  • I don’t have much to tell you this week other than if you have (access to) HBO, definitely give Westworld a hard look. If you like GoT, the new hit show has a lot of the same feel of sheer epicness. I’ve only watched the first two episodes in, like, two weeks, but it definitely has me intrigued in watching more.
  • If you did not know already, I get the inspiration for the title of this section from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a book forever ingrained in pop culture lore. From now on, I’ll end these pieces with a new quote from the quirky author. This week’s quote: “It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes”.

When you tune into the game on Sunday, make sure to look in the stands for a funny-looking 6’3” kid wearing a white #13 jersey!