It wasn’t that long ago that I picked up the pen (keyboard?) and started putting out my thoughts and feelings about the Chargers as an actual “writer”. It’s been, maybe, six months or so and I can honestly say it’s been the best six months of my life. Like, people actually care about my “opinions”? It’s definitely a feeling I am still getting used to.
Now, if readers caring about my work was tough to fathom, a former player agreeing to have a conversation with me is on a whole other level. And honestly, I don’t think I could have gotten a better first interviewee.
As a former University of Iowa alum myself, it was special to sit down and talk with a former Hawkeye who played a significant role in some of the most memorable seasons in recent memory for Chargers fans. For the newer fans among us, here is a quick snapshot:
- University of Iowa (1994-1997)
- San Diego Chargers (2004-2008)
- 2x USA Today All-Joe Team (2004-2005)
- First-Team SI All-Pro (2005)
Michael Peterson: Before we get started, I just want to thank you again for taking the time to talk with me today. It really means a lot being able to interview a former Hawk and San Diego Charger.
Mike Goff: Of course. I’m glad you reached out to me.
MP: So your last season was in 2009 with the *shakes fist* Kansas City Chiefs....What have you been up to since then?
MG: After I was done I took a bit of time off. Spent time with friends and family. I eventually volunteered with the San Diego State football team to see if I wanted to get into coaching. I really enjoyed that so I went back for another year to get my degree so I could start coaching as I never actually graduated from the University of Iowa. I took another year off before I got into coaching high-school football. I also did some television and radio for the chargers but that just wasn’t as fulfilling as playing the sport.
I’m now in my third season at USC as the Assistant Offensive Line Coach but I’ll also be helping out on the defensive side of the ball. I’ll be charged with getting out scout-team defense prepared in order to give our first-team offense the best looks possible.
MP: As a former player in college, I fully understand that feeling. I find myself trying to get my “football fix” any way possible. Hence the writing about it now. I’ve also toyed around with the idea of coaching, myself. I’ve been told I just need to do it and not put so much thought into it.
MG: Coaching is definitely something you’ve got to be fully committed to. It’s been very fulfilling for me. The chance to coach and watch kids grow, going from boys to men, and to pass on knowledge to help these kids achieve their goals and dreams is how it should be.
MP: So you played at a time where the Chargers were as hot as ever in recent years, what are some of your favorite memories during your time as a Charger?
MG: Definitely playing with guys like Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. Of course, there’s watching LT break records and winning 4 out of 5 division titles during that span. But honestly, one of my favorite memories is going out for pizza every Thursday night with the offensive lineman. We would go to a local pizza joint, order five or so pizzas and just hang out. The Thursday Night Football game would be on, college football would be on.
MP: That does sound awesome. Sometimes it really is the simple things we remember the most.
MG: The camaraderie was a big part of our success. Building those relationships off the field. We bickered and fought but it was the dedication to investing time into each other that played a big part in why we won as a team.
MP: Speaking of LT, what was it like blocking for him and what made that ‘06 season so special?
MG: He was one of the most humble superstars to ever play the game. He just worked. He was not a guy who needed the spotlight. I think that’s what the great ones do. They don’t need attention. They are just one of the guys. He came to work every day like the rest of us. When he spoke, however, everyone stopped and listened.
MP: This past off-season was “eventful”, to say the least, for the Bolts. As someone who still lives in San Diego, what were/are your thoughts on the move from San Diego to Los Angeles?
MG: It actually hit me harder than I thought it would. At the time, I couldn’t believe what had just happened. It’s not nearly the same but it was similar to losing a loved one. I went through stages. I was angry at first. Once the dust settled, they are still the Chargers. Gates and Rivers are still there. You don’t have to cheer for the owner. Out of 12 years, the five I spent with the Chargers were the best of my career and I’m not going to turn my back on those guys and that organization.
MP: Obviously the move wasn’t the only big change for the team as they hired Anthony Lynn as their new head coach. What are your thoughts on Coach Lynn and are there any key differences between him and other recent coaches? (McCoy/Turner/Schottenheimer)
MG: Anytime you get someone from the Rex Ryan coaching tree, you know they’re going to be dedicated to the sport of football. Whenever you bring in a first-time head coach, they’re also going to bring something different. Lynn has a “voice” about him. A different voice that has been around some great coaches.
MP: As a former offensive lineman I’m sure you had to be excited about the Chargers’ 2017 draft picks. What are your thoughts on the draft class as a whole and then specifically the two offensive linemen we picked, Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney?
MG: Love those picks. Couldn’t believe they fell to us where they did. Obviously, over the past couple years we had some bad execution across the offensive line. We brought in some guys who were just not the right fit. It’s tough to be successful when your best player is getting hit early in each play. That means it’s time to change some things.
You gotta hope the injury to (Mike) Williams isn’t too bad. When you look back at what Rivers can do with guys like Dontrelle Inman, who is almost a household name now out here, and a host of other receivers, it’s crazy. Rivers always gets the ball into the hands of the playmakers.
And then along the offensive line, if you can get a bunch of interchangeable pieces that allow you to keep your stride, that such an invaluable trait to have. That’s what we had back then and I think the team is getting back that. When you have that “next man up” mentality, I mean, just look at the Patriots. When one guy falls, another steps up and they don’t miss a beat.
MP: Alright Mike, we are just about wrapped up here. Before I let you go, what are your thoughts on the team as a whole heading into the 2017 and, if you want, give us a win-loss projection you think the Chargers can meet?
MG: With the situation being what it is, the Bolts can be the 2nd or 3rd place team in the AFC West, but they will have a shot to win the division. If (Derek) Carr goes down, the Raiders will be a different team. If you look at Denver, they have key players but who is their quarterback? Same with Kansas City. You have Tamba Hali asking if he is even needed in KC and Alex Smith sees (Patrick) Mahomes being drafted. When it comes to overall stability, the Chargers have been rather quiet other than the move.
I think their main competition will be the Oakland Raiders in the AFC West. (Reggie) McKenzie has done a great job up there. If (the Chargers) can match their strength in the offensive line and their young talent, they can be successful. And that’s good competition to have. 10-6 or 9-7. I’d be disappointed if they did any worse.
It’s time for winning. Philip Rivers is 35 years old and Antonio Gates is 37. The window is getting much smaller but I'll be excited to watch how it all plays out this year.