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Thousands Mourn the Fiery-Red Doom of a Star-Studded Icon’s Career

Oh, and we’re not talking about the Bengals here.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

I’m sure that I’d be wasting my time recapping the events of the last 24 hours, as most readers of this blog are familiar with the biggest headlines of the day. However, for the sake of those who perhaps have just woken up from a brief coma, a brief synopsis is in order.

It had been a longer than anticipated career, for those who go about making predictions on such things. Regardless of the galactic heights reached, the events of the last two weeks made one thing painfully clear: there wasn’t much left in the tank. There was so little fuel left, in fact, that the only logical conclusion is that the powers-that-be had chosen to let the entire experiment explode into fiery doom, and in front of legions of fans. Are you not entertained?

That’s not to say there weren’t incredible bright spots over the years! We were stunned by the flashes of brilliance, and the clear execution of many well-laid plans coming together. But it all had to end someday, and, looking back on everything, the team had been on borrowed time for a long while. This last performance was ugly, gruesome in its utter destruction, but altogether beautifully poetic (in a sort of Shakespearean way, where nothing is alive in the end).

And so, I tip my cap to you, NASA. Your 3-year mission defied all the odds and went the distance for 20! We will all miss the Cassini spacecraft.

The Cassini spacecraft plunges into Saturn, sending back its final communications before burning up in the ringed planet's atmosphere.

The death of the Cassini spacecraft, after 20 years orbiting Saturn, was a decision by NASA to make use of the dwindling fuel supply. By careening toward the planet, the craft was able to make use of the last drops of fuel by giving scientists a brief glimpse of the planet’s upper atmosphere before it disintegrated in a ball of fire.

You know, that kind of reminds me of what we saw on Thursday Night Football. Beyond Saturn having infinitely more rings than either of the teams playing, it was a gross spectacle that formalized an end of an era. The Cincinnati Bengals exploded in a fiery crash of self-destruction. It was uncomfortable to watch, and many devoted fans could not peel their eyes away as they learned that the last week (and last season!) was not an aberration. This team is bad, and it lost to a junior varsity Texans team. The path forward is clear: Marvin Lewis, the second-longest-tenured coach in the NFL, has all but fallen through the hot seat. Their former hot-handed quarterback, Andy Dalton, is also another half-game away from being benched for AJ McCarron. Dalton’s contract pretty well lets him walk if the team does not see improvement through the season.

What happened that caused this team to lose all their gas? We can point in many directions, but the most obvious reason is that they lost their Offensive Coordinator to the Browns. Hue Jackson is on the verge of reinventing the Browns, and the Bengals need to start feeling comfortable with another decade or two of irrelevance.

The Chargers are also a team that has fought through decades of boring, terrible football. Although the win-column might not always show it, these last few years have been an offensive resurgence for the franchise. Although often the brunt of unnecessary blame, Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is the Chargers’ ticket to relevance. The Chargers ranked seventh in the NFL with 35 pass plays of 25 yards or more last season.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

To quote Anthony Lynn retaining Whisenhunt,

“I thought it was very important, because you don’t want Philip, at this point of his career, learning a new system. When you look at the most successful quarterbacks in the league, they’re not playing for different coordinators every year, they’re in the same systems. I want to win now, so you can put all that other stuff aside and make this thing work.”

Lynn was absolutely correct. It might just not be in the cards that the Chargers are Super Bowl contenders this year, but keeping as much offensive staff intact as he could was the correct decision to maximize Rivers’ potential this season.

The Chargers ranked ninth in the NFL in scoring last season (averaging 25.6 points per game), and eighth in passing (262.4 yards per game). They have all of the weapons to be one of the top-10 teams in the league (and, thus, a playoff contender). Their struggle in 2016 was an obscene amount of turnovers (35!).

After losing to the Broncos (and getting clearly outplayed for 3 quarters out of 4) in the first game of the season, there is a gut reaction to burn everything down and start anew. Loving many of the players, the ire of fans quickly turns to the coaches.

This pyre of San Diego jerseys has reduced shipping disasters by 40% since its installation in January of this year.

In short, let the Offensive Coordinator do his job. Expect the players to do theirs as well. It might not be the best scenario, but playing musical chairs with coordinators (and, perhaps more importantly, their schemes) is a tried-and-proven way to wallow in futility through the waning years of a HOF-caliber quarterback’s career. Like Cassini, we should shoot for the stars but maintain the course, and perhaps we’ll find that there was more fuel in the tank than we thought.

-Goro “Space Case” Saurus