FanPost

Use The Width Of The Field


Yes, Brandon Staley has poor judgment. So does Joe Lombardi. Yes, the offensive line is decimated. Yes, the receiving corps is decimated. Yes, the Chargers are worse than their record indicates. Yes, the defense is pretty poor. Yet despite this, the Chargers could have and perhaps should have won every game they have played. That is if the offensive play calling was not so horrendous.

The Chargers' woes come back to play calling. They just do. Consistently. Year after year, really. Ask yourself, where did the momentum shift on Sunday? I remember when it shifted. It shifted on that 4th down stop in the first quarter, after the Seahawks had turned the ball over, and the Chargers looked certain to score before stalling out. The Chargers tried two predictable runs up the middle [in a row], using an undersized running back rather than an oversized quarterback, and running behind an O line in absolutely awful shape. That makes absolutely no sense. Think about how irrational that is, particularly in light of how unsuccessful that strategy has been of late. By the way, we were on the 31 and within field goal range moreover. A field goal would have put us on the board. Staley’s bad decision-making leaves a lot of points on the field. Even the backup, Bertolet, has enough leg for a 48 yarder.

Interestingly, the Chargers' defense is not as bad as some numbers indicate. Yes, they are giving up 27 points per game, 3rd worst in the league. But they are only giving up 368 yards per game, which is closer to the middle of the pack. The same goes for takeaways. The defense is taking the ball away at a perfectly average clip (16th in the league). Not good but not terrible either. Thus, the defense is arguably not as bad as some of the numbers indicate. We are giving up a lot of points largely because our braindead coaching staff is gifting yards to the other side. We keep giving the other team the ball in dangerous positions. We never pin them back inside their own 10 or 20. They are starting out with incredible field position, week after week. That is killing us.

Staley goes for it on 4th down way too frequently. And when we do, the playcalling is not clever or quality. Much of the time the Chargers try to power the ball up the middle, despite the fact that the Chargers haven’t the personnel to do it. It is incredibly foolish. Indeed, if you have watched the last three or four games closely, what you should have noticed is that defenses are consistently penning us into the middle of the field. We run up the middle and get no yards on the ground. Herbert is standing back in the pocket like a flagpole. Ultimately, no one on our battered receiving corps gets open and he takes a hit or a sack or throws the ball away or checks it down. Our offense is not moving the ball. But it is not moving the sticks because the playcalling is completely devoid of situational awareness and creativity.

We basically can not run the ball up the middle, but if we try to on occasion, we at least need to use size and power to do it. Instead, the coaching staff is being overprotective of Herbert, because of his ribs. It is football though. It is a contact sport. If we can use Herbert on a QB sneak from time to time to get a necessary half yard, we should, nay we must. Furthermore, we can not rely upon an overly simple, quotidian passing game either. Because Herbert does not have the protection he needs for that style of offensive attack. The protection just is not there. Ok, so what can we do? A lot actually. There is a lot the Chargers can do, but the coaching staff is not doing it.

For example, we need to use the width of the field. The field is wide. There is a lot of space on it. Yet the Chargers are always trapped in the middle of it. Our O line is in shambles, our run game is weak, and our receivers are missing. So, why are we not using the outside? Why are all of our plays confined to the center of the field? That means shovel passes, [read] options, end-arounds, and bootlegs. All of it! Why not? We are not using the width of the field right now, but we need to use the width of the field, because the usual stuff is [clearly] not working.

You know how many yards Justin Herbert has on the ground this year? 48. That is far less than he averaged his first two seasons. And Herbert is fast. Truth be told, he should have had more rushing yards his first two seasons than he ultimately ended up with. Why is the coaching staff not using his legs and his size? Josh Allen is all over the field. The Bills are a juggernaut. Herbert, on the other hand, is struggling. Because we are not using his speed, strength, or agility. We are not using his potential, in other words. The coaching staff is wasting his talent.

There are things the Chargers can change and things they can not of course. They can not change the injury situation. Mike Williams will likely be gone for the next 4 or 5 weeks. That is unfortunate, but there is nothing that can be done about it. With that said, there are things we can change. Oftentimes fans get so down on teams they focus only on what is going wrong, like the health of the team, and lose sight of what can be corrected, and what assets we still do have. We can use the width of the field. We can use misdirection and creative playcalling. We can use Herbert’s legs. He has legs to use. But he is just standing back there like Tom Brady, like some sort of statue. There is no excuse for that. If the Chargers do not start using the width of the field, if they do not start pinning their opponents down in their end occasionally, but keep going for it on 4th down around midfield, if they do not start using Herbert’s talents, specifically his speed, they are going to find themselves on the outside looking in once again come playoff time.

One of the biggest and most biting criticisms of so-called "analytics", which Brandon Staley relies so heavily upon, even as he missed the playoffs last year, and is slowly losing the locker room this year, is that it takes no account of circumstance. It does not consider how good a kicker you have, it does not consider the strength of a team’s O line or the weakness of the opposing team’s quarterbacking, nor does it take account of somewhat intangible factors like momentum or other intuitive considerations. Those are not part of the equation, but they can matter, a lot.

Indeed, those factors often make all the difference. A team might have a 54% chance of converting on a fourth and one [in the abstract], according to the "analytics" (which are just generic numbers devoid of content and situation-specific variables), but what if your team has 130 total yards, no line push, and are up against the toughest defense in the league? Do you think that team really has a 54% chance of converting there? Of course not. Because the analytics are nonsense, they are just rough, contentless guideposts. They are really not all that useful generally speaking. They might give you some sense of what to do, all other things being equal. But things are rarely equal. That is the rub.

Those [other] variables are the things that get factored into what men sometimes call "judgment". Some coaches have good judgment, others have bad judgment, but judgment is predicated upon circumstance. It considers the facts on the ground. It is all about assessing the situation and assessing it rightly. You can not look to an actuarial table for that. Judgment can not be found in some statistical model. It is not some abstraction. Is a very real world, practical thing, despite its amorphous and difficult-to-quantify nature.

So, here are the circumstances Brandon Staley finds himself in: if the offense keeps sputtering, which is to say if something does not change drastically, the Chargers are going to miss out on the playoffs again, and Brandon Staley is probably going to be looking for a job at the end of the year. That is the reality of things. And here is another [harsh] reality: the reason why the Chargers are struggling on offense is because of Staley and Lombardi. The playcalling, you see, is god awful. They might not know it or be willing to acknowledge it, but it is. One of the main reasons why that is is that the playcallers are not taking account of circumstance. We have an injured O line. We have few quality receivers. We need to make the most of what we do have. That means using more Josh Palmer, maybe even using Michael Bandy. But most critically, it means using Herbert’s legs, and the width of the field. Both the Chargers’ season and Brandon Staley’s fate depend upon it.

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This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.