It was the best of games; it was the worst of games. It’s been that way throughout the Chargers 2008 season. This Sunday might be a chance to change that.
At 3-5, the Chargers have been advancing to the rear for most of their contests. A propensity for losing in the 4th quarters, a tepid defense that ranks dead last in the league against the pass (26th overall) and a long string of untimely turnovers have changed the Bolts Super Bowl hopes to a Parade of Homelys. With a home contest against the bumbling Chiefs coming up on Sunday November 9, they have a new defensive coordinator, are laying claim to a different defensive philosophy, winning ugly, and oy, yes – trying to figure out where to play football.
Mike Aguirre, the city attorney who was an avowed foe of their stadium hopes, was voted out of office. But that light at the end of the tunnel is a pin point at best – with the debacle in the credit markets, financing a stadium is as attractive as paving over the San Diego Zoo. Which, it’s true, is one of the few options they haven’t explored. The voters seemed to object to a project that was described as a ‘national security nightmare’, involving building above some of the ports. A new stadium would cost about 1.4 billion, and no one seems to know how it can be built – or where. That pinpoint of light might well be an oncoming train.
The Bolts have a stadium contract lease that can be voided with a buyout between February 1 and April 30 each year until 2019 when it simply ends. There is a chance of leaving the public holding the bag to the tune of 200 million, but where to go? Folks have mentioned LA and a few other options, but in California the environmental impact process is two years regardless of where they build and no other projects currently beckon.
They are talking about the Qualcomm Stadium site, and have been for a long time. One version of the project called for 450 million for stadium and housing, but they were told that it would be too much traffic, to much congestion. Of course, another huge development was just approved near there, so obviously this isn’t a very popular project. The size of the parcel is still 166 acres, and that’s the only thing that hasn’t changed. That, and a lack of public approval. Football isn’t a religion here. It’s more of an afterthought.
The team is coming off a desperately needed bye week. They staged a minor miracle by hammering the Pats at home, but then the long and winding road to London beckoned, and a stop in Buffalo left them gored before, while in England, the Saints went marching over them. At least it’s at home, against KC, and few are betting against that. The good news is that they have played less home games than anyone else in the league, and they are a good home club. That’s bad news for the Broncos, but good news for the Chargers.
Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it, and Ted Cottrell was doomed. Ron Rivera has a different outlook. His is the belief that Wade Phillips had it right in the first place. More aggression and a smaller playbook are on point. Force the pace and dare the offense to come at you. Dictate what they will do, don’t react, ACT! Cottrell dropped his LBs into coverage and leaned on his secondary. Rivera is up from that he’s going to blitz and make you beat him. The defensive players seem cautiously optimistic. The belief is that Cottrell was too conservative for this bunch of young, athletic and aggressive guys. Cromartie says his hip is better now, and he’s up from 65% to 95%. I’m not sure how that will mesh with the poor play of Castillo, Williams and Olshansky, but that’s to be decided on the field.
On offense, Chambers is mostly recovered from an ankle injury, and Jeremy Newberry was ill on Friday but is expected back. Gates says that he’s ready now. Buster Davis, their 2007 first round pick rides the pine, but takes heart from the struggles of players like Vincent Jackson when he entered the league. Next year, they tell him. Next year, he echos, like a sigh in the costal breeze. The word bust is also in the wind. He’s had a long series of minor injuries, and Malcolm Floyd stole his job while he was out. Just life in the not-for -long. He may yet work out.
Rivers has been very muddy rivers for much of the season. If Cutler has had troubles, phillip has often been Mother Teresa, giving to the poor opposing defenses at wildly inopportune times. He’s at the top in TDs, his yardage is great, but the fact that he gave up two turnovers in 4 seconds to lose a game recently tells you what you need to know. No word on whether LT is going to be ready for the second half.
The Chargers can yet steal this season. If Rivera can simplify and energize the D, if their front three can wake up and smell the playoffs, if rivers can apply a little stickum, this could all come together. Their schedule is very favorable.
On the other hand, the Broncos have a hold of their own destiny now. It’s up to them what they do with it. If they win out, or just win as many as San Diego, it's over. All the Bolts can do is, well...