Oh, those San Diego Chargers. Bolts from the Blue. AFC West dominators for the past 6 or 8 years.
I dislike them. Strongly.
I live in San Diego County. SDC is huge - I believe it is the largest county in the U.S. So even though I live in "San Diego" it is a good 50-minute drive without traffic to the concrete eyesore that is "The Q". (Little known fact: Qualcomm generally smells like vomit. I may have been a contributor during a "Monsters of Rock" concert there in 1994 but that's truly beside the point). Therefore, even though I am surrounded by Charger fans at work, at the grocery store, at church, and everywhere else, it is a "disconnected" fan base. It is NOTHING like Bronco Nation, let me tell you. One common theory about why fan-dom is so diffuse and lacks intensity is that SoCal has "so many other things to do". In reality, observing a California Brown Snail traverse a sidewalk is more fun than watching the Chargers. Having gall bladder surgery is less fun, but not by much. And one can observe cephaolpods or undergo invasive surgery in any city so there goes that theory. Put the Chargers in Novosobirsk in January and you still might have a hard time generating fan interest. Why? Let's just say, to quote my 10-year old son, the Chargers have "epic fail" written all over them.
And now, we are ever so near the breaking point of watching the AFC West scrape the scales from our eyes and wake up to a Brave New World where the Chargers' talent base is slipping backwards into mediocrity.
What follows is a brief obituary for the San Diego Chargers, a team that has supposedly been Super Bowl-bound for maybe the past 6 seasons or so.
I used to loathe Philip Rivers. I no longer do. My loathing for him began back during his "rivalry" with Jay Cutler and his perpetually childish tantrums on the field. He tosses his hands up in the air, kicks the ball across the field, gripes at the refs non-stop, pouts on the sideline, yadda yadda. Looks like a total tool. Now, I have changed my opinion. Listening to local radio and talking to good people in the community, one understands a different Philip Rivers. Married to his HS sweetheart. Father of 5. Very involved in his kids' activities. All around a pretty great guy. He is the ONLY player on the Chargers (except Takeo Spikes) who I actually like. Fortunately, as his offense deteriorates around him he is being exposed as less of a game-changer than previously thought. Which is FINE by me.
Gone are the days when LT takes a 5-yard dump-off pass, facemasks Nate Webster, jukes Kenoy Kennedy out of his cleats and runs 163 yards for his 8th TD of the first half. Now, may I present to you ... Ryan Matthews. Rank Matthews right up there with Moreno on the scary meter. Constantly injured which is a boon to the Chargers as he simply fumbles the ball when he is in there. Talented? Yes. A good football player? Um no.
Now you gotta love the flaming bowling ball that is Mike Tolbert. Round people are NOT supposed to glide like that. He is juuuuust good enough to prevent AJ Smith's pride from actually re-signing him. He will move to another team (Broncos?) and join the long list of FORMER Chargers to find success.
Are former Chargers successful? Why, yes, they are. Drew Brees this year broke the all-time passing yards mark and previously was Super Bowl and league MVP. Darren Sproles broke the all-time YFS record. Shawne Merriman has created a very profitable designer drug ring in Buffalo and has a budding career as an amateur porn star.
Vincent Jackson - local Colorado boy - is a pretty sweet player, but he is also a tool. Multiple DUI's, bad attitude, etc. He got pulled over on the way to last year's playoff game for expired plates (can he not afford registration?) and blasting his music too loud. Upon confronting the cop, he actually pulled out the "Do you know who I am?" card. Tool. In any case, he is really good and is a FA so there is NO WAY ego-man Smith signs him.
I think they have other receivers, but I'm not sure. 3 years ago they drafted the appropriately nick-named Craig "BUSTer" Davis. They have a guy named Malcolm. There is no such thing as a Malcolm that can play football effectively. What, is the #2 receiver named "Fauntleroy"?
Oh, they do have "all-world" Tight End Antonio Gates. Unfortunately, he is now medical "all-world", as his toes, arches, ankles, shins, knees, and hips have all decided they have had enough of the NFL. I think he has experienced "turf-cheek" and has a microfracture of the hair follicle too. But he is still good for maybe 100 snaps in a season.
Unmitigated disaster zone. Left Tackle-of-the-future Marcus McNeill will be put on waivers. Because he sucks. Outstanding mauler - and I really mean outstanding, probably the best player on the Chargers roster you might not be familiar with - Chris Dielman will announce his retirement within a few days. He really should after the neurological nigthmare he went through this season. Broncos' DL can salute his awesomeness and rest easy this offseason. C Nick Hardwick has very seriously considered retirement as well - not too many injuries, he is just a really smart, grounded, BC grad who loves his wife and his dogs and knows he can't really start a family until his travel days are behind him and also wants to have a functioning body moving forward. I love the idea on many levels.
Those 3 players have been the heart and soul of the Chargers line performance and supposedly the future. 2 are gone, one is on the fence. The Chargers have NOTHING on their roster to step in. Big problem for them.
Remember when the Chargers "struck it rich" in drafting Luis Castillo to pair with Jamal Williams? They announced today they are cutting Luis Castillo. Because ... he sucks. But no worries! They have Antonio Garay (FA and 32 years old) and Jacques Cesaire to step in to that void. Remember what I said about "Malcolm"? I have upstaged my own self by now citing a "Jacques". Word is the Chargers are adjusting their Big Board to see if any "Chandlers" are available to beef up the line.
The Chargers tend to line up in a classic 3-4. Under Wade Philips, this was a feared (rightfully so) defense with bodies flying all over the field. Now? Now they simply have 4 new ways to suck at LB. I do love Takeo Spikes, but only because he does not pose an threat to the Broncos. Now THAT is a manly name! Shawn Philips is a really good player but is every bit the tool that Vincent Jackson is. I will spare you the tabloid details, but rest assured that this guy is NOT someone you want your kids to model behavior after. Unless you want your kids whacking people in the head with beer bottles in seedy Pacific Beach meat-market bars after lackadasical home losses. Is there really any Chargers linebacker that scares you? No.
This might be the most surprising area of deficiency. Remember when the Chargers fielded the awesome tandem of Quentin Jammer (best CB name EVER!) and Antonio Cromartie? Then they went and spent a 1st round draft pick on Antoine Cason from Arizona. They had built - I believed - the best CB group in the league. Add to that mix a trade-up to grab Eric Weddle (currently one of the few awesome players on the squad) and a somewhat revolving door of youth and veteran role players at SS and you've got the makings of a dominant secondary.
Not so fast...
Jammer is clearly slowing down. He has never been "explosive" in the way that league-best cover-guys are but he is a very strong, very smart and wily veteran corner who is rarely beat in the league. But age is catching up. Cromartie makes up the third absolute tool in the Jackson-Philips-Cromartie triumvirate which, coupled with his glaring unwillingness to tackle Shonn Greene in the AFC divisional round 2 years ago, got him shipped out of town. And Cason, to be frank, sucks (much like the rest of the up-and-coming talent on this team).
Their special teams spark left town with Darren Sproles. They have an excellent kicker - Nate Kaeding - who is really awesome unless you need a field goal that actually matters in the outcome of the game. Then, he sucks.
One word: Norv
Rejoice, Broncos fans, as you watch this roster crumble like columns of salt fleeing Sodom and Gommorah.