AFC wild card game
The Chargers broke countless hearts when they finally announced they would be relocating to Los Angeles, leaving the residents of San Diego in shock, confused and heartbroken.
Some fans decided to decided to follow them to their new locale, while others decided not to support such horrible ownership and what many believe to be an incredibly poor decision.
I have with me a good friend and fellow staff writer who’s made the decision of choosing a new team, Chris Hoke.
Chris: First off, thank you for conducting this interview. It’s been a long six months since greed and selfishness took my hometown team away from me, leaving me to wonder where the fuck do I go from here.
Charlie: No problem at all! I would like to briefly go over your time as a Chargers fan and ask you a couple of questions about the process of being a free agent fan, so to speak. How long were you a fan of the Bolts? Was it a born-to-now thing? This move must’ve really crushed you.
Chris: I was Chargers fan for 25 brutal seasons. Basically since I was a little kid I grew up watching them with my grandpa and my brother. It become a Sunday tradition in our household. No matter how bad the bolts were my brother and I stuck our team.
Hearing about the bolts was definitively soul crushing. I’ve seen the Chargers get killed in their only Super Bowl appearance. I was there for LT’s last game as a Charger. I was there when the Jets beat us in the playoffs in 2010. I thought those were soul crushing experiences. They pale in comparison to losing your hometown team. It’s like your brother died. I would never wish this kind of pain on any fan. It’s truly been one of hardest times in my life.
Charlie: I’m sure if we take the Spanos family out of the picture, were looking at a much different outcome in this whole process. So that being said, what was a couple of moments being a fan that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life? There’s got to be a part of you that wants to see the players still succeed and do great, right?
Chris: As much as I despise Dean, If you took the Spanos’ out of the picture maybe things would’ve worked out. It wasn’t just his fault though the city of San Diego needs to take some of the blame. For the last 15 years both sides did this dance. Dean would come up with plans to renovate Jack Murphy Stadium or build a multi-purpose center downtown, which would host a number of sporting events. Each time Dean would do this the city turned him down; finally capping it off last November when Proposition C failed miserably. The city and Mayor Faulconer basically left Dean no choice but move the Chargers. So no, I don’t believe the end would be better without Dean. San Diego losing the Chargers was inevitable.
I don’t know if you ever went to any Chargers home games in the Q Charlie, but when the Chargers were winning there was blue and gold everywhere. This city was buzzing. One of the things I will miss about home games was the calm before the storm. The music would start and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” would hit. Then smoke would filter out of the Chargers helmet then the cannon would fire and then the starting units would be introduced. You just got that electric nervous feeling almost like you were in the game. Those nerves would be turned up even more if it was a rivalry or a playoff game.
As far as moments I’ll cherish, every game I went to was with my brother. Win or lose we were always there next to each other for support. The shared experience of moments and memories like that were enough to last a lifetime.
If I had to go back and pick one game. It would be the Colts wildcard game in 2010 when Darren Sproles scored in overtime in one of the craziest overtime endings ever. Shocking the then Super Bowl Champion Colts.
Football and the Chargers were more to me than money or the games I went to. It was family. Not Dean, not Roger Goodell or anybody will ever take that from me. Family is forever and I will forever be a San DIego Chargers fan!
As far as the players, some have handled this in a way where they can put the true San Diego Chargers fan into their perspective. Take Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates for example. They have both expressed how much San Diego meant to not only their careers but to their families as well. For those players I will cheer for them and hope they finish their careers on top.
Now for those players such as Keenan Allen, who by the way was caught wearing a Raiders hat after he was drafted; we know which team he gets soft against. Allen wasted no time burning his bridge with SD fans by tweeting how excited he was to play in LA only moments after news broke about the Bolts departing from San Diego. I would say that in my eyes those players don’t exist to me and that true Chargers fans should question those players loyalty to not only the team but to us the fans.
Charlie: Safe to say that Darren Sproles game winner has to be a top-3 moment in every Chargers’ fan memory. It was amazing. Still gives me goosebumps to this day watching it and seeing Peytons’ helpless face. *Devilish Laugh*. Now that you’re a free agent fan, have you narrowed it down to any teams in specific that you are gonna cheer for from here on out? if so, how did it come down to them? Whats the process on picking a new team? What plays a big role in attracting you to become a fan? I’m sure given this experience, a huge part has to be ownership.
Chris: I have narrowed it down to three teams. Those teams being the:
Green Bay Packers
For me it came down to several reasons,
First of all with the Packers, I’ve always loved the Packers and the history that comes with this franchise. Not to mention they are publicly owned. The team cares about its fan base. It would also be nice to be a fan of a franchise that knows what it takes to get to a Super Bowl and win.
Secondly, the Philadelphia Eagles. One of the oldest franchises in the league. Like my former team the Eagles have struggled to win a championship. They have had two Super Bowl appearances. One was in 1981 where they lost to the underdog Oakland Raiders. The second loss came in 2004 at the hands of the New England Patriots. Why the Eagles though? My best friend comes from Philly. So I’ve already become a secondary Eagles fan. Since I am now a free agent the idea of being a part of a fan base that is loyal to its team no matter what would be a breath of fresh air compared to the fair weather fan base of the San Diego/LA Chargers.
Lastly, the Chargers. I still can’t call them that disgusting cities name because really it makes me sick to my stomach. It’s like the New York Yankees moving to New Jersey and becoming the New Jersey Yankees. It would make a New Yorker sick. I digress though many may call me a hypocrite since I said “I would never cheer for a team in that city.” However, the Chargers have been all I have known for 25 years. I’ve grown up with this team. They are my blood. They are the bond that my brother and I have always shared. The Chargers are like family to me. If I were to pick them it would be not because of that shithead of an owner. Not because the Mayor of San Diego had a stick so far up his ass he refused to see the grander picture. It would be my heart. My heart has belonged to this team. Whether I like it or not it will always belong to this team.
Charlie: It truly sounds like you have limitless love for the Chargers even after this whole disaster. That’s why you and I connect in good ways. The Packers and Eagles are pretty fair choices as well. Both places can get very cold though, so if you plan on taking trips to see the teams, at Lambeau especially, make sure to bundle up. So before we get into the actual team that you’re rocking with, how has this decision affected relationships with fellow Chargers fans? Do they understand why you’re doing this? I’m sure people feel your pain to some degree. Have you lost any followers on social media?
Chris: I live in Missouri and just moved from Nebraska. I’ve adjusted to cold weather I actually prefer it as well. As far as the transition to being apart of the bolt family on social media to a free agent fan. Man, its been rough. In fact its been one hell of a past seven months. Some have accepted it and understand why I have done it. Some have chosen the same path. Such as former BoltBlitz writer Zak Darman. Others who I have considered close followers have shown anger towards myself and others saying “we were never true fans” which is preposterous. I believe as humans we all grieve in certain ways. Of course I haven’t helped my own cause when I have drunkenly mocked the bolts and L.A. For that I apologize. It was a part of the seven steps of grief anger. In fact after this interview I will no longer be talking about the move or how much I hate Dean Spanos. The subject on this matter is now officially closed!
Charlie: Hypothetical question here, lets say you pick a team that isn’t the Bolts and they end up over exceeding expectations and making playoffs, how would that make you feel? Would you consider coming back? I myself would welcome you back with open arms. Everybody makes mistakes right? All 3 teams are good this year so there should be no letdown where ever you choose to land.
Chris: If the Bolts finally exceed expectations that would be a shock. I mean every time this team is predicted to “take over” the AFC West this team falls flat on its face. So I would be shocked and happy for the players like Rivers, Gates and other veteran guys who deserve to go out on top. However I would not change my mind to be Chargers fan again. Though I’ve thought about trying to be a fan for just one year. Like a player does when he signs a one-year contract. That’s not for me though. When I pick my team this is gonna be the team I stand by till I die!
Charlie: Is everybody in the Hoke family going to be following you on this decision or will this be a solo mission? Somebody in your family had to have either helped with your decision or entice you to go a certain route? Joining a fan base alone can be like switching schools as a kid.
Chris: As I’ve stated in an earlier question. My brother will be remaining a Chargers fan. The rest of my family is either fans of different teams or they are not into football in general. So no, this is something I’ve done on my own unfortunately.
Charlie: Alright so by now, I’m pretty sure the people are on their toes. Everybody can feel your pain and love for the Chargers throughout the article. A lot of people understand you and share those same emotions. Hopefully, this article and your decision can help others and their futures as football fans. With all that being said Mr. Man-of-the-hour, what team are you going with? Who are you going to support going forward? This is a huge decision and it has me so ecstatic to find out! I just hope you’re choosing to stay with us!
Chris: Oh man, This is a question I’ve asked myself over and over for the past seven months. Its taken a lot of soul-searching to get to this point. Being that I’m the man of the hour and I’m a man of my word.
I’ve decided to take my fandom with the Chargers to LA. At the end of the day this is my team. No owner can strip that away from me. I’ve seen these players such as Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates come up from nowhere to be the NFL’s elite. More so than this the Chargers are family. As the line in “Fast and the Furious” series always says “You don’t turn your back on family.” As hard as it is to cheer for a team in a city I hate, things change and I will learn to love this team again. I would once again like to apologize to all the bolt family I’ve spurned for the past seven months. It was a part of the grieving process. I hope you all can forgive me and let me back into the bolt family once again.
Again, Charlie I would like to thank you for these wonderful questions and helping me to close a huge chapter in my life. I look forward to cheering with you on Sundays. Go Bolts!!
Charlie: Yesssssss!!! Words can’t describe how hyped I am to hear you say that. I sure as hell speak for the entire bolt family when I say “welcome back”. Something told me all along you were going to stay with the team. Your passion for this team stretches further than most. This would definitely would not be the best time to leave anyways. The talent on this squad has everybody hyped for the future and I’m truly happy that you are able to look past all the destruction and let downs over the years to stay with them. It’s only going to make winning that much better. I truly am grateful to have found out your great decision first! Next round is on me!
Charlie LaFurno and Chris Hoke
Anyone who has read my columns knows I am not a Ryan Mathews supporter. My columns on him have been critical to say the least and I still say he has deserved every bit of that criticism. I write on the behalf of many Chargers faithful who shudder every time we see him on the field, ailing from whatever phantom injury he always seems to be playing through or coming back from this time.
Then this season happened.
In my own defense, after seeing what the Chargers were doing after bringing in new GM Tom Telesco and new head coach Mike McCoy, I gave Mathews the benefit of the doubt. In my season predictions I wrote Mathews would have 1100 yards rushing, provided he could stay healthy. McCoy was implementing a ball-control, rhythm passing game utilizing Philip Rivers abilities with short passes and short drops to minimize the beating our franchise quarterback has suffered over the last few seasons.
Telesco brought in Danny Woodhead to play the quintessential safety valve for Rivers, something he hasn’t had since the departure of Darren Sproles. As a result, all Mathews had to do was take the ball and plow forward and hopefully gain positive yardage.
This season, Mathews exceeded all expectations. Mathews played all sixteen games for the first time in his career. His power running spearheaded the Chargers offensive attack the last quarter of the season. In addition to that, Mathews finished fifth in the NFL in rushing last season with a career-high 1255 yards rushing. Even the anti-Mathews contingent such as myself had to admit the man earned his money this season.
Until this past season, Mathews career in San Diego has been marred by a litany of injuries, turnovers and ineffectiveness on the field. For the man who was chosen to be the heir apparent to Ladainian Tomlinson, Mathews has given Chargers fans little reason to support him until this season.
This upcoming season is the last season on Mathews contract. The decision looms. Do the Chargers resign Mathews to a long term deal or let him loose in free agency? If Mathews can reproduce this season’s numbers the team would be moved to give Mathews a few more years in lightning bolts. Knowing Mathews history, it’s hard to put faith in the assumption Mathews can be as durable season in and season out as he was last season.
Marring Mathews banner season is his performance in the playoffs. Mathews timely running yielded an average of 4 yards per carry (13 carries for 52 yards, 2 receptions for 12 yards) in the Chargers wild card round win over the Bengals. In the divisional playoffs against Denver, Mathews was injured (again) and lost for the game after only five carries. In the biggest moment of Mathews career, against a juggernaut of a team like Denver who ended up representing the AFC in the Super Bowl, Mathews and the injury bug reunited and the Chargers fell in the end.
So what do the Chargers do?
What the Chargers do is play Mathews the same as they did last season. It took a quarter of the season for the coaching staff to decide how to use Mathews but after Mathews showed he could be trusted to carry the ball effectively he carried the ball a lot more and the Chargers went 4-1 in the last month of the season, entering the playoffs on a four game winning streak. Mathews entire body of work needs to be evaluated and a decision made based on that information.
The Chargers also need to draft a running back to be Mathews understudy this season. As a 2nd through 7th round pick, there will be no pressure to throw that player into the fire right away. He can learn the offense and get acclimated to the pro game from the sidelines. Knowing Mathews’ injury history, that player will most likely see field time in meaningful games before the season is out but it is a good situation for an incoming blue chip running back to be in.
Two names that jump to the forefront are Trey Mason from Auburn and James Wilder Jr. from Florida State. Their teams faced off for the 2013 NCAA National Championship. Wilder is declaring for the draft after his sophomore season. Wilder is slightly over 6’2 and 232 pounds at the NFL Combine. The fact that Wilder ran a poor 40 time (4.86) means his draft stock dropped into the middle rounds, perfect place to groom a future feature back. Wilder is a dynamic runner with little wear on the tires.
It is unlikely a running back will be taken in the first round but Tre Mason is at the top of the running back class this season. He may be viewed as undersized at 5’9 but many backs his size have succeeded. Mason posted a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine but looks faster on the field. Mason is explosive as they come and he ran for over 1800 yards this season against the best conference in college football, the SEC. Seeing as how the Chargers draft at the bottom of every round, if Mason is still on board in the second round, picking him should be a lock. New GM Tom Telesco wants to increase team speed, and they don’t get much faster than Mason.
Other running backs are there for the taking in the middle rounds like Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde or De’Anthony Thomas of Oregon. The Chargers have room and time to groom the next full-time ball carrier instead of rushing him into the fray and potentially stumping his development. In the meantime, Mathews will have to put up or face free agency next offseason. The Chargers should find a stud back and cut ties with Mathews after next season. They need a back who is dependable and can be counted on in the payoffs. Mathews has not shown he is that guy.
The Chargers have made another step to solving this quandary when they signed Donald Brown on the first day of free agency. Brown was with Telesco in Indianapolis and despite only having five starts last season, led the Colts in rushing with 537 yards on 102 carries for a 5.3 yards per carry average and six touchdowns. Brown is also excellent catching the ball out of the backfield and unlike Mathews, understands pass protection and is proficient with it, unlike Mathews.
The Chargers signed Brown to a three-year deal so Telesco believes Brown has the skills to get the job done. Brown has had his own battles with nagging injuries but the Colts have always utilized him as a utility man, never in the feature back role until the failure of the Trent Richardson experiment last season. The Colts traded a first round pick for Richardson who then forgot how to run like he did in his rookie year when he amassed over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Brown stepped into the feature role the last quarter of the season and Richardson was sent to the bench.
Mathews also addresses Telesco’s desire to improve team speed. Brown was a first round draft pick in 2009. At the 2009 Combine Brown posted a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and has shown that speed on the field. The 5’10 back amassed 367 carries in his junior year at Connecticut, rushing for 2083 yards and 18 touchdowns. Those 367 carries are more than he has totaled in his last three seasons in the NFL, 344. The Chargers are already bringing in insurance for the likely scenario Mathews gets injured. Brown’s presence also allows the Chargers to trade Mathews instead of letting him walk as a free agent.
With Brown, do the Chargers still need to add a back in the draft? I say yes, especially if Mason is on the board in the second round. What say you Bolt Nation?
The Greg One