It all came about because of a neighbor, who happened to be a diehard Chargers fan.
Initially, I was never a gal who liked to watch football. I went to a couple of games in high school but that was it. I grew up in this little place in Rhode Island, which is about a 90-minute drive outside of Boston. The closest NFL team was the Patriots. (I know, boo-hiss!) The only thing I could tell you then about the New England Patriots was that their quarterback was Jim Plunkett and they played at Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, MA.
My dad was a baseball guy, a fan of the good ol’ Boston Red Sox. The BoSox were his team, and Luis Tiant was his favorite player; probably more so than either Carl Yazstremski (“Yaz” was my favorite) or Tony Conigliaro.
We never watched football!
No, not even Super Bowls!
Fast forward to moving from the East Coast to the West Coast in 1980. I was still pretty uneducated about football at that time, but not for much longer!
I believe it was that fall when we began going to our neighbor’s home to watch San Diego Chargers football on Sunday afternoons. The Chargers’ Air Coryell offense was flying high with Fouts at QB. He had Charlie Joiner and John Jefferson at wideout, along with Chuck Muncie and John Cappelletti as his running backs. Additionally, No. 14 had Kellen Winslow at the tight-end spot. Remember that defense? Willie Buchanon, Louie Kelcher, Woody Lowe, Don Macek, Jim Laslavic and Ed White. Beasts!
That was a great year to start being a fan. The Chargers ended the season with an 11-5 record, finishing in 1st place in the AFC West. They went on to face the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round and won. Unfortunately, they ran into the Oakland Raiders at the AFC Championship level and lost. Disappointed, but my interest was piqued.
The following year the Chargers won their division again, in no small part due to the guys who returned from the previous year, but also additions like Wes Chandler, James Brooks, Eric Sievers and Pete Holohan.
Then came the “Epic in Miami.” What a game! Once you hear it, all football fans immediately associate it with the image of an exhausted and drained Kellen Winslow being helped off the field by a couple of teammates. Chargers won the hard-fought, see-saw contest, 41-38 in overtime. It was quite a battle.
These are the types of games that get fans fired up! I was no different. By that point, I was becoming a fan, although my understanding of the sport was still miniscule.
After the heat and humidity of Miami a week later, Fouts and Company found themselves in Cincinnati. This game gets a nickname, too: the “Freezer Bowl.” From the heat and humidity of Miami to the sub-zero temperatures in Cincy, where the wind chill at game time was minus-59 degrees! The Chargers would have the fight of their football lives on the line. Sadly, they lost to the Bengals 27-7.
Of course, there were other games and players that helped solidify my enjoyment – and frustration – of Chargers’ football, just like many other people who root for them. As a “transplant” to California in 1980, there were four football teams here: the San Francisco 49ers, the Oakland Raiders, the LA Rams and the San Diego Chargers.
I chose to represent San Diego then as I do now. My understanding of the game is better because of family and friends, plus a little bit of reading. I still have a long way to go and every year is a learning experience.
Thanks for some awesome memories over the years, San Diego Chargers! Now let’s bring on 2016!
Thank you for reading!
In this time of worry over the location of the 2016 Chargers, it is nice to see that some Bolt fans remain loyal to the team no matter what. Allow me to introduce John P. Schell. John and I have been friends since the ‘70s and despite traveling the world with the United States Army and finally settling down in Minnesota, his loyalty to the boys in blue and gold remains strong. We will start off with a brief bio of John followed by some questions and answers designed to help you get to know him better.
Will: Okay John, give me a brief background of who you are and your life experiences.
John: My personal goal in life is to be a better person than I was the day before. As a husband, father, son, uncle and friend to others, loyalty and leadership describes my personality when working, playing, or just hanging out with people. I had the privilege to serve in the U.S Army for 10 years as an Armor Crewman on the M60 and M1 series main battle tanks. If you saw the movie Fury with Brad Pitt, being a Tanker was the ‘best job I ever had”!
Will: Do you, or have you ever lived in San Diego?
John: I was born and raised in San Diego (Clairemont Rules!) in the late 60’s, 70’s, and half of the 80’s. After finishing my military commitment, I returned to San Diego for my post High School education, achieving my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and off I went into the business world and never looked back.
Will: Now that you live in Minnesota, how hard is it to find fellow Chargers fans? Are there any Chargers sports bars nearby?
John: In 2003, I had a great promotional and career changing opportunity with my company to live and work in the state of Minnesota. All I knew about Minnesota at that time was cold, snow, Vikings, Twins, and Prince. I accepted the challenge and moved my family to the Frozen Tundra in 2003. After 12 full winters (I count winters, not years here) in the beautiful state of Minnesota, it was a great decision all around. I miss my friends, authentic Mexican food, yes the warm weather after sub-zero degree weeks in December/January, but I mostly miss my Chargers on Sundays during the NFL season. I’ve searched all over the twin cities for Charger backers, clubs, bars, and fan clubs, but to no avail. When I wear my bolt (which is all year long) out in public, many Minnesotans say; “I like the Chargers, especially when they had Fouts, JJ, Winslow, Joiner, Chandler, and Muncie. Your team song San Diego Super Chargers is catchy as well.” Minnesota is an NFC town, so I have yet to hear any Charger haters, which is awesome!
Will: As for being in the military; First of all, thank you for your service. Second, did you have any other Chargers fans stationed with you? How much opportunity was there to keep up with the NFL?
John: Yes, my Army buddy was from Chula Vista. We met on the plane from San Diego on our way to Ft. Knox, KY for basic training. He is a diehard Bolt fan, and we drove all the other soldiers crazy when we saw them on TV or heard we won. I think we may have roughed up a few Raider, Chief, and Bronco fans along the way as we had to represent our Bolts! When stationed at Ft. Knox during the 85′ and 86′ seasons, finding the Charger game on TV was difficult being that these were two poor seasons (8-8 and 4-12 respectively) and the Chargers wouldn’t be the national game televised on Sunday. Had to wait for the halftime highlights to get updates (no internet, no smart phones, no satellite TV then). Overseas in Germany, it was pretty much the same with no visibility to watch the Chargers on the Armed Forces Network. My brother taped some of the games and I’d watch them on my $500 VCR a few weeks later when they arrived in the mail. Always loved seeing the shots of Charger fans with all the blue and gold in the stands and hearing the loud cheers.
Will: How long have you been a Chargers fan?
John: I have to say 1974 was the year I became a Charger fan for life. The names I’ll never forget were Jessie Freitas, Dan Fouts, Don Woods, Bo Matthews, Gary “The Ghost” Garrison, and Ray Wersching kicking field goals.
Over the next few years while in elementary school, the Chargers would send a player to come speak to us for an assembly (I remember Carl Mauck/Center talking to the kids and giving away a team photo). I also remember when we did have rainy days in San Diego during school; we would watch Charger highlight films instead of playing outside. That was fun! In my little league baseball days, Charger linebacker Ray Preston was a coach for one of the teams. What a treat that was to have a professional NFL football player from the San Diego Chargers helping out as a coach for that year.
((Will, this has to hit home for you too.))
Will: What was your most painful memory as a Bolt fan?
John: That’s simple for me. 2006 season, 14-2, No. 1 seed in the playoffs with home field advantage, divisional playoff game vs. the Patriots. We lost 24-21 and I was depressed for a long time. Still hurts, just not as much.
Will: What was your favorite moment?
I was very fortunate to be invited to the 1980 playoff game between the Bills and Chargers. First game I ever went to, and it was special. Great game up to the final minutes when Dan Fouts hits Ron Smith for a 50 yard touchdown pass to win the game. The crowd was electric and the feeling was unforgettable that game!
Will: Do you collect Chargers gear or memorabilia? If so, what is your prize possession?
John: The same brother that sent me Charger game tapes when I was in Germany gave to me an autographed authentic Junior Seau San Diego Charger helmet that sits next me at my desk. By the way, my brother worked at Seau’s the restaurant in the 90’s and really got to know Junior. My brother introduced Junior to me at his restaurant and it was amazing to spend a few minutes with him sharing his stories about San Diego. Great memory!
Will: Who is your favorite current Chargers player? How about all-time?
John: Favorite current Charger is Antonio Gates. He just gets the job done, he’s tough, all about the team, and seems to be a respectful man off the field.
All-time favorite Charger(s) is not one person, but a group. I loved the late 70’s defensive line known as the Bruise Brothers consisting of: “Big” Louie Kelcher, “Mean” Fred Dean, Gary “Big Hands” Johnson, and Leroy Jones. They were a unit that performed so well and excited Charger fans with their teamwork.
Will: Who is your pick for the best Chargers quarterback of all-time? Why?
John: No doubt, Dan Fouts. He showed leadership, skill, results, heart, winning, making others better and most of all his toughness. We all remember the severe hits he took, bloody noses, limping around on bad knees, yet he always showed up and competed with one purpose, to WIN!
Will: What position(s) do you feel needs to step up in 2015 in order for the Chargers to be true contenders?
John: Offensive Line needs to step up. Replacing Nick Hardwick is huge. O-Line needs to protect Philip and open the holes for the RB’s.
Will: How do you feel about the possible move to LA/Carson? Will you still be a fan?
John: I don’t even like the thought of this move happening. It would hurt all of us loyal Charger fans and the city of San Diego in a huge way. Yes, I’d still root for my Chargers just as I do for the Clippers and Rockets in the NBA who moved out of San Diego.
I’d like to thank John P. Schell for his service to our country, for taking the time to answer my questions and for his undying support of the San Diego Chargers. If you have any comments or questions for John or myself, please leave them below.
The 2014 version of the Chargers offense was not what San Diego fans have grown accustomed to watching. Chargers fans are used to dominant running backs and a high flying passing game that few teams can match. That was not the case in 2014. Last season’s offense scored less than 20 points on six different occasions, including a shutout in Miami, and a pathetic week 17 effort against Kansas City that only posted seven point, keeping the Bolts out of the playoffs. There were signs of greatness throughout the season, but no consistency to be found. Why is that? Well, the obvious answer was all of the personnel changes on the offensive line. The Chargers went through centers with the frequency that a doctor goes through rubber gloves. You just never knew who would be blocking for Rivers from week to week, or even play to play. That has to be it! Or does it? Will fixing the offensive line cure what ails the Chargers offense? I’m not so sure.
Not being a huge fan of history when I was in school, I have found in my old age that it truly is important to study the past when trying to predict the future. If you follow proven successful strategies, you tend to succeed. If you make the same mistakes that your predecessors make, you will most likely fail. I believe the Chargers have gotten away from what works. It may not be an intentional change, but there has been a change nonetheless. Let’s take a look back and see why previous Chargers offenses were so successful. There were two eras that stand out in my mind when I think of great Chargers offenses: “Air Coryell” and “Marty Ball”.
Despite the annual snubbing by the Hall of Fame toward Chargers coaching legend, Don Coryell, everyone agrees that when he was the Bolts coach, the offense took off! “Air Coryell” brought the passing game to the forefront and left the three yards and a cloud of dust offense far behind. Scoring points was rarely a problem for Coryell’s teams. But why were they so effective? Two reasons: A great offensive line and outstanding offense weapons at the skill positions.
Looking at the Chargers line from those days it is no wonder why Dan Fouts is in the Hall of Fame. Billy Shields holding down left tackle, Doug Wilkerson and left guard, Don Macek at center, big Ed White at right guard, and Russ Washington was at right tackle week in and week out. You could count on these behemoths to be there for you on a weekly basis protecting the star QB and opening holes for the running backs. They stayed together for many years and got to know what to expect from each other. That kind of talent and cohesiveness is huge for an offensive line. When you have to switch the lineup and put guys in positions they are not used to, it creates great challenges that are often nearly impossible to overcome in a short period of time.
Some would look at the formidable offensive line that Air Coryell possessed and figure that they were the reason that the offense was so great. I agree, to a point. I think without that line, the Chargers offense would have been above average, but not as devastating as they were. Give Dan Fouts time to throw and he will carve you up like a Thanksgiving turkey. What they had that put them over the top was very talented weapons in the skill positions. Let’s take a look at some of the players who benefited from great O line play, a brilliant offensive coach in Don Coryell, and a lot of talent:
Quarterback: Dan Fouts (HOF)
Wide Receiver: Charlie Joiner (HOF), John “JJ” Jefferson, Wes Chandler
Tight End: Kellen Winslow (HOF)
Running Back: Chuck Muncie, Gary Anderson, Lionel “Little Train” James, James Brooks
If you were fortunate enough to watch these guys play, you know that this is not a list of average players who would not have had success without the help of the offensive line. These players were special talents who did benefit from the great line, but also helped the line look better by getting open faster, hitting holes faster and harder, and throwing with quickness and decisiveness. Air Coryell was truly a gifted and complete offense.
Okay, that was a long time ago and the game has continued to evolve. So let’s take a look at a more recent offense: “Marty Ball”
Marty Ball was different than Air Coryell as it was more of an old school approach to moving the ball. Coach Marty Schottenheimer loved to run the football and impose his will on opponents. Having a top-notch offensive line was a very large part of Marty Ball. As Chargers fans have witnessed in the last couple of years, if you can’t open a hole, backs are rarely successful. Schottenheimer’s line could open holes and the backs could certainly hit them. Of course it never hurts to have one of the best running backs of all time on your team.
What did Schottenheimer’s offensive line have in common with Coryell’s? They were big, nasty, and reliable. They were there opening holes every Sunday for many years. Shane Olivea at right tackle, Mike Goff at right guard, Nick Hardwick at Center, Kris Dielman at left guard, and Marcus McNeill at left tackle were a formidable bunch who were not intimidated by defenses. They knew if they did their job, the Chargers would score and score often.
But again, would the Bolts have put up the huge numbers they did with average skill players? I highly doubt it. Here are some of the skill position players that benefitted from the O-Line:
Quarterback: Drew Brees (future HOF), Philip Rivers
Wide Receiver: Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd (younger version), Eric Parker
Tight End: Antonio Gates (younger version – future HOF)
Running Back: LaDainian Tomlinson (future HOF), Lorenzo Neal, Michael Turner
As you can see, both of these exceptional offenses have one thing in common; they were both filled with talent. They did not just have a strong offensive line and average talent that was able to excel due to large holes and great protection. They were able to dominate defenses because they were able to take advantage of their great offensive line by using above average to great talent at the skill positions.
In 2014, the Chargers offense looked great at times and then dropped off to a shell of what people hoping to see. Injuries on the offensive line were a major reason for the decline in effectiveness, but was that the only reason? I don’t think so. To see the whole picture, we need to look at the season and take a very hard look at the roster.
Coach Mike McCoy did not have the luxury of sending out a dominant offensive line like some of his predecessors. Nick Hardwick was his center in week one, but failed to make it back to the lineup the remainder of the season. That was a big blow as the center is responsible for reading the defense and calling out the blocking assignments for the line. That is a skill that takes time to develop. Throughout the remainder of the season, four other players got to take a shot at center due to a plethora of injuries at that position. In fact, the player who ended the season looking like the front runner to be the starter in 2015, Chris Watt, had never played the position before.
Along with Hardwick Et Al., at center, the Chargers had DJ Fluker at right tackle, Johnny Troutman at right guard, Chad Rinehart and left guard, and King Dunlap at left tackle. With the exception of Dunlap, this was a very inexperienced line and injuries plagued them throughout the entire season. But who was there to help them out?
Quarterback: Philip Rivers (Arguably future HOF)
Wide Receiver: Malcom Floyd, Keenan Allen (missed two games), Eddie Royal, Seyi Ajirotutu (special teams players forced to get snaps at WR), Dontrelle Inman (rookie discovered in last couple weeks)
Tight End: Antonio Gates (aging, but still solid, Future HOF)
Running Back: Ryan Mathews (6 games, 74 carries), Donald Brown (13 games, 85 carries), Danny Woodhead (3 games, 15 carries, 5 rec), Branden Oliver (14 games, only 582 yards to lead team in rushing)
Comparing the 2014 Chargers offensive players to Air Coryell and Marty Ball makes it easy to see the problem with the current offense. Not only was the 2014 offensive line hampered by injury, it wasn’t great to start! Once Hardwick went down, there was little hope that the line would be able to work together like the lines of old. Too little experience and too many injuries really limited the offense and what plays they could run. That being said, would the 2014 Chargers offense have been one for the ages if the line had stayed healthy from week one? Honestly, I seriously doubt it.
Along with their inexperienced offensive line, the 2014 Chargers simply did not have the skill players needed to score points like Chargers teams of the past. They are lacking a deep threat at wide receiver. Malcom Floyd had a very nice season and can still get deep at times, but he does not strike fear in defenses like he did when he was younger and lined up opposite of Vincent Jackson, a deep threat in his own right. Keenan Allen is a nice route runner and makes a lot of catches, but only averages 10.2 yards per catch. The Chargers will need to add a true deep threat if they want Allen and Floyd to be dangerous weapons in 2015.
Running back is the most trouble for the Bolts moving forward. Most Chargers fans will argue that if the line could run block, the backs will gain yards. I have argued that myself! Looking back, I see where Ryan Mathews came back from injury and ran quite effectively behind a poor offensive line. He even put up over 100 yards (8.8 ypc) against a highly touted Rams front seven. So it can be done, if the back is good enough to make defenders miss or run through them.
One argument that I have not broached is that the 2014 offense did not compare favorably with the offenses of the past because Offensive Coordinator (OC) Frank Reich does not match up with Don Coryell, or Cam Cameron (OC under Schottenheimer). Perhaps we will tackle that topic another day.
Another argument is that you can’t load your offense up with three or four future Hall of Fame players anymore because of the salary cap. If you spend that kind of money on offense, your defense will suffer and your team will not be balanced enough to win championships. This argument has merit, but I say if you draft well, you will not have to pay the future stars big money for their first four years with the team. If they are worth big money for their second contract, there are many things that can be done to spread out the money over time and not kill your cap space. Other teams do it, why not the Chargers?
So, bringing this back to the original question, will fixing the offensive line fix the Chargers offense in 2015? My answer is no. That being said, I believe it will greatly improve the offense, just not get It to the elite level that we have seen in San Diego in the past. Until a deep threat and a true number one running back can be brought in, I don’t see this offense being any better than above average with occasional flashes of brilliance. Philip Rivers can only do so much at quarterback. The man needs talent around him.
Thanks for reading and please leave your comments below.
(Thanks to the following sites for the pics: thelandryhat.com, outdoor-wholesale-dropship.doba.com, spokeo.com, m.theepoctimes.com, and hillnholler.net)
In terrible news via Adam Schefter of ESPN, Chuck Muncie has passed away due to an apparent heart attack. Muncie played for both the New Orleans Saints and, of course, the San Diego Chargers.
The bespectacled running back put up some solid performances during his time in the NFL. Muncie rushed for 6,702 yards and 71 touchdowns during his NFL career. This includes the remarkable season where he posted 19 touchdowns in 1981.
Muncie was 60 years old.
Our prayers and thoughts go out to Muncie’s family and friends.