On Thursday, multiple media outlets announced the decision of former Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to join the broadcast booth for FOX Sports. Cutler was released by the Bears and after rumored less-than-fruitful talks with the New York Jets and Houston Texans, opted to make the jump to television.
This news comes a few weeks after Ex-Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo decided to retire and go into the broadcast booth for CBS Sports. Ironically, both quarterbacks came into the league at the same time in 2006 and appear to be leaving together as well.
The plan is for Cutler to work in a three-man booth with Charles Davis and Kevin Burkhardt. The difference with Cutler is that he is (as of right now) not retired. No papers have been filed and he hasn’t stated he’s retired. The closest he came on the subject was a quote made to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington:
“I don’t know if retirement is the right word. I don’t feel that anyone ever really retires from the NFL. You are either forced to leave, or you lose the desire to do what’s required to keep going. I’m in between those situations at this point in my life.” Cutler said.
He’s still a free agent and there is an out clause in his contract releasing him from his broadcast job if a quarterback vacancy is offered to him.
Personally, this comes as an ironic end to this tale. We’re talking about the quarterback who hasn’t cracked a smile since he was drafted. His own teammates have said they wish they could punch him in the face. He’s always been salty and tight-lipped with the media and now he is one of them. Did anyone tell him part of the job is being personable?
I’d do it quickly before the ink dries on that contract…
The now 2-6 San Diego Chargers are living out the meaning of the old cliché “backs against the wall”. This week alone, star receiver Keenan Allen, Branden Oliver and Tourek Williams were all placed on season-ending injured reserve. Corey Liuget and Ladarius Green left Baltimore in walking boots after Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. Thirteen players were injured during the Ravens game alone. Only 46 are allowed to play on Sundays. The Chargers literally lost over 25% of their active team on Sunday.
The offensive line is in shambles. Quarterback Philip Rivers has been sacked 19 times. Now the league’s top passer is down his best receiver, an emerging tight end (Green) and a running back that gained eight yards per reception in Oliver.
The defense is not faring much better. Team Captain Eric Weddle and Manti Te’o have missed multiple weeks. Both were entrusted with the ‘green dot’ helmet that receives the play transmission for the defense. Now that helmet resides in the locker of linebacker Donald Butler. Recent losses include rookie Denzel Perryman (biceps) and now Liuget. Unable to get pressure on the quarterback, the Bolts have only managed 15 sacks and four interceptions. To make matters worse, they’re allowing 28.4 points per game.
Coming into San Diego for a Monday Night Football showdown will be Jay Cutler and the 2-5 Chicago Bears. Like San Diego, the Bears lost their greatest weapon last week when Matt Forte was lost for the game and will miss time with a knee injury. On paper, the Chargers are more talented and should beat the lowly Bears rather easily.
The same thing was said when they went to the east coast to face the then 1-6 Ravens.
If the Bolts win, that will put them at 3-6 with a slim but still possible chance of challenging for a wild card spot in the playoffs. A loss makes a third straight 9-7 season nearly out of reach and a .500 season a daunting task. That being said…
Is it time to start tanking for a high draft pick?
We all want to see the Chargers go on a long winning streak that finishes in the playoffs. Realistically, they are five games behind the still undefeated Denver Broncos. The Broncos have been woeful offensively but their defense has been unstoppable and the main reason they have been able to stay undefeated. The fact that they have played weak opponents all the way up to last week’s impressive win over the then undefeated Green Bay Packers didn’t hurt either. The AFC West title is effectively out of reach barring Peyton Manning going down with injury.
By the way, the Chargers play the Broncos twice in the last five weeks.
That leaves the possible wild card. As of today, San Diego finds themselves two games behind the 4-3 Oakland Raiders, the 4-4 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 4-3 New York Jets. They have already lost to both Pittsburgh and Oakland and it would take massive collapses by those teams to give San Diego a chance of getting one of those two wild card spots.
At this point, it’s time to empty the playbook. It’s time to use every untested player, dust off every odd formation, gadget play and blitz strategy in hopes of getting a spark that will carry into next season. Unfortunately, the Chargers are playing for pride. They have dug a hole too deep to extract themselves from. I want them to go on a 8-0 run to finish the season in the playoffs like the rest of you. In the part of our brain that is responsible for rational thought, we know it isn’t going to happen.
Should the Chargers tank the season? No.
Should the Chargers play fast, loose and with a nothing-to-lose mentality for the rest of the season? Yes.
Go for it on every fourth-and-one. Mix up the play calling. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment with Gordon (Get the man a fullback). Experiment with the passing game (Green at WR? Yes, please). Experiment with movement. Boots, waggles, and bubble screens to get Gordon in space would be a nice start. Replace all those inside handoffs with toss sweeps to get the backs to the edge quicker. Go deep more. A LOT more. If you’re gonna go down, go down swinging.
At this point, the game with the Bears is the season. If the Bolts win, they maintain course as long as they continue to win. If they lose, time to blow up the formula, wing it and play for draft position. Get a top blue-chip prospect who can help the team immediately before Rivers’ window is closed forever. The top-ten picks are where game-changing, franchise-changing players can be found.
Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston, Oakland’s Amari Cooper, St. Louis’ Todd Gurley all have their respective teams on a trajectory to finish with a higher win total than last season. All were top-ten picks. The Chargers hope to have found the same fortune with Gordon but they had to trade up to 15th to get him, sacrificing a needed draft pick along the way. The jury is still out on Gordon, seeing as he only surpassed 100 carries for the season in the Ravens game.
San Diego needs a change of fortune and philosophy to get this uber-talented team over the top. As sad as it sounds, it’s going to take a step back, a change in coaching philosophy and a wise top-ten pick to finally move forward.
What do you think? Should the Chargers tank for a high-draft seeding? Leave your comments below.
The Greg One
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is not certain where he’ll be playing in 2016 and not just because of the team’s shaky stadium situation in San Diego.
In case you missed it, Rivers talked with the U-T San Diego about his future with the team.
Basically said he’s committed to playing out his contract with the Bolts, which expires after the 2015 season, but is unsure whether he’ll sign a new contract or try to work out an extension before training camp starts in July.
One of the reasons is, of course, family. Philip and his wife Tiffany have built a family in San Diego and if a move is necessary they will likely try to make it back South (both are from Alabama) instead of Los Angeles.
Add that revelation to the fact the Chargers are bringing in Oregon QB Marcus Mariota for a workout in April, and all of a sudden you have grounds for some serious speculation on a major overhaul of the Chargers offense.
So, let’s remove the emotion from the situation and sort some of it out logically.
First and foremost, the Chargers want to keep Rivers in place. General Manager Tom Telesco came from Indianapolis. His first year there was 1998, when the Colts drafted Peyton Manning. His last year there was 2012, when they took Andrew Luck. If anybody understands the importance of having a franchise quarterback in place, it’s Telesco (You can hear for yourself how Tom feels about Rivers in the video attached to this story, which was recorded December 31, 2014).
Telesco says he thinks Rivers has a number of good years left in him. The recent signings of Stevie Johnson and Orlando Franklin would suggest the Bolts still consider Rivers the key to their offense. For now, at least. Telesco also said he’s committed to Rivers retiring as a Charger.
But, what if Rivers is not? Then what do the Chargers do?
Bolts fans don’t have to think too far back to see what happened the last time the team let a QB walk out of town while getting nothing in return. In about 10 years they’ll see it on the bust of Drew Brees in Canton, OH. Rivers blossoming into a star eased the pain of Brees’ success, but the odds of having three Pro Bowl (and possibly Hall of Fame) caliber passers in a row are astronomical.
Here’s where Mariota enters the mix.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is going to have a private workout for the Bolts’ brass. Mariota’s athletic skill set could not be more different than Rivers, but having him learn for a year under #17 (who has already spent time coaching the youngster before the NFL Combine) would not be a bad thing.
If Telesco gets the vibe he’s not going to be able to retain Rivers long-term, he needs to be looking out for his franchise, and he could certainly do worse than adding someone as talented as Mariota.
Of course, that opens the question of … how would the Chargers get their hands on Mariota? He’s projected to be long gone before the Bolts make their selection in this year’s Draft (and no, the irony of that pick being #17 has not been lost). So, the Chargers would have to make a trade up.
Assuming Tampa Bay selects Jameis Winston first overall (which they’ve said publicly they’re leaning towards), the next team up also has serious QB issues: Tennessee. The Titans are quite the interesting possibility.
Ken Whisenhunt is their head coach. In 2013, he had a tremendous relationship with Rivers while serving as San Diego’s offensive coordinator. He would love to get his hands on Philip. However, sources close to the Titans tell me they’d be “shocked” if Tennessee traded the second overall pick for Rivers.
The Titans have a bunch of holes to fill. They are not one QB away from being true contenders. So, if they do deal the number two pick, it will be to stockpile other picks, and the Chargers are not likely to make that kind of gamble when they have as many issues to address as they do (o-line, d-line, running back, linebacker, etc.).
Looking at the rest of the NFL Draft order, there aren’t many teams who will use a pick on a quarterback:
3) Jacksonville – took Blake Bortles last year
4) Oakland – took Derek Carr last year
5) Washington – still don’t know what to do with Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy
6) NY Jets – ABSOLUTELY NEED A QB
7) Chicago – Possibility here. Jay Cutler could be released in another year
8) Atlanta – Matt Ryan
9) NY Giants – Eli Manning
10) St. Louis – just traded for Nick Foles but still a possibility
11) Minnesota – took Teddy Bridgewater last year
12) Cleveland – took Johnny Manziel last year
13) New Orleans – Drew Brees
14) Miami – Ryan Tannehill, although it’s possible they’re not 100% sold on him
15) San Francisco – Colin Kaepernick, basically the same style as Mariota
16) Houston – definitely in the market for a QB
So, the Chargers might not have to deal Rivers to get their hands on Mariota. If he falls far enough in the first round, they could conceivably move up just a couple of spots and not sacrifice too much (of course, the Eagles are lurking at #20 and, despite what Chip Kelly says about Sam Bradford, he’d make a more for his former recruit).
So you see there are a lot of moving pieces in play that would have to line up for Marcus Mariota to land in San Diego.
The other part of this whole scenario is this: The Chargers offense is built around Philip Rivers. If he is shockingly dealt before this year, or allowed to leave after the 2015 season, a whole lot of guys will go with him.
Antonio Gates, also a free agent, will leave. Eric Weddle, also a free agent, will leave. Those guys are not going to wait around for a rebuild; they’ve been through enough already. The entire identity of the Chargers, the franchise as we know it, will cease to exist. It will signal a complete personality change for the franchise.
Now, you can crack your jokes about that being perfect for a team playing in a new city, but the fact is this is a defining moment in Chargers history, not just off the field, but on it, as well.