It is no secret that the San Diego Chargers are on the hunt for a new head coach. Yes, Mike McCoy has worn out his welcome and has been shown the door. As Chargers coaches go, he wasn’t anywhere near the worst. Nor was he near the best. Some give him the excuse that injuries handcuffed McCoy and made it impossible to win. There is an element of truth to that statement, but the fact that he still showed poor game management and lacked any kind of personality didn’t help his argument for staying on and at least finishing his contract. No, McCoy had to go and a new coach must be ushered in. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that this hire may be the most important decision that the Bolts have moving forward. More important then who they re-sign, who they draft, and as far as wins and losses go, where they play.
Judging by the list of candidates that the Chargers have lined up, it appears that the upper management may want a defensive minded coach. In fact, the first three candidates interviewed were all current defensive coordinators. History shows that building a team with the attitude of a defensive mind has worked well for the Chargers. I know what you are thinking, if you are old enough to remember, “The Chargers earned their stripes as an offensive juggernaut!” Well that is true, but that style has not worked in decades. The last two coaches who truly built a formidable contender were both defensive minded; Bobby Ross and Marty Schottenheimer.
Taking a look at all 15 former head coaches of the San Diego Chargers, you will see that only six have a winning record. Here is the list of former coaches, when they coached, their record and winning percentages:
Sid Gilman ’60-’69 & ’71 87-57-6 .600
Charlie Waller ’69-’70 9-7-3 .553
Harland Svare ’71-73 7-17-2 .307
Ron Waller ’73 1-5 .166
Tommy Prothro ’74-78 21-39 .350
Don Coryell ’78-’86 72-60 .545
Al Saunders ’86-’88 17-22 .436
Dan Henning ’89-’91 16-32 .333
Bobby Ross ’92-’96 50-36 .581
Kevin Gilbride ’97-’98 6-16 .272
June Jones ’98 3-7 .300
Mike Riley ’99-01 14-34 .292
Marty Schottenheimer ’02-’06 47-33 .588
Norv Turner ’07-’12 59-43 .578
Mike McCoy ’13-’17 28-38 .424
As you can clearly see, it has been a long time since an offensive mindset has been successful for the Chargers. Sid Gilman was the only coach to ever lead the Chargers to a championship and he was most definitely an offensive coach. But Gilman was doing things offensively with the passing game that had never been done before. Defenses had not had time to adjust to his aerial circus.
Sure, Norv Turner had the fourth best winning percentage of any Chargers coach in history, but it is widely understood that he inherited a great roster from Schottenheimer and systematically burned it to the ground in just a few years.
Yes, Don Coryell is a legend and had one of the best offenses in NFL history! But, the lack of importance placed on the defense in those years doomed his teams to falling short of their ultimate goal. Now, the same thing could be said about Schottenheimer and the post-season. He did indeed fail in the post-season as well, even with his defensive mindset. That is true, but let’s not forget that Marty was fired with a 14-2 record and a roster that could still be dominant for years to come. He was not given the chance to run the full course. We will never know what could have been.
As previously stated, it does appear to be time for a new sheriff in town. Not just a new face saying the same old garbage. The Chargers need a new face, with a new attitude. An attitude of accountability and determination. An attitude of winning is what matters, not excuses. If they fail to find the right man for the job, look for beloved players like Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates to end their potential Hall of Fame careers without any jewelry to show for it. It’s now or never for those great Chargers.
Whether the Chargers go with an offensive or defense coach, or even a special teams guy, there is one thing that they need to do above all else……GET IT RIGHT!
I don’t know about you, but if I have a great vacation planned on Monday, I have a hard time focusing on being productive at work on Friday. Someone better say or do something to keep me focused on my job or I might as well stay home. Apparently, the Chargers players feel the same way. Since Mike McCoy took over as Head Coach (HC) of the Chargers, the team is 1-3 the week before the bye. Their only win coming against a very poor Jacksonville team. So, am I suggesting that coaching has something to do with the team losing focus? You bet I am! Taking a look at recent Chargers history, it seems the better the coach, the better the team stays focused the week before the bye.
So let us take a look at the last three Chargers coaches and see how each one did before the bye. We will go in reverse order, starting with Mike McCoy. This is McCoy’s fourth season as the Chargers Head Coach. He has had four opportunities to go to the bye with momentum. He has squandered three of those opportunities. Time to take a look at McCoy’s 1-3 pre-bye record:
Year Week Opponent W/L Score
2016 10 Dolphins L 24-31
2015 9 Bears L 19-24
2014 9 Dolphins L 0-37
2013 7 Jaguars W 24-6
Those are not exactly juggernauts that the Bolts fell to the last three years. Although the Chargers are not to be confused with a team that contends for the championship each season, they are certainly good enough to win against this competition. It appears to this viewer that the Chargers do not come out to play going into a bye under Mike McCoy.
Okay, so maybe the players are mentally fishing, hunting, or golfing while they await permission to leave for vacation. Is that really on Mike McCoy? Not completely, but in my humble opinion he should shoulder much of the blame.
Despite the negative opinion that most Chargers fans have about former HC, Norv Turner, I think most would agree that he was better than McCoy. Turner did lead the team to as high as a 12-4 record during his tenure. Yes, he did have a very nice roster to work with, but he still had to coach and motivate the team. Turner’s record going into a bye very much resembles the average coach that he was. Norv teams were 3-3 the day before vacation. Here is the breakdown:
2012 6 Broncos L 24-35
2011 5 Broncos W 29-24
2010 9 Texans W 29-23
2009 4 Steelers L 28-38
2008 8 Saints L 32-37
2007 6 Raiders W 28-14
Now let us take a peak at a coach who was considered a winner, a disciplinarian, and a leader. Yes, Marty Schottenheimer was the Chargers HC for five seasons. Schottenheimer was known for not allowing his players to lose focus. He kept his players accountable. They knew that if they slacked off, they would be invited to watch the rest of the game from the bench. It is no coincidence that his record going into a bye was excellent. Here is what Marty accomplished:
2006 2 Titans W 40-7
2005 9 Jets W 31-26
2004 9 Saints W 43-17
2003 5 Jaguars L 21-27
2002 7 Raiders W 27-21
Sure enough, the Chargers, under Schottenheimer were a very respectable 4-1 heading into a bye. Before you start talking about how great the players were in Marty’s day, remember he had teams that went 8-8, 4-12 and 9-7 to go along with his 12-4 and 14-2 teams.
In this writer’s opinion, there is no doubt that a coaches ability to keep his team motivated and focused on the goal at hand, rather than their upcoming vacation, is paramount to a team’s success. What is your opinion? Please leave your comments below. I’ll get back to you. #gobolts!
Let us begin with one seemingly simple, yet frequently argued truth: the Chargers made the right decision when they let Drew Brees get away.
Those with 20/20 hindsight see how great Brees became and know that he won a ring with New Orleans. They look at his accomplishments after leaving San Diego and compare them to the success, or lack thereof, of the Chargers under Rivers, and envy the fans of the Saints.
That being said, be honest with yourself, Drew Brees was seriously injured in his last game in San Diego and, quite frankly, his performance with the Chargers was average at best.
Please allow me to refresh your memory.
During the Brees’ tenure in San Diego, he was very hit-or-miss. In his first season, he sat the bench and learned behind fan-favorite Doug Flutie. In his sophomore year, 2002, he won the starting role, but was only able to throw for a little over 3200 yards with 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, adding two fumbles. Not bad for a first-year starter, but he lead the team to a middling 8-8 record.
Brees came back as the starter in 2003 and only amassed 2100 yards with 11 touchdowns, 15 picks, and four fumbles. He was benched by then head coach Marty Schottenheimer and replaced by Flutie. Despite the efforts of Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the team ended up just 4-12 that season. With Brees seemingly heading in the wrong direction, the Chargers’ brain trust decided that it was time to draft a quarterback.
Enter Philip Rivers.
In 2004, Brees could see the writing on the wall. The Chargers traded for Philip Rivers on draft day and he was the heir apparent to the starting QB job.
Brees’ days were numbered indeed.
Fortunately for Drew, Philip decided to hold out for more money and missed most of training camp. Coach Schottenheimer decided that he could not afford to start their new $40 MIL rookie and put Brees back in his familiar role.
Well, one thing we all know about Drew Brees in current times is that when his back is against the wall, he will come out fighting. He went on to throw for over 3100 yards with 27 touchdowns, against just 7 interceptions and four fumbles. This was by far his most productive season, as he lead his team to an amazing 12-4 record.
What do you do with a quarterback who just lead your team from worst to first in a single year? You start him the next year!
The 2005 campaign rolls around and Rivers is sent to the bench once more. That holdout is proving very costly to the sophomore QB. This was the last season on Brees’ contract. Something had to be decided by the end of the year. Two quarterbacks’ futures were on the line as the season wore on. Brees was quite inconsistent in 2005. He amassed just under 3600 yards and 24 touchdowns, but his interceptions ballooned back up to 15 and his fumbles up to eight!
The decision was going to be tough.
With the team going 9-7 and Brees showing signs of greatness along with signs of ineptitude, no one was sure whom the Chargers would keep.
Word was leaked out that general manager AJ Smith wanted to keep Rivers. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer liked Brees.
Who would win the job?
As it turned out, that difficult decision was made quite easy. Despite many who thought Brees should not play the meaningless final game of the season, Schottenheimer decided he should. Many speculated that Brees got the start because Schottenheimer did not want to showcase what Rivers could do and keep AJ Smith from offering Brees a contract extension.
Whatever the reason was, it backfired in a big way.
While attempting to recover a fumble, Brees suffered a severely torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. This injury is not considered an automatic career-ender, but many do not return with the same arm strength. Brees was not considered a strong-armed QB to begin with, so the thought of him coming back weaker was not attractive. Also, the thought of letting go of their $40 MIL bonus baby was eating away at AJ Smith.
Smith made the call. With Brees’ numbers declining and it being impossible to determine if and when he would recover from his injury, it was time to part ways; thus opening the door for Philip Rivers, who lead the Chargers to a 14-2 record the following season.
With Rivers and Tomlinson playing at an extremely high level, it was obvious that Smith made the right call. Hell, even the Dolphins, who brought Brees in for a workout, refused to sign him. They opted instead for aging veteran Daunte Culpepper. That proved to be an extremely poor decision.
Yet again, when you tell the undersized Drew Brees that he can’t do something, he gets determined to prove you wrong. Brees rehabbed his shoulder and came back stronger than ever before. The New Orleans Saints decided to take a shot and signed him as their new starting QB. Just four years later, Drew Brees was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy high in the air and celebrating his Super Bowl victory with the Saints. He was the king of New Orleans and the top passer in the NFL.
Sunday, October 2, 2016, Drew Brees returns to his roots. He will once again grace the field at Qualcomm stadium in front of thousands of adoring fans who think about what could have been.
You see, Drew Brees didn’t leave San Diego in an ugly fashion. There may have been no love lost between Brees and the Chargers’ front office, but with the community, all was well. In fact, Brees still lives in San Diego in the offseason and is a pillar of the community.
There is no question that the success that Brees has seen in his brilliant career in New Orleans has helped revisionist historians question the decision to let him go. That being said, what choice did the Chargers have? Keep an ailing, undersized, average quarterback? Or, give the young stud who they had invested so heavily his opportunity to shine?
In reality, the decision worked out for both teams. Brees found the perfect situation, team, city and coach to allow his skills to flourish. Rivers stepped in and quickly made fans believers. In fact, they are both considered to be future Hall of Fame QBs by many experts.
My question is, if Brees did not get injured, would he ever have had the chip on his shoulder that allowed him to build up his strength and become a far stronger and more deadly quarterback than he was in his first five years?
We will never know the answer to that question, so the debate goes on.
Thanks for reading. Please leave your comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.
Go Bolts! #VoteYesOnC
Over a month ago the San Diego Chargers drafted defensive end Joey Bosa with their third overall pick. Along with Bosa the Chargers drafted two more defensive players. One of them was Bosa’s running mate at Ohio State, Joshua Perry. These look to be great additions combined with the free agent signings of defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and safety Dwight Lowery.
Some Chargers fans are clamoring for the Chargers to switch defensive schemes. I’ll tell you why this can not and will not happen anytime soon. First, I’ll tell you the difference between the two schemes. For the purpose of this piece it will just be a base 3-4 scheme versus the base 4-3 scheme. After this I will give my opinion on why switching schemes wouldn’t be beneficial for the Bolts moving forward.
I’ve stated in a previous article (Bolt Up For Bosa) that the Chargers only run their base scheme about 50% of defensive snaps. It’s these 50% of snaps I will be focusing on. That being said what is a 3-4 defense? It has been used famously by Bum Phillips, the father of Wade Phillips.
Used by the Houston Oilers in the 70’s, it’s predicated on pressure by overwhelming the offensive line with multiple attacking defensive players. If used correctly this scheme can be virtually unstoppable. This was defensive scheme used most brilliantly by the Denver Broncos to defeat the Carolina Panthers in this past years’ Super Bowl.
The 3-4 was the staple of Dick LeBeau’s defense which helped drive multiple teams to Super Bowl appearances. Lebeaus’ defense has yielded two wins and four losses in the Super Bowl. In New England, the 3-4 has been the driving force behind the Patriots dynasty. Yes, Tom Brady has made his throws but its been the defense that’s given the Patriots four Super Bowl titles in 15 years.
Breaking it down the 3-4 consists of three down linemen and four linebackers. The four linebackers have endless possibilities on how they can be placed. There’s a multitude of packages to utilize. This makes the 3-4 a hard defense to plan against. With four linebackers you don’t know who is blitzing or who is dropping back in coverage. The point of a 3-4 defense is mismatches. It’s built to stop the run and apply endless amount of pressure on the opposing teams’ offensive line. In theory, the Chargers should be good at run-stopping although this has been the Achilles’ heel of the defense over the past several years.
Here’s a diagram of a basic 3-4 defense.
So how will the Chargers look defensively? Let’s start with the defensive line. At left defensive end will be Corey Liuget. Anchoring the middle will be nose tackle Brandon Mebane. At right defensive end will be Joey Bosa. At weak side outside linebacker will be Jerry Attaochu. The inside linebacker will be Manti Te’o. The middle linebacker will be Denzel Perrymen. The strong side linebacker will be Melvin Ingram.
Anchoring the back end of the defense from left to right will be left cornerback Jason Verrett. At Free Safety will be Dwight Lowery. Next to him will be strong safety Jahleel Addae. The right cornerback will be Brandon Flowers. Keep in mind this is how it stands right now. A lot depends on training camp and if the Chargers sign other free agents.
So now know how the Chargers will run their basic 3-4 defense. What is a 4-3 defense? The base 4-3 first came to us under Tom Landry when he was the Giants defensive coordinator in the 1950’s. He then made it even more famous with the Dallas Cowboys and through their vaunted “Doomsday” defense. Ever since, there’s been multiple variations of the scheme from the Bill Parcells stack defense to the Wide-9 defense famously used by the Philadelphia Eagles.
On to the basis of the 4-3. It’s four down linemen and three linebackers. In its most basic form the four down linemen will always have their hands in the ground and be in pursuit of whomever has the ball. The three linebackers are in charge of coverage in this base defense although they may blitz in certain packages.
Here’s a diagram of a basic 4-3 defense.
The Chargers run a variation of the 4-3 in a hybrid nickel package. The nickel package features Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu with their hands in the dirt. The 3-4 defense has been implemented since 2001 when Marty Schottenheimer took over as head coach. Since then the Chargers have had a few dominant defenses in ’06, ’07, ’09 and 2010. Its been proven very effective when the right pieces are in place. In 2016 this is such the case. My main reason for this belief is Joey Bosa and the signing of cornerback Casey Hayward. The Hayward addition was an amazing pick up.
It’s all about the anchor of the 3-4, the nose tackle. A viable anchor is something the Chargers have lacked for so long. Since the days of Jamal Williams its been a revolving door at this position. Brandon Mebane probably didn’t make headlines to the casual Chargers fan. I believe this is the most underrated pickup of the whole offseason. Mebane can garner double- and sometimes even triple-teams.
This defense, hell, this whole team is going too shock a lot of people. As I said earlier the 3-4 requires almost pure selflessness from its three down linemen. It starts with Mebane. I may call him Bane by seasons’ end. If you know Batman then you understand the reference. Its been five years in the making with this defense. Why change philosophies now when this defense is so close to grasping greatness? Its proven to be a dominant defense in the past. It can and will be for years to come.
Whenever a team goes on a bye week, it allows players to get some rest and relaxation. Players with minor injuries can use the respite to try to get healthy. The players also can spend time with their families. The bye week also provides the opportunity to reflect on the previous weeks and look into the weeks ahead.
The Chargers will use this week to get that extra rest, relaxation and to reflect. Hopefully, this will be a bye week of a different sort for the Bolts. They need to say, “Bye, Felicia!” to a lot of the issues that have the team at 2-7.
Bye, Felicia #1: Injuries
It is just mind-boggling how many players have been injured this year. The team suffered thirteen injuries against the Ravens. Losing Keenan Allen for the year was the most devastating.
Something needs to be done to help reduce the injuries. What though? Better conditioning? Less fragile players? Better depth to alleviate injuries that arise?
Maybe the football gods will take mercy on the Chargers and lessen the constant injuries to this team. In the case of cornerback Jason Verrett, making a big play, like a pick-6, just to get injured on the next play is just cruel.
Bye, Felicia#2: Penalties
Mike McCoy and the other coaches need to instill more discipline to the players when it comes to avoiding penalties. When Marty Schottenheimer was the head coach, those players knew that they’d get an earful from him if they committed stupid penalties. They were one of the least penalized teams during his tenure.
Penalties are taking points away from the scoreboard as we saw last week against the Chicago Bears. The Bolts can no longer let that happen. Mike McCoy needs to get pissed about these stupid penalties. No, they didn’t need more plays! They had the plays and are giving them away due to dumb penalties.
Bye, Felicia #3: Losing at the end
The offense, with Phillip Rivers giving 1,000%, has been unable to get last-drive wins against the Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
The defense, again with Rivers giving 1,000%, could not secure wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.
Can we say, “Goodbye, Felicia,” to these close games and get some legitimate wins. Our hearts and nails can’t take much more of these last-second losses.
Bye, Felicia #4: Missed plays
The defense needs to force turnovers. There have been a lot of dropped interceptions this season. Although Eric Weddle recovered Jay Cutler’s fumble last Monday night, at times, forced fumbles have not been recovered by John Pagano’s unit despite multiple chances.
The offense needs to eliminate some dropped passes and recover fumbles. They need to protect Rivers and not allow him to get sacked or hit as often.
The special teams just needs to figure out how to play! All facets of the third phase of the game have struggled mightily this season.
Bye, Felicia #5: Home field advantage for visiting team
The Chargers got embarrassed on a Monday night when the whole country witnessed the invasion of Qualcomm Stadium by Steelers fans. Two more home games, another one on a Monday night, show a stadium full of opposing team’s fans. Fans of the Raiders and Bears filled at least half of Qualcomm.
The home field advantage, especially against Pittsburgh, has been largely nonexistent, with the Q being overtaken by fans of other NFL teams. It is hard to win on the road, but even harder to “win on the road” at home.
This one is for the Bolts fans! Fans need to buy the tickets. Season ticker holders need to make sure that when they sell their tickets, they are only selling to other Chargers fans, no matter what!
Can we just say, “Goodbye, Felicia” to all those fans of the opposing teams? San Diego is America’s finest city, so people from all over the world want to come and visit. Well, they can visit and not invade our stadium during their vacation.
A little about me: First off, this was tough because I’m really don’t like talking about myself and tend to avoid attention. I’m a San Diego native and bleed Charger POWDER Blue and Padre BROWN (yes, kids. #bringbackthebrown & #firebuddy!) My passion for the Chargers is only equaled by my passion for the Padres.
I’m single (hint hint, ladies) with a grown son who serves our country in the US Air Force. I’ve lived in Nevada since 1993, but get to San Diego whenever I can.
I’ve been on the Boltblitz staff since the 2013 season. I am now a Senior Writer and Assistant Editor for the site. As Assistant Editor, I get an advanced look at the work the other staff members are posting and get to publish it on Facebook and Twitter.
On Facebook, I’m 99% about the Chargers and Padres, though I will take time to hassle “real” friends and Facebook friends. I may even troll people who’s posts are just too outrageous to pass up! 🙂
On Twitter, I go by the handle @hawk_pie. I chose this after my all-time favorite TV series character, M*A*S*H’s own Hawkeye Pierce, played by Alan Alda.
If I had to pick only one player as my favorite current Charger, that would have to be Eric Weddle. He embodies playing with passion and love of the game. I also respect and admire his leadership, both on and off the field. My all-time favorite Charger is Dan Fouts. He had game. He had guts. Most of all, he was the undisputed team leader during the Air Coryell days.
It was during the Air Coryell days that my passion for the Chargers was truly ignited. Watching the likes of Fouts, John Jefferson, Wes Chandler, Charlie Joiner, Kellen Winslow, James Brooks and Lydell Mitchell was truly watching a stacked team.
My all-time favorite moment in Charger history was the day LT broke the single season touchdown record. Man, he could do it all!
Believe it or not, the lowest moment for me as a fan was losing to the Patriots in the Divisional Round of the 2006 playoffs. To go 14-2 and see players self destruct was horrible, not to mention seeing LT taken out of the second half game plan. Compound that with the firing of Marty Schottenheimer and the rest is history. I hated that Dean Spanos allowed this to happen. They were on the verge until that other guy came long.
Thank you all for reading not only my articles, but the work from the other Boltblitz members! This is all about you, the loyal fans of the SAN DIEGO CHARGERS!
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)
I could sit here and talk ad nauseum about why this is a special year for your San Diego Chargers. But, for once, I’m not going to do that. I want YOU to decide the answer to my question.
Keeping this short and sweet, just like me, is this the year the Chargers bring home the Lombardi trophy? Is this the year that the Super bowl parade will be held in America’s finest city? You know, that trophy with a gleam.
“There’s a gleam, men. A gleam.” – Marty Schottenheimer
Let me know by voting on the poll and leaving your thoughts on why you voted the way you did in the comment section below.
Thanks in advance for voting and commenting. On behalf of the entire staff at BoltBlitz.com, we really appreciate all of your support.
Story Written by Chris Curran ( @ccurran2744 )
Rivers and Manning will forever be linked and debated. The media bias leans toward Manning. I know it’shard to argue with two Super Bowl wins. I could counter that if the quarterbacks switched teams, Rivers would have two titles as well.
After 2003, Drew Brees was not panning out as a Charger QB. The local team was picking first overall. AJ Smith was not very high on Brees and was in the market for a new starting QB.
There were three QB’s in the 2004 draft that were considered first round talent. There was a quarterback from Mississippi with “Manning” on his back that was pretty good. Roethlisberger from Miami of Ohio University and Rivers from North Carolina State were considerations as well.
Roethlisberger, or “Big Ben,” was big and strong with a tremendous arm. He could move and throw on the run with the best improvisational skills. He played his college ball in the MAC.
Rivers started every game in four years. He brought respectability to a college program that rarely won anything and was a College Bowl MVP five times in four years. He was considered an exceptional leader and held a high football IQ,
Manning had the best mechanics and an NFL pedigree that will never be matched. A solid first round talent, although I do believe if his name was not Manning he would have been the number three among the quarterbacks taken in round one of the 2004 NFL draft.
Archie Manning announced that his youngest boy would not play for the San Diego Chargers. Archie refused to state any reason for this other than to say the Chargers were not a good fit for his son. Maybe he did not like the Spanos Family. Maybe he was not a Schottenheimer fan. Maybe he remembers the beating, he himself, took in New Orleans on a lousy team and was afraid to have history repeat itself. Maybe a combination of all three made him pull his Royal ‘Manning card’ to not have his son play for a franchise stuck in nine years of playoff futility.
In 1983, John Elway let everyone know he did not want to play in Baltimore, the reason being his family had no respect for then coach, Frank Cush. Jack Elway (John’s father) and Cush were not the best of friends. John Elway spoke for himself to the press and Baltimore Colts. I lost complete respect for Eli when he let his father do all his bidding.
In 2004 Ernie Accorsi, General Manager of the New York Giants, held the fourth overall picks.The Giants needed a quarterback. Accorsi, being famous in football circlesfor losing arguably the highest rated quarterback prospect ever. Elway was lost in a post draft trade to Denver made by the owner after selecting him number one overall. That pick was against the Elway family wishes. In 2004 Accorsi had his heart set on Eli Manning. Accorsi relayed this info to Archie early on and later let the press know of his desire to draft Eli Manning.
As the draft approached Charger General Manager, AJ Smith, was about to make his shrewdest and greatest move as an NFL executive.
AJ may have coveted Rivers all along. He did not cave to a pre draft trade proposal by New York. AJ held off until his price was met. He even went so far as to select Eli first overall. I still remember the constipated look on Eli’s face as he reluctantly held up the Charger jersey and cap with Goodell.
The Raiders selected offensive lineman Robert Gallery second overall and Arizona took wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald third overall, the Giants were on the clock and picked Rivers. No one in the Giants war room even had the courtesy to call Rivers about being their selection, reason being that a deal was being consummated with the Chargers. In order to obtain Manning number one overall, the Giants traded Rivers, who was number four overall, a third round pick in the current draft, a first round and fifth round pick in the following year. The Chargers turned those picks into kicker Nate Kaeding, outside linebacker, Shawne Merriman and offensive lineman, Roman Oben.
As for the 3rd QB taken in round one of 2004, Roethlisberger was drafted by Pittsburgh and has been very successful. He has two glaring negatives, these being durability and a questionable character at best.
Due to the Drew Brees hangover, Eli had twenty-one more career starts early in his career. This and the two playoff runs give the edge to Eli. You cannot take away the results. Most other remaining intangibles do go to Rivers. Completion percentage, yards per game, touchdown-interception ratio and quarterback rating are all in Rivers favor. Both quarterbacks have been durable and have yet to miss a start.
So, if the two Super Bowl wins are the benchmark, lets examine them. Does anyone think Doug Williams, Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer, or Brad Johnson are better than Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly or Warren Moon?
Eli’s Giants had a superior dominant defensive line. An ill-advised pass, and other bone headed decisions by Brett Favre led to crucial turnovers. A down field heave throw up for grabs followed by a fluke catch off a helmet? These plays led to Eli’s first Super Bowl win. A 49er fumbled a punt in the Red Zone and a crucial Wes Welker drop led to Eli’s second Super Bowl win. I understand a win is a win and that is the bottom line. However, there are always other factors that lead to wins and losses outside quarterback play.
So if Eli gets credit for these play-off wins, then is Rivers to blame for Charger playoff losses? Rivers played without his pro bowl tight end, A. Gates, and pro bowl running back, L. Tomlinson. Playing on a completely torn ACL factors in to. Kaeding missed three field goals in each of Rivers’ playoff losses. Not to mention, the cluster of Marty gaffes, (fumbled punt, dropped TD, several personal fouls, going for it on 4th and 11, etc.) in the 24-21 home loss to the New England Patriots.
Like I said, the comparisons may never end, but if I were building a team, I would start with Rivers. How about you?