Last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Gooddell upheld his four game suspension of New England Patriots Tom Brady for his involvement in the Deflategate scandal. There wasn’t a talking head on any network who thought Brady’s appeal of the initial ruling wouldn’t result in a reduction of games. In a move to be applauded, Gooddell forsook the man other NFL owners call the “assistant commish”, Robert Kraft, and stuck to his guns on his decision.
We’ve all been waiting to see if the league held its golden boy Brady to the same standard as all others when it comes to discipline. It’s ludicrous to think that Patriots equipment personnel deflate footballs of their own free will. The fact Brady destroyed the phone containing potentially damning evidence was all the Commish needed in upholding his suspension. No special treatment. No favors for his bestie Robert Kraft. Justice is served.
Of course, Brady will take the matter to federal court to try to clear his name and eliminate his four game ban. First, he has to get an injunction passed by a judge, putting the ban on hold until after the court process plays out. Of course he does. Instead of accepting defeat and taking his suspension like a man, he will surround himself with high priced lawyers and look for loopholes. Thankfully, getting an injunction isn’t as easy as it sounds. Brady has to prove he has a winnable case and the preceding adjudicator (Gooddell) missed key evidence that would’ve cleared his name. If he has such evidence, you’d think it would’ve been revealed by now.
The NFL is on solid footing. They have the Collective Bargaining Agreement, agreed to by the owners and players, giving the Commissioner the power to discipline and rule over these same cases. They have the Wells report, a 243-page investigation on the matter. Ted Wells is one of the nation’s best white collar trial lawyers and his findings were critical in the Richie Incognito bullying scandal of two years ago.
Karma is finally catching up with the Patriots but what does this have to do with the Chargers?
It has everything to do with the Chargers. San Diego will be looking to supplant the Denver Broncos and win the AFC West. If they can do so they will likely be competing with the Patriots for a potential first round bye. Even if the bolts don’t win the west, this season the team looks deeper than they have in years. If they can eliminate the distractions with contracts, relocation and keep injuries to a minimum they will post a double digit win total.
In their first four weeks, New England faces the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys. Pittsburgh and Dallas are playoff-caliber teams and the Bills improved significantly over the offseason. That could be two losses that will be tough to make up for when fighting for a top seed in the playoffs.
San Diego faces the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals in their first four games. That stretch of games could easily favor the Chargers given the advantage they have behind center. That leads to the question no one seems to be asking but everyone is wondering…
What if Brady’s replacement, Jimmy Garoppolo, stinks out loud?
Garoppolo has thrown for 182 yards and one touchdown in his NFL career. His only playing time is when the game is out of hand and the opposition is already demoralized. Defenses are going to throw every disguise and Madden-esque blitz package they can think of at the second-year pro. What’s more, New England lost a lot of key components on defense. All-Pro cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandown Browner left for the Jets and Saints, respectively. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork found a new home with the Houston Texans. This is a team that will have to win by scoring lots of points because their defense will give up plenty of points.
Every team in the AFC East got better while the Patriots took a step back. Buffalo added one of the league’s leading rushers in trading for LeSean McCoy and signed wide receiver Percy Harvin, tight end Charles Clay and the aforementioned Richie Incognito to their offense. Miami signed the biggest name on the free agent market in nose tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins also added tight end Jordan Cameron and wide receiver Greg Jennings to add punch to the offense.
Even the lowly New York Jets pulled Revis out of Belichick’s clutches, then added corners Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine. They signed Brandon Marshall, and running backs Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley to completely overhaul the offense. Offensive coordinator mastermind Chan Gailey will spearhead a revamped Jets attack who’s only glaring weakness is the quarterback.
The sledding was going to be rough for the Patriots if they had Brady for all 16 games. Now, the task becomes incrementally more daunting with a new quarterback for 25% of the season. Fending off the young guns is getting tougher by the year to the point where a team other than New England winning the AFC East isn’t laughable anymore. It’s closer to reality than we all think and my prediction is the Patriots will make the playoffs but as a wild card.
And that is a very good thing for the Chargers.
What do you think? Are the Patriots still the team to beat in the AFC or does time (and all the cheating) catch up to them this year? What do you think Bolt Nation?
The Greg One
Since late last week, the social media buzz has been ringing nonstop. Trades, re-signings, and various pick-ups have stunned the NFL and have given fans an entertaining start to free agency 2015. For Charger fans, the frenzy started when left tackle King Dunlap was re-signed. Since then, multiple players have also resigned and or joined the Bolts.
Entering the 2015 season, it was made very clear that the Tome Telesco had the most cap space available since taking over as general manager. The adjusted salary cap for this year is $142.98 million, leaving roughly $30 million of the cap unused.
So far, Telesco has locked up a total of 6 players: King Dunlap, Brandon Flowers, Orlando Franklin, Jacoby Jones, Trevor Robinson, and Ricardo Mathews. Knowing now who has already been secured, there seems to be a burning question as to how much cap space is left after recent contracts.
King Dunlap’s signing brought the cap space down to about $25 million. Brandon Flowers signed a 4-year, $36 million deal bringing the cap space now to a little more than $20 million. Now, Orlando Franklin was the heavy hitter signed from the Denver Broncos to a 5-year, $36 million dollar contract which brings the cap to roughly $16 million. Let’s not forget Jacoby Jones who signed a 2-year, $5.5 million dollar incentive which makes the cap space in the ball park of $14-15 million. That’s four impact players all locked up for 2015, with funds still available.
The last two players that were re-signed are backup center Trevor Robinson who signed a 2-year, $4.25 million and playing-time bonuses. Defensive lineman Ricardo Mathews signed a one-year deal estimating around $1 million.
We must not overlook that there have been some players released to free up some cap space. The Chargers cut guard Chad Rinehart, saving the team $3.25 million. Inside linebacker Reggie Walker was also released a few days ago, saving $1 million against the salary cap. With all these recent transactions, San Diego’s cap space should be approximately be in $16-17 million range.
Free agency isn’t over yet. It’s actually far from it. Telesco is still actively searching for aptitude, not big numbered headliner players who eat up cap dollars. Remember, the culture has shifted to obtaining quality over quantity. Don’t expect names like Ndamukong Suh or Mike Iupati to wear a blue and gold uniform, but don’t hope for a player like Vince Wilfork. The biggest sore spot in 2014, the offensive, has already been tremendously been upgraded. Moving forward, Charger fans should not get discouraged for this is only the beginning. In addition to free agency mania, the NFL Draft will aid the team in fresh young talent. Due to the rookie wage scale, all draftees will not be detrimental to cap availability.
The Bolts still have some gaps to fill, but having available cap space is crucial to filling those voids. Tom Telesco and his back office staff are diligently, yet wisely playing a game of football chess. Carefully placing each pawn in the right place for the advantage to win in free agency. With roughly $17 million dollars left to play with, expect a lot more to come from the crafty general manager.
With free agency officially set to open tomorrow, Tuesday March 10th at 4 p.m. ET. exactly, NFL teams are preparing to sign some heavy hitters. Since last week, rumors and predictions have circulated as fans eagerly wait for what is set to unfold. As of right now, everything is all speculation which leaves Tom Telesco and the Chargers still in the hunt for big name players. Let’s stop there because the Bolts don’t sign big names.
It was nice to ponder the thought of free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh coming to a team with a tremendous need for a nose tackle, but it was all a fictional. An array of fans flooded social media when it was announced by NFL Media insider’s Ian Rapoport that Suh is being considered by the Chargers. What a tease. Bolt fans had to have known that names like his don’t ever come to San Diego. It is already looking like this year’s free agency signees won’t be anything like what A.J. Preller did in the Padres’ offseason. I would love to eat my words on that.
Well, wait a second. The previous back office has been gone for a few seasons now and this is the first year Telesco has had cap breathing room. Fans have been unable to determine what the young general manager is capable of, but most importantly, willing to do in order to build a Super Bowl contending team.
We all know what happened in recent years with some semi big name signings. Jared Gaither and Derek Cox are just a couple that did not live up to their contracts, to say the least. Is it the money or just the uncertainly that the back office feels the need to justify not snagging a big hitter via free agency? Either way, I believe starting tomorrow things may start to change.
There has to be some reasoning as to why big name players should not be chased. For example, it’s reported that Suh will sign with the Miami Dolphins for a 5-year, $114 million dollar contract, but should the Chargers spend a quarterback’s salary on a defensive tackle? It’s debatable, but not wise when the roster has many gaps yet to fill. Yes, Telesco finally has money to spend, but it shouldn’t be spent on a single big name guy.
In the most positive news yet to transpire, per Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union Tribune, free agent guard/tackle Orlando Franklin is set to join the Chargers. Seems as if strides are being made for big names. According to NFL Trade Rumors, Franklin is ranked 19th of 100 free agents in 2015 which gives him a presumable headliner label.
Last week, the Bolts added an explosive kick returner, Jacoby Jones, to the roster. In addition to him, Telesco then solidified the secondary by re-signing cornerback Brandon Flowers. These players may not be big names per say, but they add much-needed value to the organization.
It’s always been a stigma that the Chargers don’t sign heavy hitters via free agency. This offseason seems to be different, and things are progressing forward with player talent, rather regressing. Bolt fans should be hopeful with the leadership of Tom Telesco and company. In the next few weeks, his true colors will be exposed. I’m hopeful for bright and exuberant colors, opposed to the gloomy grays.
In what will be the news of the day in San Diego, it has become known that the Chargers will be bidding for the services of prized free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Take a look at this tweet from leading NFL insider Ian Rappaport:
How can you not love that? Sure, it’s nowhere near a done deal but the Chargers are making it known they are going to be in the mix for Suh. We’ve watched GM Tom Telesco work wonders with the Chargers salary cap for two seasons where he’s had nothing but pocket change to spend on players. Finally unburdened of the bad contracts left over from the previous regime, the Chargers have over 30 million in cap space and we’re all curious to see how Telesco spends with a pocket full of Benjamins.
Suh is the biggest and most expensive free agent on the market and for good reason. He is literally a franchise changing player. At 6’4, 305 Suh is the most dominant nose tackle in the game and easily one of the top five defensive players in the league.
Known for his brute power, Suh commands double teams every play and is a disruptive force in the middle of the line. Suh is a run-stopping, quarterback sacking mountain of a man who plays with a primal rage that has seen him get fined by the league multiple times.
What does this say about the Chargers?
One, the Chargers know there is a big hole at the nose tackle position and there is no one better to plug that hole than Suh. Two, the Chargers are not afraid to break the bank for a franchise player. Suh turned 28 in January and is entering his sixth season. Just entering his prime, Suh has only missed two games in his career (in 2011) and has already logged 239 tackles and 36 sacks. He is the anchor that Chargers haven’t had since Jamaal Williams and he’s the biggest free agent to hit the open market since Reggie White for those reasons. Three, it says the Chargers are ready to win NOW. You don’t bring in a player of this caliber with a five-year plan in mind.
The Chargers are on the precipice of making waves in the playoffs. What’s stopped them? Defense has been a big issue. The Chargers have ranked 32nd, 17th, 24th, 10th, 24th in total defense in the last five seasons. Suh holding down the middle of the field means favorable one-one-one matchups for pass rushers like Corey Liuget, Melvin Ingram, Dwight Freeney, Donald Butler and Jerry Attaochu. With Suh collapsing the pocket on the quarterback and/or ball carrier, it creates opportunity for sacks and turnovers. So much attention will be applied to him that rushers will be able to get to the ball.
Suh doesn’t fix everything that’s wrong with the defense but his presence allows defensive coordinator John Pagano a wealth of flexibility and creativity in his play calling knowing that there is a brick wall in the middle of his defense. The pass rush gets better, which means the secondary can also play more instinctively knowing the opposing quarterback has less time to throw.
This move, should it come to pass, says the Chargers are all in for getting the mainstays like Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Eric Weddle, Malcom Floyd their Super Bowl opportunity. It says the Chargers are serious about providing star power that fans will want to come out and see, in San Diego. Even if it doesn’t come to pass, if they do make a serious offer it should show the fan base they’re committed to getting a championship sooner than later.
What about Suh’s baggage?
Suh is the classic example of the player everyone hates until he’s wearing your team’s colors. He’s a beast and his overly aggressive style of play has made him the most reviled player in the league. That reputation now becomes the Chargers’ reputation; a defense no one wants to play against. As long as Suh produces, the extra curricular activities however Raider-esque they are, can be overlooked.
What about the money?
If you got it, spend it. I applaud this move. The Chargers aren’t going to throw chump change at B plus players, they’re shooting at the top stars with a ‘Why not us’ mentality and that is encouraging to me as a Chargers fan. With Telesco handling the proceedings, when Suh comes to town, I don’t expect him to leave.
Now about that championship….
The Greg One
Call me crazy, but I think the Chargers will be “all in” this offseason. Why? For one thing, they have the cap space available. But for the most important reason, because they want a new stadium and the best way to get the citizens and the city on deck with financing is to play in the Super Bowl.
Winning is one BIG reason why these stadiums get built. Lets take a look back at a few:
Metlife stadium in New York:broke ground in 2007. Jets and Giants both lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2006. Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007
Sports Authority Field: broke ground in 1999. Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 & 1998
Lincoln Financial Field: broke ground in 2001. Lost in the 2000 divisional round. 2001 the Eagles went 11-5, won the division and lost in the NFC Championship game
Gillette Stadium: broke ground in 2000. Patriots went 8-8 in 1999, 5-11 in 2000 but won the Super Bowl in 2001
How about a stadium locally?
Petco Park: Broke ground in 2000. Won the division in 1998 and also went to the World Series.
These are just a FEW of the stadiums I have found being built after or during a winning season.
Chargers know this is possibly the last season in San Diego and Spanos wants to stay. So who’s to say they wont give it one last chance? Reported today that the Chargers are going after Ndamukong Suh, Mike Iupati, and Randall Cobb and last week Adrian Peterson said he would take a pay cut to get out of Minnesota and was added the San Diego could be a possibility. Those are four players who are an immediate upgrade over anyone we have on our roster right now and would make this team an instant contender.
Ndamukong Suh adds a HUGE boost to the defense. It would take the double teams off of Luiget and Ingram and would make the entire defense better. Randall Cobb would add that deep threat and a very nice complimentary piece to Keenan Allen on the receiving corps and would also give the defense something to worry about. He can beat one-on-one press coverage, something our receivers couldn’t do last season. Mike Iupati gives you a bulldozer next to the King. His pass protection is suspect, but in a run heavy, quick passing offensive scheme that was used successfully in 2013, he will be a huge upgrade over Rinehart from last season. Adrian Peterson is an elite back that would make this offense unbelievably balanced and would give the Chargers a very reliable RB, something that has been missing since LT.
There’s no surprise that the Chargers are rumored to all 4 players, whether they can get all of them or not is still to be determined. But don’t be surprised to see anything such as this happen as a last effort to get a stadium here in San Diego.
Agree with me? Am I out of my mind? Let me know what you think!
“Games are won and lost in the trenches.” How many times have we heard that from coaches and commentators alike? I think the 2014 Charger season proved that out.
A patchwork offensive line was tasked with protecting Philip Rivers, was not consistently effective. Too many times we saw #17 running for his proverbial life. The run game was terrible as well. The Chargers lost their anchor, Nick Hardwick early in the season and now for good with his expected retirement. A total of five men played at the center position. Johnny Troutman was awful. DJ Fluker’s inexperience at the professional level was exposed in his Sophomore season. Truth be told, I felt King Dunlap was the only bright spot along the front five.
The defensive front seven wasn’t a whole heck of a lot better. Donald Butler was invisible. The nose tackle by committee was a failure. Kendall Reyes seemed to regress. Pressure from the outside linebackers (pass rush specialists in a 3-4) weren’t helped by their teammates. Corey Liuget was the only consistent performer on the defensive side.
With the Free Agency period beginning on March 10, I’ve been going over the list of pending free agents and have compiled a wish list of whom I’d like to see Tom Telesco pursue. Also, I will look at who the casual fan clamors for and why I don’t see them in lightning bolts in 2015. This, of course, is without considering salary restraints.
On Defense, nose tackle is of particular concern to me. You may say that John Pagano ran a base 3-4 less than half the time. Perhaps because NT was a weak link? Sean Lissemore didn’t impress at all. Ryan Carrethers showed potential until he got hurt, but he needs seasoning. Ricardo Mathews is a serviceable sub, but the Chargers haven’t had a stud nose tackle since Jamal Williams. Personally, I think this is one position Tom Telesco needs to look over the free agent crop. Chargers can ill afford to have the front seven compromised by the nose being the weak link.
Should Denver not retain Terrence Knighton, he tops my list. He’s big, he’s quick and he’s strong. He can take on multiple blockers, which is what your NT needs to do. He’s durable, having started 16 games in four of his six NFL seasons. Dan Williams of the Arizona Cardinals is another. While his numbers (tackles and assists) don’t stack up to Knighton’s, he’s been a force in the middle of the Arizona defensive front. I don’t see Ndamukong Suh in lightning bolts at all. He’s a 4-3 defensive tackle, and I’m not convinced he can make the transition to a 3-4 NT. His inability to control of his temper concerns me as well.
A stud in the middle of the 3-4 has a ripple effect on the rest of the front seven as well, so this position is critical to the success of the Charger defense. Washington’s Danny Shelton looks impressive if they wait for the draft to fill the need at NT. Kid’s got a motor. If Tom Telesco doesn’t want a NT, then perhaps he, Mike McCoy and John Pagano should abandon the 3-4.
On the offensive side of the trenches, signing King Dunlap to a new deal was huge (no pun intended). He was rock solid protecting Philip Rivers’ blind side. As for the interior of the line, I’m really worried. Mike Iupati tops mosts lists. He’s a solid guard, he’s quick and he’s been durable for San Francisco. Denver’s Orlando Franklin is another solid possibility. Again, he’s durable and we all know that Denver’s line has been great in protecting Peyton Manning the last few years.
Depth can be filled in through the draft. The Bolts need to draft and groom for the future. Chris Watt will be better this year, having been forced into service with as a rookie. Fluker needs to improve his footwork and quickness if he’s going to continue to play right tackle. I focused on guards through free agency because all indications seem to point to Fluker staying at RT.
That’s my take on the trenches on both sides of the ball. Next, I’ll look at linebackers and running backs.
Thanks for reading, and let me know what your thoughts are!
Fanatic: ( noun) 1. A person with an extreme or uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.
Another NFL season has come to a close and as a devotee of one of the 31 teams that did not acquire the brass ring, there is nothing to do but reflect. Instead of the usual breakdown that will and has already been done ad nauseam, I thought I’d use this space to purge my Chargers thoughts. Confessional style.
When it comes to sports I am, above all things, a Chargers fanatic. My earliest childhood memories come as a seven-year-old, sitting on my dad’s lap every Sunday. His drinking buddies came over because we had the biggest TV on the block. A giant, Zenith floor model unit that probably weighed some 200 pounds. While I was taught the game by the guys and learned some things by osmosis (like how to count by 7’s. I can still count by 7 without end when moved to do so).
The guys always asked who I wanted to win and until I finally got a grasp on players and teams, my best logic was the team with the best helmets would win. The Chargers always had the best helmets, hence they became my first favorite team and it’s always been that way. Regardless of sport, the Chargers are #1, everyone else is jockeying for a distant second.
Growing up in North Carolina, the Redskins and Falcons were always the closest in proximity. Most were born Redskins or Cowboys fans in the south but I always gravitated to the Chargers because they were always the late game and the last image of a football team I saw that day. The Chargers teams from then on were not different from what we experience now. There were strings of really awful seasons and there were streaks of really great seasons with the Air Coryell era being the first I was there to live through.
Not coincidentally, that was the birthplace of my disdain for the Raiders. That was the time when the Raiders were the most intimidating team in the league. Guys like Lyle Alzado, Ted ‘The Stork’ Hendricks, Lester Hayes, Howie Long and others were known for being dirty. Those guys made Ndamukong Suh look like a boy scout by comparison. My love for the Chargers is only matched by my hatred of the Raiders.
At this time, the fabled Air Coryell passing attack was revolutionizing the NFL. I enjoyed watching legendary Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts shredding the league even though I didn’t at the time realize the enormity of what I was witnessing. Today, I and many pundits recognize Fouts as the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL never to play in a Super Bowl. It’s a hard point to argue. Fouts was a first ballot Hall-Of-Famer, league MVP in 1982, six-time Pro Bowler and Offensive Player of the Year among many other records and accolades.
Fast forward to present day.
The Chargers have another quarterback who is a sure-fire first ballot Hall-Of-Famer in Philip Rivers. The similarities are obvious. Both are tough as nails, humble team generals. Neither were fleet of foot, they prefer to stand tough in the pocket and deliver strikes downfield. Both known for their accuracy and were featured in pass happy offenses. Granted, after phenom running back LaDainian Tomlinson arrived the Chargers became a run-first offense it only made Rivers more dangerous. I’ve always thought of Rivers as Fouts 2.0. My only wish is that his career doesn’t mirror Fouts in the Super Bowl appearance department.
In the deep, dark recesses of our sports conscious that we dare not speak aloud to like-minded fanatics, the questions loom like a thundercloud.
What is wrong with my team? Why can’t we ever stay healthy? What is it going to take to get Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Eric Weddle and the long-suffering fans of the Chargers their long overdue Super Bowl championship? A winning season is not enough. The promise of a new day is not enough. Every team has this song and dance at the beginning of every season. We, like sheep, dance along settling for mediocrity.
There’s nothing romantic about being a long-suffering fan. It’s painful. It’s gut wrenching. It’s mood altering. We should demand better from our team and from the front office from the owner to the equipment manager. We are nothing if not loyal and loyalty should be rewarded.
I have these questions not because I question my devotion to my team, I have these questions because I care. I care more than I should about a collection of multi-millionaire athletes and coaches who wouldn’t know me from a hole in the ground but that’s the definition of a fan. We fans share a deep, emotional attachment and that’s why we cheer, boo as loud as we do and scream for vengeance when our team is wronged.
Looking at YOU, Ed Hochuli. Looking at YOU, Marlon McCree. Looking at YOU, 1994 San Francisco 49ers. A fan never forgets. The emotional scars may heal in time but they stay with us like nicks on a plate of armor. The only way to smooth them out is a Super Bowl win. We’re fans, a shortened form of fanatic. We’re not fanatics because by definition a fanatic is uncritical. We are definitely critical, sometimes overly or unjustly critical.