Amid all the hype that occurred last week after the official opening of free agency, Tom Telesco has remained undercover. Since last Tuesday, only four players have been signed: Orlando Franklin, Jacoby Jones, Jimmy Wilson, and most recently Stevie Johnson. The addition of these men fill huge roster holes, yet many say it’s not enough. To Telesco, it’s right where he wants to be.
Telesco came to the Chargers organization with a rich history of back office transactions and an impressive draft bloodline. Under the wing of one of the NFL’s most successful executives, Bill Polian, he learned the virtue of patience and the futility of free agency. Polian spent time with the Indianapolis Colts from 1998 to 2011 where he acquired future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, and won Super Bowl XLI as Team President. He was also the Buffalo Bills’ general manager from 1986 to 1992 when the team appeared in three consecutive Super Bowls.
Phillip B. Wilson of IndyStar said Polian admits he took heat for not spending on free agents, “but too often I believed I wouldn’t get a good return on the financial investment. So, despite the criticism, I took a very conservative approach to free agency, abiding by a list of do’s and don’ts that helped my teams maintain a high level of success in both the short and long-term.”
No matter how you cut it, free agency isn’t what it’s worked up to be. Fans have become so accustomed to seeing their favorite teams sign big name players that they expect those same transactions every year. For Telesco, he doesn’t need those big names, he wants fruitfulness and longevity.
According to Eric D. Williams of ESPN, Telesco waited 10 days after the start of free agency to sign current running back Danny Woodhead. The young general manager continues to do his homework, working tirelessly in selecting the right guy, but ensuring he is best fit on the field and in the locker room.
There’s no reason for Telesco to sign players like Greg Hardy or even Percy Harvin. Yes, he has plenty of salary-cap space and leeway, but it’s not how he wants to play the game. The draft is where all talent acquisitions ascend, and that’s a mindset a lot of NFL personnel are moving towards.
Teams like the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks build their Super Bowl teams from the draft. In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, he too reiterated the necessity and desire to build from the bottom up. Has he signed some big hitters so far? Yes, but what Kelly is attempting to do is restructure the team via free agency in a single season, then continue to build a team from the draft thereafter.
Tom Telesco came to San Diego with the desire to build a Super Bowl contending team via the NFL Draft. So far, he has filled roster voids with a small amount, yet much-needed free agent acquisitions. He plans to continue his legacy come April 30th in Chicago. Reminding all of you that it’s only the eighth day of free agency, there is still plenty of time left on the clock.
The Chargers and the Seahawks had one thing in common starting the game on white hot Sunday. They both had their last meaningful loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. For the Seahawks, they had only lost once (in preseason) since they played the Cards last December. After steamrolling the record-setting Denver Broncos and opening the season with a thrashing of Aaron Rogers and the Packers, most considered the chances of the Bolts winning pretty slim. Yet OUR San Diego Chargers handed them their first loss by more than a touchdown since 2011.
It didn’t help the fan confidence that in week two of the preseason the Chargers looked like a MAC team playing the SEC in a week one college tune-up game. While the final score reads 30-21, it doesn’t paint the picture for those of us who watched the entire game. While many have pointed out that the Chargers players dominated the defending Champs on the field, I think it was the coaching staff of the Chargers who dominated Pete Carroll and his crew.
I know a testy Earl Thomas after the game blamed the heat and sheer luck for their loss. “It was hot and there was a lot of cramping up when [the defense] was out there a long time,” Thomas said. “I exert a lot of energy out there, and in this heat it was kind of hard for me at times. But it wasn’t anything we didn’t prepare for. We just didn’t execute when it really mattered. When somebody beats us it’s just luck to me. It’s not about them.”
Wow, someone forgot to learn humility. Sorry, Mister Thomas. It was everything you didn’t prepare for. You lost, dude. Not only that, you got handled. You came blame the high pressure system that was hanging over southern California (I mean, I am not a fan of it either), but if you want to blame anyone I think it should be your coaching staff. Mike McCoy, Frank Reich and John Pagano are not getting used to new rings on their fingers like the Hawks coaches but they out-coached them by a mile. That was the difference in the game.
Pete Carroll admitted as much by saying, “we weren’t able to execute the plan we had gone in with.’’ I wonder what gameplan he is talking about? Because I only saw evidence on the field of one team with a plan. It really would worry me as a Seahawk fan that it didn’t seem like Carroll and crew learned anything from Arizona’s victory over the Bolts. I know it is not Seattle’s style to mix coverages or disguise blitz packages, but last Monday the Arizona defense was confusing and flustering our offense. Not once did I see anything like what the Cards did.
This coaching chess match goes back to week two of the preseason. It was clear from the moment the two teams stepped on the field the two staffs had wildly different agendas that day. Pete Carroll seemed intent on winning the meaningless game, playing his starters for longer, running actual non-vanilla plays and seemingly hitting and tackling with much more authority than the Chargers. Once the Champs started scoring it seemed the idea was that the Seahawks wanted to put a beatdown on the Chargers, one they would remember.
Coaches set the culture of their team perhaps Earl’s lack of humility comes from the top. It didn’t seem like Carroll was at all worried that he was giving our coaches a lot of tape, or our players a lot of motivation. It doesn’t seem like they took our coaches or team seriously at all.
Mike McCoy saw things differently in that preseason game. He couldn’t have cared less about who won or lost. He wanted out of the Clink with his team healthy and nothing the Seahawks could learn from. McCoy, who should come out of the tunnel at the Q to the theme song from Mission impossible, excels at the impossible games because he has an old school formula and the right team to execute it.
The plan was only slightly different from the one that beat Denver in the huge Thursday night domination in 2013. BOLO! As with that game, it was not a rout score-wise, but in both games the Chargers imposed their will leaving the opposing team feeling crushed. The league admitted the mistake that the score and the running stats are misleading. The Hawks were spotted 35 yards and a rushing TD when Percy Harvin stepped out-of-bounds with a Line judge pointing at his feet. So do some math in your head when you look at the numbers.
The plan was just as it was last year. Hog the ball. The Chargers ran 75 offensive plays in comparison to the Hawks 40. The Bolts had a 26-14 advantage in first downs and controlled the ball for 42 minutes. Philip Rivers brought the team to the line, and called most plays in audibles, thus not giving the defense time to substitute. In 37 pass plays, the O-line only gave up one sack for 8 yards. It is no surprise in 120 degree weather that the defense started to wear down and had trouble tackling. Seattle allowed 377 yards, more than any regular season game last year ( Not counting the overtime victory at Houston when the Texans had 476). Philip Rivers is the first Quarterback to throw 3 Touchdown passes against the Seahawks since Week 8 in 2012.
The only major difference between how we executed this game plan this year as opposed to last year (in Denver) was with our revamped defense. John Pagano’s defense, while not lights out, looked a hell of a lot more “badass” than the so-called Legion of Boom. In week two it seemed like Pagano was clueless about stopping the mobile QB. All four quarterbacks on their roster had rushing touchdowns.
In Sunday’s game, Russell Wilson had only 1 yard rushing more than Philip Rivers who normally looks like he is pulling the team bus when he takes off. Not only that after watching QB’s slip out of our hands on 3rd down over and over in the last two years – yesterday the D dropped Wilson twice for 22 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Seattle gave up eight quarterback hurries in 27 pass attempts to rank third-worst in the league in pass-blocking efficiency. How about that Chargers Pass rush!
Most importantly, they held Percy Harvin to three touches, including a huge stop by Wright on a jet sweep that seemed unstoppable in week one. How about beast mode and the running game? Marshawn Lynch had just six carries. Pete Carroll admitted, “that’s the last thing we want to have happen.’’ In fact, the team only rushed for 108 yards (remember you have to subtract 35 from Harvin). In this case, the numbers do lie.
Pagano’s gameplan was great for most of the game, helped by the fact that we are finally seeing his defense tooled with the weapons he needs. It is amazing when you consider Jarret Johnson and Brandon Flowers didn’t even play. He attacked for most of the game. The soft zone prevent defense let the team back into the game in the third quarter, but Pagano attacked on the last drive and the team made four amazing plays in a row. The key was Reggie Walker playing spy on Russell Wilson; who prevented him from running on the last crucial 3rd down. If only we had this year’s D on the 3rd and 17 last January!
Only one Seahawk player that I know of admitted it, and that was Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright. He said, “They kicked our ass and beat us at our own game.” This is the same crew that embarrassed Manning in the big game, and that went 13 and 3 last year. The difference was our coaching staff.
Russell Wilson was a perfect 6-0 in games against Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Too bad for him his coaches let him down when he faced Mike McCoy and Philip Rivers. In the Battle of NC state QBs, Rivers is 1-0. The best part is we made this staff and team angry before they go home next week and play Denver. This might end up being worth more than one win. Coach McCoy and the staff deserve the game ball. Be patient, Charger fans. These coaches and this quarterback showed you they can outplay and, more importantly, out-coach the world champions. They have what it takes to get this town the Championship it deserves.
David Agranoff is the author of three novels published by Deadite press one of the world’s leading publisher of cult horror novels. His latest Boot Boys of the Wolf-Reich is coming of age horror novel about anti-racist skinheads in gang war with Nazi werewolves. All three of his novels are available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @DAgranoffauthor or look him up on Facebook.
In front of a white-hot sellout crowd at Qualcomm Stadium, the San Diego Chargers defeated the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, 30-21.
However, that wasn’t the entire story of the game.
Questionable calls by the officiating crew along with the return to All-Pro form by Tight End Antonio Gates seemed to be the highlights in this man’s opinion. After the Chargers took an early 3-0 lead in the first quarter, Perch Harvin received a pitch from Russell Wilson and ran along the sidelines for a 51 yard touchdown. Replays showed that Harvin clearly stepped out-of-bounds. The side judge on the play also pointed to where he stepped out-of-bounds. The Fox television broadcasters even brought in Mike Pereira, referee turned analyst, to explain how the review process works. Yet, the play was confirmed.
Since the play was allowed to stand as called, the Seahawks gained the lead, 7-3.
In a future possession, Rivers, who isn’t known for his mobility, ran out-of-bounds and was pushed by Seahawk Linebacker Bobby Wagner. Rivers, livid at the late, unnecessary contact by Wagner, confronted the defender. No penalty was called.
On a later drive, as the Chargers had the ball in the red zone, a questionable holding call was given to tight end John Phillips that took away a touchdown run by Ryan Mathews. Gates eventually scored a touchdown to put the Chargers ahead, 10-7.
Officials tried to make amends by calling a personal foul late hit penalty on Seahawk linebacker Bruce Irvin which lead to Antonio Gates’ second touchdown and a lead for the Chargers 20-7.
As I sat and watched the game from the comfort of my home, I couldn’t help but feel that the officials didn’t seem to want the Bolts to win. The blown call on Harvin’s run was merely the beginning. Non-calls on obvious penalties and flags on questionable calls (that went against the Chargers) and it felt as if the San Diego was battling two opponents: the Seahawks and the officials.
Seriously, how can officials who monitor the games in New York miss such an easy call? The National Football League is in full crisis mode with off the field incidents involving Ray Rice and Adrian Petersen. The Chargers-Seahawks game was also a nationally televised game. The game showed a sizable audience that the league is constantly making mistakes. Granted, mistakes happen. I get that. Yet considering the pains the league has made to get calls right, the NFL can’t afford any more blows to its reputation.
At end of the day, the Chargers overcame a lot this Sunday. The infamous “12th Man” of Seattle were mostly held in check. Although I was appalled at a brief “Seahawks” chant I heard in the third quarter. Gametime temperatures on the field reached 120 degrees and the team overcame that. Richard Sherman, famed Seahawk cornerback, claimed he was the best in the league. Philip Rivers threw the ball in Sherman’s direction on multiple occasions and Sherman wasn’t a factor.
Yes, that was one tall mountain that San Diego climbed on Sunday. Not many experts gave the team a chance (the preseason game earlier didn’t help), but the Chargers controlled the ball, pressured Russell Wilson, and looked good against a team that was perceived to be unbeatable.
I, for one, hope there’s still more of what Gates showed fans on Sunday. I hope the Mathews injury isn’t serious. Additionally, I hope Qualcomm Stadium will continue to host sellout games and host loud, loyal Chargers fans.
I’m wondering now if the organization would consider “persevere” as a team motto.
Photo Credit: James Ebo and Raymond Broome