In just a few days, the San Diego Chargers, led By Tom Telesco will begin their first draft of the new regime. Many of us will feel the eagerness, the excitement, the nervousness, and the anticipation of watching our new GM construct a Championship Team. However, before we’re able to turn the page on the New Chargers, I would like to reflect on the past. Chargers faithful are still licking their wounds, and shaking their heads as they recover from a devastating fall from grace. It feels as though just yesterday that the Bolts enjoyed the Penthouse view high above the AFC West. The class of the West and the Jewel of the AFC Conference, the Chargers were widely regarded as having the best talent in the NFL. Let me repeat that. The Best Talent in the NFL! I remember clearly watching warm-ups before games and shaking my head, thinking to myself. Wow! We are loaded with playmakers!
Drew Brees and Philip Rivers rotated as passers. Vincent Jackson, a young Malcolm Floyd, and a vibrant Antonio Gates were hovering in the air, out jumping and scorching defenders along the way. Across the field, the man simply know as “LT” glided down the field, jump-cutting through a landmine of defenders. At times it felt as though he was simply dancing through mannequins wearing jerseys. Michael Turner blasted through holes and showcased speed that was uncanny for a man of his size. Who can ever forget the blazing TD run against the Colts in the Playoffs? How about the water bug, Darren Sproles, catching passes out of the backfield. The multi-talented Sproles with his return-ability, rushing, and receiving was a threat to break it each time he touched the pigskin. This team was indeed loaded with Playmakers! The Defense wasn’t far behind with Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips, Antonio Cromartie and Eric Weddle showcasing their extraordinary talent.
It wasn’t that long ago that AJ Smith was the recipient of the NFL Executive of the Year Award. AJ was the Maestro, the General, the Great Wizard of this explosive team. The same team that enjoyed a 14-game season and a 1st round Bye in the playoffs. The same team that showcased multiple Pro Bowlers. However, we all know the tragic ending to this story. The multi-talented Chargers never lived up to their billing as they fell from grace in the postseason on multiple occasions. The mighty AJ led a battle cry for the firing of popular Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-win regular season and a gut-wrenching one and done playoff loss to the Patriots in San Diego. AJ won the battle of the front office and was rewarded with the exodus of Marty and the unpopular hiring of Norv Turner as Head Coach.
AJ continued to feel the disappointment of his talent-laden teams, continuously falling in the bitter month of January. The NFL Draft became increasingly difficult for AJ as the misses in the early rounds became a glaring problem. WR Buster Davis, CB Antoine Cason, LB Larry English, the trade up for low-return Jacob Hester, have left the fan base in search for answers. Finally, the lack of acquiring quality offensive lineman through the draft or free agency, along with taking a hard line stance against his most dangerous playmakers (Brees, Jackson and Sproles, to name a few) have degraded this once awesome offense into a crawling, low-scoring, high turnover machine.
Ultimately, AJ’s rough persona, abrasiveness, and stubbornness to his key players and agents’ contractual issues; along with riding the Norv Turner led disaster-train, led to the demise of AJ and the once talent-rich Chargers.
Fortunately, the page turns with Telesco’s New Chargers. The final word on the success of the new regime will not be written for a few years. However, hope for many of us will be renewed this Thursday night when Commissioner Roger Goodell announces, “With the 11th pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select…”