I finally screwed up the order. 29 teams into the league, and I got sloppy. Somehow I thought Oakland was last in alphabetical order in the AFC West, and I was wrong. Not that anyone but me cared what order I did them in (I'm going reverse alphabetical by division for reasons too unimportant to get into now). So anyway, one day late, here are the Chargers.
Today's absurd prediction:
The Chargers miss the playoffs.
Yes, that's how bad I think Norv Turner is. Sure, he's never served as head coach of a well-built team before. His Redskin teams were Dan Snyder-contrived monstrosities, and his Raider team was an Al Davis-created abomination. But I watched the man patrol the sidelines for the Skins for years, and can vividly remember myself and my dad shouting at the TV at some of Norv's playcalling. If the Bolts thought Martyball was conservative... well, they're in for a treat.
Here's the breakdown for the San Diego Chargers:
Coaching Changes: F---
That's either an F-minus-minus-minus, or an F-bomb, take your pick. Here's the timeline, just as a memory refresher: 1) Coach-firing time comes and goes, and Marty still has a job. 2) DC Wade Phillips takes a job with the Cowboys, and OC Cam Cameron takes a job with the Dolphins. 3) Oh wait, Marty's fired after all, and none of the good coaching candidates are still on the market. 4) A.J. Smith hires Norv Turner in short order, because doggone it, he's just so nice. He'll never feud like Marty did. 5) Ron Rivera, a good head coaching candidate, is suddenly out of a job. 6) Ted Cottrell is hired as defensive coordinator. Cottrell is a long-time NFL coaching veteran, but he didn't coach at all last year, and his last job was with the Vikings, who performed far better in his absence. The only thing that went well in the coaching carousel is that Smith promoted from within to fill the offensive coordinator position with former RBs coach Clarence Shelmon, but even then he's getting a first-time coordinator who doesn't have a ton of league experience. I believe that great coaches are more important than great players, and the Chargers' season will inevitably affect that belief one way or the other.
I really don't like the selection of Craig Davis in the first round. He has a slender frame, and has a history of getting dinged up. It's believed he will develop into a starter if he can build up his strength and endurance, but the fact is that Dwayne Jarrett, Anthony Gonzalez, and Sidney Rice were all still available, and they're much safer choices who are closer to being ready to make an immediate impact. Their second pick, S Eric Weddle, was also a bit of a reach, though I think they did get a fine player. The problem is that Weddle isn't much of a hitter. His tackling technique is great, and he's a smart, fast athlete, but he's not the guy to come up and stuff Larry Johnson. He's what they call a "center fielder," a term I dislike because it grates my nerves when baseball terms are used to describe football. And they already have one of those in Marlon McCree. Put together, they barely weigh 400 lbs. Fine in the open field, not so great for infiltrating the trenches. They had two compensatory selections, and yet still only wound up with 6 drafted rookies, due to the Weddle pick trade. We'll see if A.J. Smith proves to us once again what a personnel genius he is, but for now I'm being skeptical.
Player Movement: D
They didn't really add much of anything - the biggest-name acquisition is Brandon Manumaleuna, who literally has a big name. Yes, he's a solid blocker, but he's hardly going to make the difference that pushes them into the Super Bowl. And they've lost LB Donnie Edwards to a division rival - never good - and the team is also going to be sans S Terrence Kiel (necessitating Weddle), and WRs Keenan McCardell and Az-Zahir Hakim (necessitating Davis). They signed backup RB Michael Turner for one more year, which is really only smart because it keeps someone else like Oakland from getting him. But they are going to need to trade Turner if they get a good offer, or they risk losing him for nothing.
They get the NFC North and AFC South, possibly the most enviable division opponents in each conference. But they draw New England and Baltimore, which kinda sucks. Part of the reason no AFC West team has won the division in consecutive years since the divisions were realigned is that the winner has to play New England, Indianapolis, and the AFC North's best every year. (Self-editor's note: Actually the Raiders got the Jets and Titans in 2003, so they had no excuse for collapsing.) They have to open the season with Chicago and New England, so it's very likely they'll match last season's loss total by week 2. That'll get the fans antsy. Contests vs. Green Bay, Oakland, and at home vs. Kansas City ought to stabilize things a bit before the bye, and then they get Minnesota and Houston but soon after it's Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Baltimore and the Chiefs on their turf. Tennessee, Detroit, and the season finale at Oakland in the last four weeks might enable a run at the playoffs, but it takes a d*mn good season in the AFC to make the postseason.
This team is young, and many players are having to adjust to new coordinators for the first time. Fortunately the schemes will be similar. Also, Pro Bowler Phillip Rivers won't be catching anyone by surprise this season. And unless Davis, Eric Parker, Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, or Kassim Osgood steps up, defenses are going to be able to use up a lot more resources on LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates. On the other hand, Turner does have a history of getting great performances out of mediocre QBs and RBs. What happens when he works with a couple of Pro Bowlers? All I can say for sure is, anyone who has a #1 fantasy draft pick that doesn't pick Tomlinson should be put out of his misery.
The Record: 10-6
They'll win games when it looks like the playoffs are slipping away. Then once they're in position again, they'll lose. If a game's close, Norv will blow it. They may upset the Colts. They may be upset by the Texans. All in all, it'll be too much inconsistency and they'll miss out on the playoffs thanks to a tiebreaker as Cincinnati goes 8-4 in conference games while San Diego goes 7-5.