What's Wrong With The San Diego Chargers?
The Chargers, one of the NFL's better teams over the last few years, are currently struggling to control the division that they were expected to dominate. A promising 4-1 start has disintegrated with three straight losses, all of them winnable games.
What has caused the Chargers to lose their mojo this season?
Clearly, most fans will want to place the blame on QB Philip Rivers. The quarterback, who is known for his gun-slinging mentality, has already thrown more interceptions this season than he did all of last season. Most notably, he threw two picks yesterday against the defending champion Packers that were returned for touchdowns, and a third that sealed the win for Green Bay. For whatever reason, Rivers has been off all season long. He claims that he is not injured, but other than the lockout, what else could be the source of his woes?
Looking past the struggles of Rivers, the Chargers defense has not been as strong as it has been in the past. While they have been solid statistically, ranking 7th in the NFL in total defense, they have been inconsistent in their play. Numbers don't tell the full story here; there are no players on that side of the ball that can take over a game, such as Antonio Cromartie and Shawne Merriman in his prime.
The one trend in the Chargers' three-game losing streak is that each loss has come by a touchdown or less. As much as the offense has struggled, the defense has to take blame here as well.
This can’t all be pinned on the players, though. The Chargers are still a talented team, and given their traditional second-half surges, they can never be written off completely. So if not the players, then who is it to blame?
Surprise: Norv Turner and A.J. Smith.
The Chargers' mostly strong records through the regular season have masked the fact that Turner hasn’t consistently won in the playoffs, when it matters. Even during the season, it could be said that the Chargers give up several games a year purely on his play calling.
Beyond Turner, general manager A.J. Smith has failed to build the Chargers in the draft over recent years. During Rivers' first few years as a starter, the Chargers were loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. It's hard not to be successful with a future Hall of Fame running back like LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield. Tomlinson and others declined in play, however, and their replacements through the draft and free agency have yet to carry the standard that they set. Players like WR Buster Davis and DE/LB Larry English are examples of some high-profile misses in the past few years.
It seems that the Chargers are destined for mediocrity this season given the firestorm of problems that they have. If any hope is to be had for the immediate future, then a fairly drastic move must be made soon. Depending on the outcome of this season, it wouldn't be hard to guess that that move would be the firing of Norv Turner. It's clear that he is having trouble taking advantage of the talent that the Chargers' roster still possesses.
Despite Smith's shortcomings, he deserves at least another year and a chance to find a new coach and bring new players in. He got the Charger to a level of AFC contention, so he can most likely do it again- at least, San Diego fans hope he can.
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