“The past is behind us, the end hasn’t happened yet. All that matters is now.” That line comes from this season’s penultimate episode of Boardwalk Empire. I thought of that as I sat down to watch last week’s game. For a while, those words seemed to serve me well. I’d be lying if I wasn’t happy to see us crushing the Bills, the Packers beating Oakland and the Bears winning in Denver. Believe me, I wouldn’t allow myself to think that any of those outcomes were a done deal. But once the Chargers had (even for them) sewn up their game, I bounced back and forth between the last 10 minutes and the Denver game. I didn’t watch too many plays, for fear of disappointment. However, I saw both of Marion Barber’s miscues. As I wrote on Twitter, the only surprise was that he wasn’t wearing a Chargers uniform when they occurred. For a while on Sunday, did it feel like that December 2008 string when the Bills beat Denver after we’d won in Tampa? Sure, and the disappointment that followed when it suddenly didn’t was equally powerful. However, that December 2008 sequence is what has led us to the mess we’re in right now. Had we not made the playoffs, Norv might have been canned right then. I say “might have” because Dean Spanos stated publicly (as he obviously has not this year) that Turner would return. I would never root against the Bolts, although I’ve learned that my wants have nothing to do with their record. However, the realization that not making the playoffs would serve a higher purpose took the sting out of Sunday’s turn of events.
The only thing I can say confidently is that the entire Legion Of The Lightning Bolt believes that there is no way this team will ever win a Super Bowl with Norv Turner as its head coach. We’ve suspected it, feared it and even suppressed it a bit. Now there can be no doubt. That can’t be swayed by what I read Jay Paris referred to as a “false positive” or “fools’ blue and gold.” I don’t know where I read that second one. The Chargers weren’t good enough this year, a season to be remembered for what was squandered instead of what was accomplished. It will be interesting to see how the team plays against three consecutive strong opponents. You can argue that the Traitors are unraveling, but we have lost 3 straight to them and gotten bowled over in the last two. Obviously, Oakland is a still a problem for us. Will the team’s performance be a reflection where their minuscule playoff hopes are on Sunday Night? Maybe. Could the fact that people’s jobs, not just Norv’s, be at stake have an impact? Maybe. But the simple fact is that the Chargers didn’t win the games that mattered.
That last sentence has summed up this team since they emerged from their almost 10-playoff drought. That’s why they have been accurately characterized as “soft” and “chokers.” It’s not suggesting that the teams that they lost two in their three “one and dones” in San Diego didn’t deserve to win. Those two Jet and one Patriot teams lost the following week in the playoffs, however. It’s not like when we lost to the ’94 Niners. When Randy McMichael said after the first of six consecutive losses this year that it was entirely the Chargers’ fault, it was meant as a knock on the Bolts and not the Jets. Of course, it comes off as sour grapes after a hard loss. The Chargers are “hexed?” That’s bullshit and I’ve said it many times before. The fans are the ones that are cursed because they can’t do anything that will cause this team to win a Super Bowl. This season, the playoff implosions of Marty Schottenheimer AND Norv Turner have been rehashed over and over. If you read what fans are saying, they clearly have forgotten some of the details or have simply drawn different conclusions from those games than I. It wasn’t like one horrible mistake or one bad call doomed a team that played an otherwise perfect game. I won’t insult or additionally hurt you by restating the litany of errors the Charger committed in their 3 biggest playoff implosions. They left themselves in position for a McCree or Kaeding to doom them each time.
The same thing goes for the KC and Denver losses that people will naturally point to when this season is officially done. Yeah, Gates shouldn’t have been flagged in Arrowhead. But Marcus McNeill shouldn’t have played like he’d never heard opposing crowd noise either. They set themselves up for Rivers’ fumble to sink them. The same thing goes for the second Denver game. They floundered all day against the Bunkos. Up 10-0, Tommie Harris didn’t cover a fumble. Norv played for a tie at midfield and then settled for a 50-plus yarder. That’s all you need to know about this team. Norv has to go and I think it’s time for AJ too. Scott Pioli, who AJ claims to admire so, talked about being a better GM this week. AJ did the same after the ’08 season. I know that the last two draft classes are still maturing. I know that Weddle has worked on his drops and become a very good player. But it’s too little too late. AJ hired Norv and I don’t think he should get a shot at hiring another coach. I’m happy to see that many fans feel the same way. I’ll be watching the rest of the way, but I won’t lose sight of the big picture. This team and this fanbase need to see accountability from the players and coaches. Marty or Norv? How about they were both not good enough? It’s that simple. I don’t care if the next coach is a yeller or a quiet leader. But he needs to get this team playing sound, tough football.
I think it’s been proven that Terry Moody’s pleas to build a team from the “inside out” have a lot of merit. Other teams may not have the skill players on offense that we do, but their lines (and their coaches) do a better job of putting the ones they do have in the best spots to make plays. We need more impact guys on defense. We said it last year and Liuget, Spikes and Sanders were AJ’s answer. How will it look for #94 down the road? Who knows, but the other two will be gone and the overall answer was that it wasn’t enough.
I’ve read posts by people rememebering when we were 4-1. Every single Charger fan I know knew that the team needed to play better against better competition. The fucking Chargers themselves said that. They knew that their mistakes over the first 5 games would catch up with them and they did. They have admitted that they knew their 6-game losing streak (a result of not fixing those very mistakes) would sink their season and it has. When the stakes were raised and the oppostion got better, we folded.
Look at our record against “good” teams. It’s hardly impressive under Norv. When the Chargers won 14 games in 2006, not a single one was to a playoff team. Technically, they beat KC at home and they got a WildCard. But we also lost to them as well as Baltimore.
It wasn’t enough. That’s the only thing that matters. As I leave you, I am reminded of Anthony Michael Hall’s portrayal of Bill Gates in the TNT biopic “Pirates of Silicon Valley.” When Steve Jobs (Noah Wylie) complains that Microsoft copied Apple to create windows, he says “That’s not fair? You don’t get it, Steve. You’re too late.”
One last thing. There will undoubtedly be a debate on who the next coach should be. No coach that has won a Lombardi has done it in his second stop. However, there is such a thing as “consumer confidence.” Season ticket holders need a reason to be excited. When the name “Gruden” is even mentioned alongside San Diego Chargers, people get fired up. My wife showed no interest in the floudering Norvals until I mentioned that Chucky or his brother might be available as candidates. SI featured a piece on how Cowher ain’t coming back, but we’ll see.
Anyway, I’ll talk to you Sunday.
PS Here’s some tunes.