Seriously, so much of what the Chargers did (or didn’t do) in 2012 rested upon a seemingly meaningless New Year’s Day game in Oakland. While the Traitors needed the game in order to make the playoffs and it’s always great to beat them, the game really didn’t have significance for the Chargers. Actually, it apparently convinced Dean Spanos that he justifiy bringing Norv back for another year. AJ avoided the ax, but if you believe anything you read (and I don’t) in the U-T and North County Times, the coach would go before the GM. Deano, after all, credits our “success” since 2004 to Smith most of all. By the way, if you haven’t been able (or wanted to) read the Union-Tribune’s Charger coverage since they went to a pay-for-content business model, you can still find the articles on the Google “Discussion” site. I’d keep that tidbit of info on the down low, but if you’re reading this I assume I can trust you.
I inadvertently deleted a 1 TB of music while actually trying to back up my computer a couple of weeks back. When you tether yourself to as much useless shit as I do, it’s a pretty catastrophic event. However, only a fraction of those tunes actually are in my daily rotation. I assume you know what bands are on that playlist. However, I did retain the 18 disc release from the Justice Is Coming House Band. You know you’re old when concerts you’ve attended are part of an epic archival release. You can listen to big chunks of it here. If you’re really interested, e-mail me and I can direct you towards the entire set.
It’s Saturday morning here on The Island and we have an extra day before it all begins again. With a 10:15 kickoff, the most inconvenient team in football will actually get the most inconvenient start time. In 2006, the post-Steve Foley-shooting Chargers shit all over Oakland. Shaun Phillips did his #53 charging bull homage after a sack and our rookie quarterback managed the game. In 2009, Antoine Cason proved that his brain fart in the playoffs the year before wasn’t an aberration as he surrendered the tying touchdown late in the 4th quarter. Philip Rivers led the Bolts down the field and the draw play to Sproles won the game. Unfortunately, that resulted in that same play being run into the ground by Norv. He tried it against Baltimore a few weeks later the Ravens snuffed it out to put the game away. You remember, FAITFUL READER, that was the week after Jamal Williams went down for the year and OG #91 was pullled off the car lot to play on our defensive line. We had already lost Hardwick in Oakland. However, he’d return against Tennessee. Williams was done in San Diego forever.
With an 11-game winning streak following a 2-3 start, the Chargers were never are strong as their record indicated. The Bolts clearly weren’t good enough in the trenches (on either side) and the Jets knocked them off a pedestal that they still haven’t gotten back on. Antonio Gates told XX1090 this week that there is a sense of urgency with the team. You know, “the window’s closing…we know this is a business and everyone won’t be back…” Blah, Blah, Blah. I love Gates, but he also said we were a blue-collar team a year ago. The Jared Gaither thing bugs the shit out of me. The fact that Rivers’ blind side is protected by Mike Harris is worrisome, but the bullshit surrounding Gaither is insulting as all fuck. I know, my time in Bleacher Report causes me to flex my profane muscles here in the Halls Of Justice. I wasn’t aware that “The Big Lazy” had missed all of 2010 with back problems. It’s well-documented that I don’t watch much football beyond the Chargers themselves. For one, they have sapped the enjoyment out of other games for me. Secondly, it’s time-consuming enough watching, rooting for, suffering with and writing about the Chargers that there isn’t much time for me to follow other teams and players. The fact that Gaither won’t either a) get on the field b) explain what’s going on or c) go on IR and get out of our lives entirely is ridiculous. The Chargers promised in the offseason that they were going to look at their training and conditioning personnel since we seem to have an above-normal amount of injuries. I’m sure Deano’s getting right on that. We were also promised a kinder and gentler AJ Smith as well. I’m yet to see that either. If the team wins, of course, none of that matters. Is Harris another one of these “line ’em up and let ’em play” guys that AJ brings in who wouldn’t get on the field elsewhere? We’ll know soon enough.
I saw in the U-T Male Sack that someone was already wondering if Jarret Johnson would become nothing more than another Travis LaBoy. In other words, is he just not that good? I don’t think preseason is an indication of anything, but I understand why fans are anxious. I am too. Even Philip Rivers isn’t beyond our frustration-fueled wrath. He shouldn’t be. He was often the reason the team struggled last year. I know all about the injuries, struggles of the remaining linemen and pressure on Rivers to do it all. That being said, he wasn’t good enough and/or hurt the team immeasurably last season. As a “columnist,” Kevin Acee shrugged off suggestions that Rivers’ penchant for red zone interceptions was a legitimate problem. Now, he’s admitted that it kept the team from the playoffs. That’s on top of the fumbled snap in KC on All Hallow’s Eve.
I love Philip Rivers. That’s on record. I supported the decision to not sign Brees long-term in 2005. But Rivers hasn’t done his part. That’s why he’s no longer in the upper echelon of NFL QBs. You can’t be the only guy on the list without a ring year after year. He’s had plenty to do with the fact that he’s never even been in the building with the Lombardi Trophy. He needs a bounceback season in the biggest way. It won’t matter if the only connection he has with Robert Meachem is in the training camp photo I posted above. It will be immaterial if Eddie Royal can’t make a difference once they get him out of shrink wrap on Monday Night. No one will care if Vincent Brown’s absence from the season’s first half results in no one being able to get separation from their defenders while Rivers gets tossed around like a rag doll. He can’t point to the fact that he wasn’t aided by a real running game or steady pocket protection. He simply needs to win and win when it counts most. He cannot make the errors that seal our fate again.
Does that mean that he should be traded? It’s irrelevant because it would never happen. But when Colts fans are optimistic because they appear to have a guy who will inevitably lift the Lombardi, I have to be a little envious. I truly want to believe that Philip Rivers is still that guy. However, nothing will quell my doubts and fears until it happens. We’ve all been hurt too badly and too often to have blind faith. XX1090’s Marty Caswell received a Tweet that we should “lay flat for Matt” (Barkley) just as the Colts were told to “suck for (Andrew) Luck” a year ago. But should Rivers fall flat again, I’m sure I won’t be the only one wishing we could just tear that team apart and start fresh.
That’s enough bitching for now. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to bitch about at 10:30 PM Monday Night. But have no fear, I’m still in it for the long haul. We’re all on this ride together. I really respect Ryan Mathews for at least appearing to try like hell to be ready for Opening Night. I’m not devestated that he isn’t playing since he hasn’t even been cleared for contact by the doctors. As much as this game is crucial and I still hate Oakland, it’s more important that Mathews stays healthy once he comes back. I forget who posted the Instagram to your left, but I hope they don’t mind me sharing it. Besides Mike Harris and the offensive line’s effect on Philip Rivers, it will be interesting to see how much Ronnie Brown can do against Oakland. It will be similarly vital how the Chargers deal with McFadden. Everyone thinkgs he’s poised to stay healthy himself and tear things up. We’re so used to seeing the Chargers be gashed on the ground, it would be nice to get a little closer to returning to the “you can’t run” era. Of course, teams could always pass on us back then which is why the run defense was so especially stout.
Speaking of which, the cornerback situation will be watched pretty closely by Justice Leaguers. Cason is terrifying and I didn’t know that teams throwing on Jammer had the highest QB ratings in the NFL last season until Jim Trotter included it in his SI preview of the Chargers. As is the case with the offensive line and its effect on Rivers’ performance, the pass rush will have a huge impact on the secondary. Carson Palmer has looked like shit often times Oakland except when he’s throwing against the Chargers.
That being said, I’ll be standing right there with you for this and every game. I can’t do otherwise. It’s just not how I’m wired, I guess. It’s like that Boardwalk Empire tagline about gangsters. You can’t be half a Charger. You can’t be half a Charger fan, either. Playing at Oakland is about as good a test as you can ask for in the first week. Since 2009, we’ve hardly had a stranglehold on the rivalry after years of dominance. I’m gonna leave you now, because I know you are busy. I will post a piece for Bleacher Report tomorrow night and another on Tuesday. It will be hard enough to get to sleep and up for work at 6:00 AM after the game, regardless of the outcome. I’m sure we’ll be in touch via Twitter or the Justice Is Coming Facebook Page.
It’s not without reservation that I say this, but let it begin. Again.