I Guess There Really Is No Offseason

Welcome back, FAITHFUL READER.  I haven’t written since our loss at Denver.  It definitely hurt, especially since the Chargers had their chances.  I don’t have such a problem with the since-departed Ken Wisenhunt trying to establish the run in the first half.  As great as Rivers was this year, it’s very rare that a team can pass exclusively without it eventually catching up with them.  But when the Bolts came out of the half and were LUCKY to only be down 17 points, they should have gone right to the air.  I love Danny Woodhead, but we know he can’t keep getting run up the middle like that.  As tough as he has been, he’s not really a between the tackles guy.  As I said during the week leading up to the game, I still wish we’d given Michael Bennett more shots in Pittsburgh in 2008.  As great as Sproles was the week before, that’s not what he’s built for.  Even Sean Payton wouldn’t try to run Sproles the way we did against the Steelers.  The fact that Mathews couldn’t play during the second half at Cincy was a pretty good indicator of how hurt he was.  I understand the gamesmanship involved with the playoffs and why McCoy wouldn’t want to disclose that to the public or the opposition.  But why wouldn’t you use the knowledge that you aren’t going to be able to pound Mathews the way you did so effectively in December and put together a different game plan for the game?

Every time I bring this up, and I bring it up a lot, someone tells me that the wasted drives and minutes that sunk our chances in the third quarter were the result of Ken Wisenhunt.  We can only hope.  Of course, the Chargers could have gotten the ball back if they had stopped Denver on that 3rd and long.  But they shouldn’t have dug themselves that hole to begin with.  Eric Weddle says that play will haunt him forever.  At least that’s what he said on XX1090.  As much as I like Weddle, I could do a little less with his shirt selling on Twitter.

After the loss at Denver, Jay Paris said it best the following Monday.  The “day after” had finally arrived.  We feared it would come eventually.  Like so many Justice Leaguers, I don’t take that last loss of the season well.  In 2007, you could argue that we went down fighting.  Our three best players were hurt, but if Michael Turner gets into the end zone on 3rd and goal, who knows?  But the Giants were able to beat the Pats largely because of the pass rush they were able to generate with their defensive line.  Sound familiar?  Seattle looked very much the same in the Super Bowl.  I made no secret about wanting to see Denver go down.  Shaun Phillips is a loser who doesn’t deserve a ring and I love that he tried to drum up sympathy after the fact by leaking that Tweet from his son.

As much as we all wanted the ride to keep going, we have to be pleased with what the Bolts did after that December loss to the Bengals.  Even though I had to ultimately surrender much of my hatred for Eli Manning after the Giants won that aforementioned Super Bowl in Tempe, I love that many San Diegans didn’t.  That game against the Giants really seemed like it had no real significance at the time.  You can call the cardboard head of Eli with the makeup silly at worst.  But the home crowd gets unnecessarily criticized a lot.  To their credit, they found a common enemy and came out in full force.  The Bengals had to get bailed out to even sell out their playoff game.

We were already seeing the U-T Twitter polls of which 2013 loss hurt the most.  The curtain was coming down fast, but the team rallied.  Once they returned to the postseason, they negated that awful Redskins game I had to sit through.  I’m sure that if we’d missed the playoffs, that game would have topped the list.  I made no secret of the fact that I thought the season was over after that home loss to Cincy.  We couldn’t generate any offense and were unable to stop the run at all.  But it was in the Giants game when Rivers appeared to be hurt that we started leaning on Mathews.

It felt like something was happening.  From these two pieces, you could see that other people were beginning to notice.

These types of articles would have only increased had we gotten to the AFC title game.  After the win at Cincinnati, I started to get messages from people I hadn’t heard from in years.  I can only imagine what it would have been like if we had gotten into the Super Bowl.  The one time we did, I was only two years removed from my college graduation.  I was so full of hope and bourbon at the time that I didn’t think about much else.  Plus, I was pretty focused on buying game and airline tickets to the AFC title game and Super Bowl.

When this run was over, my first reaction was “if not now, when?”  Are they going to finish the job the next time they get into the playoffs?  We basically did what the Jets did in 2009 and 2010 without getting into the conference championship game.  As much as I lament us never winning a Super Bowl, I now accept that if you weren’t a fan when your team did that it doesn’t matter to you.

Besides the 3rd and 17 (which if you search for on the internet, Chargers and Broncos automatically now pop up) and the delay in opening up the offense, there were other missed chances.  Ladarius Green’s drop on 3rd down was huge.  I don’t know if running between the tackles would have made enough of a difference either.  The one thing Denver was able to do in the Super Bowl was defending the ground game.  Butler’s interception in the end zone at the end of the half was the only reason we were even in a position to make the second half matter.

It will be interesting to see what the effects of the Butler signing.  He’s a good player and a leader on the defense.  But he’s not really an All-Pro and is often injured.  The ad for his Super Bowl party didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.  However, he did turn the Wild Card game around with his forced fumble.  Te’o’s broken foot supposedly excuses his spotty play during his rookie year.  He definitely improved by the end.  It’s good to see that Hardwick will be coming back, but how much does he have left?  It was tough for him to get through the playoffs and this is the second time he’s contemplated retirement.

As for the draft, defense would appear to be the need.  The secondary was our weakest area, obviously.  We need to improve our pass rush but maybe being able to cover better could help.  It’s always talked about how pressuring the quarterback helps with covering receivers for a shorter period of time.  But if we could cover better, it might allow what pass rushers we do have to do a better job.

I guess that’s all for now.  Free agency begins officially on Monday and the draft will be here before you know it.  I’m turning 43 next Saturday, which I still can’t believe.  I’d like to formally dedicate this installment of JIC to Harold Ramis.   I was happy to see that his obituaries often led with the fact that he helped write Animal House.  I didn’t know (or had forgotten–I’m almost 43) that he wanted to play Boon.  My grandfather took me to see the movie in 1979 during it’s rerelease and it changed my life much in the same way seeing the Chargers for the first time did.  Boon’s still the character I identify with most, not surprisingly.  RIP.

Lastly, the Chargers shirt in Hebrew was actually part of an official merchandise series from Reebok.  Did you know that?  I actually missed it.  They only sell size S of them, but I saw a bunch of sweatshirts for sale on Ebay.  When I asked the seller if he’d be willing to drop the price 15 bucks, he gave me a ton of attitiude.  However, the joke’s on him since he hasn’t sold a single one and I’m one of of the few people who would actually buy such a thing.  That’s a small measure of justice, I suppose.



About Ross Warner

ROSS WARNER is a forty-five year old freelancer whose credits include Sports Illustrated OnLine and Blitz as well as numerous articles on his favorite band, the Grateful Dead. Blah, Blah, Blah. Yeah, I was on WNEW FM the morning after the Chargers made the Super Bowl. Having returned from Pittsburgh only hours before, there I was at half-court at Madison Square Garden in my #12 jersey and wiping my sweat with a "Terrible Towel." When asked about the future for the newly-crowned AFC Champs, I simply uttered "justice is coming." Like so many others, I first took notice of the Chargers during the "Air Coryell" period of the late 1970s. But as Dan Fouts gave way to Ed Luther, Mark Hermann, Babe Laufenberg, Jim McMahon, David Archer, Mark Vlasic, Billy Joe Tolliver and John Freisz my fanaticism turned to obsession. When Stan Humphries resurrected the franchise in 1992, I began calling the Chargers organization to share my plan to get the team into the Super Bowl. This began the stormy rapport with the Chargers' Public Relations staff which reached a boiling point at a 1996 "team spirit" luncheon when I demanded that guard Eric Moten explain his propensity for holding penalties. It was then I realized I needed my own forum. Founded in 1995, Justice Is Coming is precisely that. To decide whether this site is for you, ask yourself these questions: Do you think of Johnny Unitas as an ex-Charger? Are your three children named JJ, Kellen and Wes, with one of them being a girl? Do you think that Rolf Benirschke got a raw deal on the daytime "Wheel of Fortune?" Can you remember where you were on December 3, 1984 when Bobby Duckworth fumbled the ball attempting to spike it on "Monday Night Football?" Does Al Davis, a dark alley and a lead pipe mean anything to you? If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, then you, too, believe that Justice Is Coming. This is a weekly look at the San Diego Chargers through the eyes of someone who spends most of his time thinking about the Bolts so you don't have to. But being a Chargers fan is not an obligation, although it sometimes feels like it. So I offer you this "alternative perspective." All the football, film and music collides in the centrifuge that is my brain and this newsletter is the result.