The New-Look Chargers

Coach Mike Riley heads a new group of Chargers looking to improve on last years' disastrous season. Led by newly acquired quarterback Doug Flutie, the Bolts prepare to reverse fortunes and stake their claim in the AFC West.

While the name remains the same, those taking the field at the University of California at San Diego are anything but last year's San Diego Chargers.

For that matter, the organization itself bears only a slight resemblance to the 1-15 embarrassment of a few short months ago.

A new general manager, a new offensive coordinator, a new trio of quarterbacks, a new running back, a new defensive end, and two new starting cornerbacks. Even the most ardent of fans will need a program to keep all the names straight.

"This year, we feel that on paper -- going into camp -- we don't have to have players earn their stripes," said Pro Bowl linebacker Juinor Seau. "There are players here now who are respected not only by us, but by the league. That brings a lot of weight to the table. That's why the enthusiasm is real."

While that enthusiasm may not be enough to carry them into the AFC Championship, it is a step, and at this point of the game, that's a major improvement.

The disastrous days of Ryan Leaf are over, it's time to move up, and move on.

Assisting in that move will be veteran quarterback Doug Flutie, on whose shoulders the future employment of head coach Mike Riley clearly rests.

If Riley is unable to produce at a considerably higher level than he did last year, general manager John Butler will not hesitate to unload the coach and his $750,000 per year contract.

"In this business you need to win," Riley admitted. "You can't shrink from that."

"We've showed ourselves to be competitive last year (half their games were decided by eight or fewer points, including six by three or fewer), and with better play at the right time we can win a number of more games. That's what gives me optimism and belief that we can win enough games to get in the playoffs."

Looking at the bright side, training camp is still not officially open and the Chargers are already only two wins away from doubling last season's win total. Realistically there is nowhere to go but up.

How far depends on the collection of talent that Butler has assembled.

How fast dictates the future of Mike Riley.

Welcome the new look San Diego Chargers, anxious, excited and with any luck at all, ready.

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