Solving the Chargers Puzzle

Winning teams have a hunger. A yearning to win at any cost. They give their all and sacrifice for the team, the greater glory. The San Diego Chargers are playing with fire. A magic trick they know nothing about and they are getting burned.

The remedy?

Attitude. A belief that they can do it.

Most kids can a recall a time when their folks told them they could do anything. Right now the Bolts don't have that faith.

The Chargers are feeling like Roy these days. They continue to try their magic and each week their throats get ripped out a little more.

Tigers have an attitude. They are always on the prowl. Not this Chargers team. They sit back and let the game come to them. Instead of attacking, they are holding up two fingers, the peace sign. Their opposition won't make plays for them and they refuse to make plays for themselves.

Instead of acting like caged animals, they act like a cat that won't leave the house even if the door has been left open.

An air, a belief, a demeanor. When faced with adversity this team is going for broke, literally. Broke in the won-loss column.

"Attitude -- in terms of your unwillingness to accept that adversity is going to make you fold over," Marty Schottenheimer said. "That kind of an attitude -- we don't have it right now."

Schottenheimer cites the play of the defense late in the third quarter and noticed the fortitude they possessed for some 20 minutes of play.

"There was an attitude as the defense went on to the field that we are going to stop them. And that is an attitude you have to have," said Schottenheimer. "The ball doesn't always start on the opponents' 20 yard line.

"I would like to see our football team develop an attitude about playing this game."

Like solving a Rubik's Cube, the San Diego Chargers are an enigma that needs to be solved. Once one side is complete, another hole is opened. They keep turning and changing looking to solve the riddle and it all comes full circle when the colors they originally fixed are all messed up again.

"When adversity strikes, we are not able to consistently respond to that," Schottenheimer continued. "There is a level of confidence that has to be achieved each season. It is something that you have to reestablish."

Each week is like playing with Chinese handcuffs. The team tries to get a win and the constriction around their neck gets tighter when their effort level is upped. The harder they pull, the more entrenched they are in disaster.

"There is no problem with the effort or the energy. Everybody is trying so hard that they go beyond what is necessary."

Trying so hard they are committing other errors. One player thinking he is bigger than the team tries to make the "big" play and it oftentimes turns into a nightmare. Opportunities present themselves and those are the times to take advantage. Marty Schottenheimer would say something like that. He didn't this week.

"They have worked very hard. But it has to go beyond a winning effort, it has to be winning execution."

Isn't attitude a type of energy or effort? When the attitude is high and good effort is shown, the feeling is infectious. It all goes hand in hand. The team may up one second and down many others. That down feeling is exactly what Schottenheimer is trying to avoid.

"Just because something went awry, we are not going to go, ‘here we go again.' There are occasions in my coaching career that I have seen that look," Schottenheimer reflected. "Yeah, I have seen it -- particularly early in the season. I have not seen it lately."

It is like being called up to the magicians' stage. He is about to cut you in two and you have to trust you will remain in one piece after the trick is done. One man trusting another to do the job life intended for him.

"There has to be an element of trust between any group," said Schottenheimer. "That trust becomes a product of everybody doing it the right way. When you haven't had that success, you don't have that firm confidence. You then try to do more than you need to do."

"That trust must be earned."

That list doesn't sound too long. Attitude, confidence, energy, effort, execution, trust…

0-5 and still a long way to go.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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