Chargers Getting Respect

Is there respect for an 0-5 team? The San Diego Chargers coming off a bye week are set to take on the Cleveland Browns this week and talking to Butch Davis, the head coach of the Browns, one wouldn't think he was about to face a winless team. That may be the reason they have some wins after allowing Jamal Lewis to run through them and the Bolts don't after taking tough losses.

"If you talked to our players, they'd say that they don't see (the Chargers) as an 0-5 team," said Butch Davis. "These guys are very dangerous. You don't have to get on any kind of soapbox to make an argument that LaDainian Tomlinson is clearly one of the most gifted running backs (in the NFL). They have big, fast receivers. David Boston is obviously the marquee guy, but they've got a lot of guys. They have a quarterback (Drew Brees) that's very accurate and mobile. He's a little bit different than (Oakland QB Rich) Gannon from the standpoint that this guy can scramble on bootlegs. He's out of the pocket by design. Their defense is very talented. Tim Dwight is one of the best kickoff return guys (in the NFL)."

As a Charger fan reading that, sans the 0-5 portion, it is easy to get excited. That was the exact premise behind the whole season. Six short weeks ago, the exuberance in town was hard to contain. The fans thought the combination of Brees, Boston, Tomlinson and the other complimentary cast members would bring a better season than a year ago, one in which they went 8-8.

There were people that didn't believe back then and experts were wary of picking them to finish 8-8 or better. Fans scoffed at them and walked the line that each team's fans do entering the season. They thought they did enough to get better and compete for the AFC West crown. It got to a point before the season that SD Bolt Report put together an article pointing out all the naysayers and sent it to the Chargers' players. They responded at that time, saying it was motivation for the season. Apparently, it was not enough.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep the lynch mob at bay with the Chargers already 5 1/2 games out of first place. Veterans were jettisoned with the team on the cusp and the early signs say those picking the Chargers to end up in the cellar were dead on.

"I think early on (the loss of veterans like Junior Seau) hurt us – just their leadership and everything," said Tomlinson. "To be honest, our young guys are really playing better every week. I think they're getting better and better but early on I think it hurt us to lose those guys.

"The inspiration on the football field and they're enthusiasm – they were very upbeat. They were leaders and professional football players and they were able to lead in many ways that other guys can't lead. They were able to fire up the team and get the team going – with a big play or a big hit or something that got the guys going and those are some of the things that we definitely missed around here."

The team is young and entering this week it is do or die. The Chargers have to get a win, if nothing more than to prove they can and put their minds at ease for a week before an emotional game against Miami. But the focus is this week. It has to be, the team cannot afford to look ahead when the memories of five losses to start this season are still fresh.

That's why this Sunday is so important for a team scuffling for respect. A win would not only remove the tag, "only NFL team without a win" but would give them something to build on in the week leading to the Dolphins' game.

This week they have a chance to look for blood and go for the kill. They have lost horribly in every way possible. From being down huge, to losing fourteen point leads. No one said it was easy.

"I see them being very similar to us, being a young football team," said Davis. "If you look at their roster, they have very few guys in that seven to 11-year category. They have a whole lot of two's, three's and four's. They put themselves into a position to win a couple of their ballgames. They've been ahead in ballgames and, for one reason or another, they weren't able to finish the deal, but this is a team we better be conscious of."

Each week provides a chance for victory in the NFL. Every team is beatable, it just depends on if you brought your "A" game to the field. The Bolts have yet to bring their "A" game as failing grades seem to be their preferred course of action. Still they are dangerous. A team that is winless has no choice but to be.

Marty Schottenheimer, winless in trying to beat his old team, is still the disciplinarian and teacher he has always been. This bye week has had to finally taken effect. He even missed the conference call with Cleveland media on Wednesday and had to reschedule it for Thursday. "The reason I missed the conference call yesterday, I was in a meeting with a bunch of the young players doing what I enjoy most and that is teaching. That is the part that I continue to enjoy and there is still plenty of fuel in my tank."

"He's an excellent coach," Davis said of Schottenheimer. "We played against him when he was at Kansas City and I was at Dallas. They had some very good football teams. Obviously, he did a great job (while coaching for Cleveland), so I have a respect for him from that standpoint."

The Chargers hope to be gassed up for this week's game, or a new fuel tank may be needed in the not so distant future. A win can do wonders for an ailing team, and ailing fan base.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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