I know that all teams play their cards close to the vest and that a fair amount of spin-doctoring goes on in the NFL. But in the case of the Bolts, we're actually seeing an attitude that permeates every aspect of their decisions and actions. When you visit the Chargers' official site, the rose colored perspective you're seeing isn't just a front. It's a shroud of denial that is killing this franchise. Until the Chargers recognize their problems, they will never be winners because they will never make the moves that winners do.
AJ Smith has taken a lot of heat for referring to this season as the "push year." Even I can understand his thinking. Even with the 2-6 finish, the Chargers did improve to 8-8 after 1-15 and 5-11 seasons. Junior Seau works very hard on the field, but parties quite hard in the clubs off it. I'm talking about drinking, not drugs (I have this on very good authority). I couldn't tell you the last time one of Rodney Harrison's monster hits actually caused a fumble for the Chargers. He also wasn't the same player after he was suspended last season. It was a sketchy call, but the Bolts' decline began once he was forced to sit out.
Another factor that seemed to contribution to the Chargers' slide was the cheap shot on Jamal Williams. It was the sort of hit that Denver is known for, but it caused Williams to suffer a second consecutive season-ending injury. With Marcellus Wiley aggressively trying to heal, the thinking was that both the run defense and pass rush would improve. This seemed to somewhat offset the inexperience in both the linebacking corps and the secondary.
These decisions caused the Bolts to pass on the stable of defensive tackles that were available in the draft, as well as several defensive ends. Sure, our cornerbacks were a little green, but they were fast. Marty openly admitted that they would get burned and called for pass interference penalties. He said that the most important thing to watch was how they responded to those mistakes. If they erred on the side of aggressiveness then he said he'd be able to handle it. If Jerry Wilson's hissy fit after the first of two last-minute touchdowns in Oakland is any indication, Marty should be furious.
Thing is, a lot of this is his fault. Last week was the second consecutive game in which I watched him stalk the sideline looking to motivate the team and not A SINGLE PLAYER PICKED THEIR HEAD UP. Even Donnie Edwards, who played under Schottenheimer in Kansas City, blew him off. To quote the Rossington-Collins Band, "don't misunderstand me." The Chargers have some serious holes in terms of talent. But the Bolts aren't this bad. Look what the Patriots did with mediocre talent a couple of seasons ago. I don't expect the Chargers to win the Super Bowl, but I didn't expect 0-5. The worst part is that there is no end in sight.
When Schottenheimer was in Washington, so much was made of his resurrecting the Skins after an 0-5 start to finish 8-8. But all those wins were when the pressure was off and the season was basically over. I know that the team was actually in contention during the last month of the regular season, but they came back just enough to get back to sea level. They couldn't make the final push. Do I attribute that exclusively to Marty Schottenheimer? No, I chalk that up to poor personnel decisions by an impulsive owner, which left him with a team of washed-up veterans. They did have Brad Johnson, however. My point is that Schottenheimer got a lot of credit for a team that won once the pressure was off and the bar of expectations were lowered. His year at ESPN only allowed his reputation to blossom. Nobody remembers how out of touch the Redskins found him and his archaic coaching methods.
But this is what The Organization wanted. They didn't want to take a chance on someone new, so they went vanilla and found out that the vanilla's been out in the sun too long. I didn't expect Marty to turn this around by himself. I also don't believe that the Rams and Chiefs improved solely because of Dick Vermeil. Look at the New York Knicks with Don Nelson. His style works in Dallas, but the team needed a guy like Van Gundy.
My point is that The Organization didn't want to really become winners, they just tried not to be so bad. As a result, they're worse than ever. Once the relationship between coach and team has deteriorated, it's impossible to repair it.
Schottenheimer doesn't call the plays, so I can't blame him for that. But he sets the tone. Right now, the tone is dead. I had originally planned to travel to Cleveland for next week's game, but I've decided against it. Is this because I'm less of a fan? Absolutely not. I'm just tired of banging my head against a wall and don't see the need to spend hundreds of dollars and travel to another city to do it.
What can be done now? I understand that continually firing coaches is not always productive. But The Organization doesn't even admit that the coaching is a problem. It's either that or the team is cursed. Do you get the feeling that Quentin Jammer might be a star somewhere else? I don't even want to consider that we're jinxed. Even if we were, that's not an excuse. The Rangers won the Stanley Cup and the Cubs or Red Sox might even win the World Series -- one of these days.