All about the "W"

The San Diego Chargers were not interested in finishing with the worst record in the league and securing the number one overall draft pick in 2004. They were looking for a win against their most hated rivals, the Oakland Raiders. They wanted to find some sort of consistency on offense. They wanted to see Drew Brees manage a game. Then they watched LaDainian Tomlinson put on a show.

While Marty Schottenheimer did not talk to the media on Monday, his post-game comments were in regards to winning and the positives it brought.

If only they could have learned some of the lessons at a different point in the season the team may not have ended up at 4-12.

"The bottom line is, don't turn the ball over and you win," Schottenheimer said. "There were some sacks, but you can overcome sacks."

"(Drew Brees) did what I challenged him to do. Take care of the damn ball."

"There are a few games a year that you feel like your defense is having their way with their team's offense and as long as you don't turn the ball over, you are going to have a great chance to win," Brees said.

In the dark of winter the season ended on a winning note. It is something tangible for this young team. It is something they strived for and accomplished.

"The only purpose was to win the game," Schottenheimer maintained. "The win was the only thing I was interested in.

"One win gives you the sense of we can do it."

A little late in the season for that, but with a young team it may be the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel." Schottenheimer agrees.

"In a very difficult year for all of us, they never stopped. They kept going, they kept grinding away at it and that leaves one thing left for next year – we have to do better."

If anything, the game on Sunday was a testament to bringing Marty Schottenheimer back for 2004. The team didn't quit when they easily could have. Not only did they get the win for themselves, convincingly despite the score, they earned it for their coach who wanted "validation".

"It's one thing to have a good game and you lose," LaDainian Tomlinson said. "It's kind of a sour taste. But when you win a game, it makes it more fun to talk about it and the team can celebrate."

Now the Chargers head into an offseason, thankfully after the constant disappointment.

"Obviously, I'm very disappointed. We've just got to keep on going at it, man," Tomlinson said. "I'm not a quitter. I'm going to keep on striving to get there."

"I can't think of anything else I want more of than to just taste what the playoffs feel like."

"In a way you want to get the season over with, because of the disappointment," Leon Johnson said. "We can only learn from what we did this past season."

Or in the Chargers case, what they didn't do. Now decisions loom. Marty Schottenheimer sat down with many players today and will continue to do so tomorrow. It will be the final time they get to air their concerns to each other regarding the past season. Then Schottenheimer will sit down with his coaching staff and choices will be made from that point forward, followed by more evaluation and a gameplan with General Manager AJ Smith.

The offseason will now define how the front office is ultimately viewed and it will define the Chargers in 2004.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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