"The Plan": Our System

The San Diego Chargers offseason has been one that has left many Bolt fans scratching their sunny, Californian, heads. It seems, on any given day, the administration makes yet another decision that makes absolutely no sense. Sure, the same questions are asked over and over to AJ Smith, who answers by telling us not to worry. "We have a plan," AJ assures us.

Well, since Charger fans have no a clue what that is, let us see if we can uncover whether the administration is being upfront with us or whether they are making their "plan" up as they go along.

We will analyze "the plan" on three fronts: the system, free agency, and the draft. Since AJ was brought here by John Butler; for the time being, we have to assume that their "plan" is one in the same. Would Butler have made different decisions between the time of his unfortunate passing and the present? Unfortunately, that is going to remain unanswered. But, since there have been no major changes in the administration since his passing; we have to assume that their course of actions would have been more or less the same. Three months from now, however, could certainly tell a different story.

First things first, we shall ponder the introduction of "Marty Ball", which was met with both excitement and skepticism. Marty's offense is straightforward. We run the ball eighty percent of the time on first down to set up the play action pass. It is a system that has worked across the league. Is it as glamorous as the west coast offense? No! But with the right personnel it can be very productive. In the past, Marty has depended on a solid running back that can also catch out of the backfield. It is safe to assume he has that in LaDainian Tomlinson; surprise, surprise, Butler's first pick as the Charger's GM.

Despite the snooze fest that is our offense, I cannot see any signs that would suggest there is no long term plan. Now, boys and girls, before you jump on my case about David Boston, the offensive line, and the recent QB fiasco, let me say we will address those questions later on. In terms of play calling, formations, how often we run, how often we pass, and who we pass too, I do not see any indications that Marty does not have a bigger picture in mind.

Of course, if anyone throws out an objection as we all know, it is Marty's way or the highway. But, in defense of the coach, that type of mentality is attractive and idealized when one is winning. Maybe Marty's reputation as being a dictator/coach is what makes the lack of defensive commitment so puzzling.

Riddle me this Batman, if the administration truly had a plan, and wanted to implement a system, why would we be switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in Marty's third year. Even though we might have better personnel for a 3-4, there will still be an adjustment phase, that if anything, will cause more grief for poor Charger fans. Marty is familiar with both systems. He has produced coaches who excel in each. Then why did it take him two years to implement the 3-4? I am a logical person, so I will not buy excuses such as "Junior would not let him," or "… at the time, the players we had etc…."

I have been talking to coaches, recently, who have coached both the 3-4 and 4-3, and I am told, that the key of a 3-4 is having two lock down cover corners. We drafted them, great. It just so happens that they are pretty darn handy in just about any style of defense. But make no mistake about it. In a 3-4, the linebackers tend to be tweeners, the tackles/ends tend to be undersized, and the noseguard tends to be short. We can go into detail about each player's responsibility, analysis the 3-4's strengths and weaknesses, or see if this style of defense would give us a better opportunity to win in West. These points, which all pose very interesting and fun football discussions, are irrelevant to the question at hand … Why the change midway through Marty's tenure?

Is someone going to tell me that Wade Phillips came in, and told Marty, that we had better personnel for a 3-4? Surely, Marty would have recognized that fact himself. I do not doubt Phillips's opinion; I happen to agree with him. But, what boggles me is this: why, under the past two years, have we been developing players who fit an entirely different defense scheme in which we run? This means we have been developing tweener linebackers, undersized tackles, etc, to replace some of the same great 4-3 players we have let go. Call me paranoid, or call me handsome, the choice is yours, but this would appear that the scouting department is not on the same page with our coaches' philosophy. Of course, Marty and AJ have already answered this question, "We have a plan." Well that is good enough for me, how about y'all?

So, once again, the growing pains will return. All the blown coverages, missed assignments, and just about any other natural progression when players take on a new system will inevitably happen. This is not like changing coordinators with the same philosophies, who just approach differently. This means new terminology altogether.

Moves like this warrant questions. It is not that I am against the 3-4 or the Chargers running it. I am worried how committed they are to it, in light of their lack of commitment to their previous defensive philosophy. If they are willing to make changes of this magnitude two years into Marty's reign, what is to keep them from changing everything once again next year? As we learned from Beathard, there is no such thing as a quick fix.

Next time, we will take a look at the administration philosophy towards free agency. Considering the flip flops of late, it should be an interesting exploration to say the least.

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