For a look at how it feels there is one man who tops the list. LaDainian Tomlinson has been everything the Chargers dreamed of. When things were at their lowest, Tomlinson re-upped and put his name and character on the dotted line.
There was a good reason for it. Tomlinson was vocal about wanting high character guys who wanted to play football and A.J. Smith rewarded him with several players capable of filling the role. He believed in the team when no one else would.
It was Tomlinson who offered up the words that mean so much.
"It feels great," he said. "It is an unbelievable feeling. I am overjoyed to be honest. It is only my fourth year, but it feels like I have been here for eight. I have been waiting a long time to get to the playoffs. Now, it is finally happening. I have heard so much about the playoffs, and now I get to experience them."
The season began with low expectations. That was before Drew Brees took the weight of the team on his shoulders.
If anyone would have told you during training camp that Tomlinson would suffer a groin injury and not be 100 percent for five weeks of the season, you would have likely cashed in your chips in Las Vegas with bets on the opponent.
The Chargers won all five of those games – and so convincingly that Drew Brees has been heralded as the original coming – instead of waiting for the next coming named Philip Rivers.
Brees was so good that it has become a foregone conclusion that he will be franchised in the off-season.
"It feels great. It has been a long road for San Diego fans and us. It has been a long time since we got an AFC championship, and it feels good because we were not expected to do much this year. Instead of 11-3, some people thought we would be 3-11. We still have not met our own expectations. I know this might sound crazy, but we still understand we have a long way to go."
Even embattled coach Marty Schottenheimer was cheered on Sunday night when the team returned to Murphy Canyon.
This is a guy that many penned for dead when the bye week came along last week. Simply put, he has changed. He still clings to Marty Ball principles – defense, limiting turnovers and a strong running game – but the difference is he is willing to air it out when he has to and has, at time, relied on the arm of Drew Brees.
His love for his team is unparalleled. He genuinely cares for the team and loves the teaching aspect of the game. To be part of the turnaround is the crowning moment for the head coach.
"To be able to share it with a group of young men and our coaching staff, that is the special part of it," Schottenheimer said. "They have worked so diligently, the players and the staff alike, going all the way back to February and March. It is terrific to be able to share it with them."
Schottenheimer also gave the fans their due for supporting the Chargers.
"Everyone is really excited," linebacker Donnie Edwards said.
They should be. They have accomplished a feat that no Charger team in ten years has done. They won the AFC West and are going to the playoffs.
Next week against Indianapolis should be equivalent to the CCIE. So many teams have failed and the ones who pass get rewarded. The Chargers can secure the third seed with a win next week so the work is not over just yet.
Chargers not content yet
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