The Justice Files

Greetings and salutations. I apologize in advance if some of these columns seem to repeat themselves. There's just not a lot of fresh news at this time of the year. I suppose I could highlight particular players and postulate how they'll fare in the coming season, but there's way too much time and distance between me and the 2005 campaign to make anything near an accurate prediction.

Right now, all the incoming info I have on the Chargers are the highlight films I receive from ESPN Classic and The NFL Network.

Incidentally, Jim Steeg told me that The Organization is still debating whether or not to release the '04 film on DVD. If it happens, the proceeds would go entirely to charity.

I watched the highlight film from the '94 season this week. How is that relevant to the current Chargers, you ask? Maybe it's because we've endured such a long stretch of futility, the likes of which we hopefully won't see for a while, but Charger fans have a great attachment to the team's past. Just look at any of the fan-operated websites, including my own. My era of The Legion Of The Lightning Bolt is clearly fond of the "Air Coryell" years.

But the AFC Championship team now has just as much meaning to me. I think we all associate the powder blues more with them than the 60's era Chargers.

The '94 team was also somewhat reminiscent of last year's division champs. They also came after an extended stretch of failure. I'm obviously treating the '94 team as the culmination of the arc that began with the '92 squad. In both 1994 and 2004 many things finally went the Chargers way. While our AFC West counterparts suffered their share of injuries and miscues, the Bolts looked to be a "team of destiny." In '94, John Elway whiffed on a goal-line pass and last year Jake Plummer underthrew Rod Smith in the end zone.

We can't expect breaks like that again.

The obvious difference between the two teams was their success (or lack of) in the postseason. The '94 team suffered through a rough patch in the season's second half. In their highlight film, the Bolts themselves attribute that slump to their own doubts about how good they really were.

But the division-clincher somewhere in the swamps of Jersey, which I was lucky enough to witness first-hand, gave the Chargers enough momentum for what turned out to be a huge win in the last week against Pittsburgh. Not only did that game earn the Bolts a bye and a home playoff game, but I'm sure it bolstered their confidence for the rematch in the AFC title game.

The Steelers, who rested their started for much of the second half, proclaimed that game meaningless beforehand and afterwards. In retrospect, they probably could have used a little more humility. I wonder if there are any bootleg copies of that "Blitzburgh" video on eBay.

In fact, the '94 Chargers were one of the few teams in recent memory to beat the same squad in the regular and postseason. Last year's team found themselves on the other side of that trend.

Maybe they could have also used a period of adversity to overcome late in the regular season. The loss at Indianapolis may have brought them back to earth a bit, but it seemed to affect the Chargers' playoff seeding more than their subsequent confidence.

I also watched the hour-long "Game Of The Week" special on the December 12 game against Tampa. But we'll dive into that next week.

-RLW

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