The Justice Files

It's Thursday, and the NFL season will officially have kicked off by the time this hits the press. In preparation for the upcoming Charger season, I went back and read my "Justice Files" entry from right before the playoff game. One passage particularly resonated with me:

"That's the paradox of the playoffs. You need play like it's your last game but not let that feeling paralyze you with fear. It's almost (I know I'm reaching here) a metaphor for life in general. In order to get the most of the experience, you need to distance yourself from the finality and be a little carefree."

I recognize now what it was I was trying to say. When A.J. Smith said that the best way for the Bolts to approach the long-term is to focus on the short term, he was trying to make the same point. If you look too far down the road, you'll crash into what's right in front of you. The same goes for looking backwards.

Even though I said the exact same thing BEFORE the loss to the Jets, the Chargers need to play like this is their best chance at winning the Super Bowl. They (both players AND coaches) should never forget what happened on January 8th. Not only did the Chargers not play their best game, but Schottenheimer and his staff didn't put them in position to do so. The players' execution may not have been flawless, but the game plan seemed a little too vanilla for such a high stakes contest. Three days after the loss, when I first tried to exorcise my pain through written ranting, I made a similar point on www.justiceiscoming.com:

"It's foolish to just assume that we'll be in a similar opportunity next season. Free agency and injuries make it extremely hard to build from one season to another. You need to make the most of these opportunities and treat them as precious. Many things fell right for the Chargers this year. Schottenheimer was correct when he predicted before the game that a few plays, made an unmade, would be the difference. It would have been nice, however, if we'd put ourselves in a better spot to make those plays. It would have been nice to get some help from the coaching and the playcalls in that respect as well. That goes for both sides of the ball. The playoffs are all about taking it to the next level and the Bolts stayed stuck in the mud. That's the real crime."

Don't worry, FAITHFUL READER. I'm not starting off the season with a JUSTICE IS COMING recycled "Greatest Hits" collection. But as the Chargers try to not only return to the playoffs, but actually win, it's important to keep our last meaningful game in mind.

As I alluded to earlier, fixating on it or obsessing over it will be just as destructive as ignoring it.

The best way for the Bolts to see the big picture (which undoubtedly entails learning from the playoff loss) is to keep it in the rearview, and not front, mirror.

Since the introduction of free agency and the salary cap it's been very difficult to teams to consistently win season to season. The Patriots, Eagles and Jets have all done it to varying extents. This week Drew Brees talked about how coming East five times in hostile conditions will not only be a test, but preparation for the games they will need to win in order to reach the Super Bowl. To do that, they need not to dwell on the disappointment of January 8, but grow from it.

It won't be easy. But I'm ready to do it if they can.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go root against the Raiders.

This installment of "The Justice Files" is dedicated to the memory of Bob Denver.

R.I.P. Little Buddy,

-RLW


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