The Justice Files

Sorry it's been so long since I last checked in. I wanted to give myself a little time to reflect after the Drew Brees Affair finally reached its conclusion.

But once Philip Rivers' debut was officially scheduled for Monday Night in Oakland, I knew it was time to re-open The Justice Files. I still haven't softened my stance that Drew, while not the sole culprit by any means, played a major role in last season's playoff failure. Was the offensive line's failure to protect him (and to open up any holes for LT) a factor as well? Hell, yeah. Has Drew Brees reached his "ceiling?" I don't view myself as another Mel Kiper, Jr., so I won't make any grandiose conclusions about Drew's ability or potential. However, I do know that he was unable to lead the Bolts to any clutch victories when they needed them most. On top of that, he couldn't even protect the ball.

I know that a more reasons than I've already mentioned impacted Brees' performance. When I conducted the interview with Jim Steeg, which was posted last week, he and I agreed that the Week 2 game at Denver was the turning point of the season—for both teams. I pointed out that although Champ Bailey pounded his chest after the game that he'd made a game-changing play, Drew threw it right to him. Mr. Steeg responded that the wrong route was run by the receiver on the play. I'm sure that type of thing happens a lot. I love Drew's grit and wish him well in the Big Easy. I just don't want to hear any stories of him hanging out with Sheli Manning.

I don't think Drew is worth anywhere near his new salary, which is now equal to Tom Brady's. Actually, let me restate that. He's not worth that money for the San Diego Chargers. The Aints, who are in dire need of a positive guy like Brees can justify that contract to their fans, which weren't sure they were even going to have a team this season. That being said, I still don't understand why we couldn't have franchised Brees or at least signed him to another one-year deal. I understand that Drew telling the media that he was willing to sign for one season after the free agency period began may have just been posturing. But A.J. Smith hung onto and paid both quarterbacks for two seasons, all the while telling us that we were fortunate to have such depth under center. We had the advantage of having both quarterbacks, so shouldn't Smith have used that leverage to get teams to come to him? His strategy has been to make players sign on his terms, so why wouldn't he extend that attitude towards other clubs?

I'm also not sure why if we now have more cap room than ever, we seem content to sit out this initial barrage of free agent signings. Obviously, I don't think any of the big names that moved teams would be a good fit for the Bolts. I also understand that Smith is big on building through the draft. I applaud that. Not getting future starters with your picks is what eventually caught up with Bobby Beathard. I know Smith keeps his plans private, which I also think is a good idea. But I really hope that he doesn't plan to stay largely pat this offseason. We don't need to go from the extreme of doling out huge chunks of change to stiffs like Kevin Gogan, John Jackson and William Fuller to doing absolutely nothing. That type of "cutting your nose to spite your face" stubbornness is more Marty Schottenheimer's type of thing.

Speaking of Marty, he recently alluded to running the ball more this season with Rivers as the starter. The Bolts used the pass to set up the run a lot over the last two seasons. Was Drew Brees good enough to rely solely on the passing game? Any time the offense forgot about LaDainian Tomlinson, the defense would eventually catch up to us. Much like my frustration over The Organization's inability to maximize our return on the heavy investment made at quarterback from 2001-2004, I don't understand why we still can't figure out how to effectively use LT. In 2003, when he caught 100 passes, the Bolts had no other weapons on offense. Antonio Gates was just starting to figure out how good he could be. Near the end of that 4-12 disaster, the Chargers were passing to Tomlinson simply to get him the record. But the reason he got the ball so much to begin with is because we had no other options. Now, we have enough talent on offense make LaDainian that much more effective. But once again, we surrender that advantage with unimaginative playcalling.

Keeping the opposition guessing? Most of the time you and I know what play the Bolts are going to run. I'm sure the Bolts will use the run to set up the pass much more this season, which is not such a bad idea. However, going to the other extreme and giving LT the ball right up the middle (why do they keep running that play) will not make Rivers' job any easier on 3rd and long. I know Tomlinson had a cracked rib down the stretch, but let us not forget how Philadelphia and Dallas, two non-playoff teams, were able to thwart our offense when the calls got stagnant. My message to The Organization is to build off of our strengths, on the field and in the front office. Six Pro Bowlers and no postseason indicates that we did exactly the opposite a year ago.

The last time we opened in Oakland, we were on our way to a 1-3 start and a 9-7 season. But we were coming off a Super Bowl berth and the correspondingly difficult schedule. We all know that there are no "gimmes" in the NFL and some of the teams on our slate this year could turn out to be the surprise club of the season. But there can't be any excuses about cross country trips or murderous matchups this time. Last summer, A.J. reminded us that there is "no such thing as a half-Charger." That goes for management as well. In the words of Ronnie Van Zant, who was deservingly inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame this month after seven consecutive nominations, I've seen it happen so many times, so many times before Some man got so much money he doesn't worry no more It happens every time.

Every mother's son better hear what I say.

Yours In Justice,


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