Junior's Time Was Up Anyway

I am ashamed of the way the Chargers organization went about telling Junior Seau of their plans. Respect, they showed none. Putting all that aside and looking strictly at the business decision, the Chargers did the right thing. Blasphemy, you say! Well it is a business and the Chargers made a business choice, one that has the potential to keep them on the "up-swing". $16.5 million of un-guaranteed salary and bonuses were left in Seau's contract. Nuff said.

Sure Seau is an idol, and will be remembered for the heart he showed on and off the field. He will continue to make his home here 6 months out of the year and Seau's Restaurant in Mission Valley will remain a friendly place for Chargers fans. Many teams have released the player that identified the team. It was his time to go.

Why you ask?

Well I have my opinions and then I have my game tapes. I took it upon myself to review some film from this year. In all the time I have seen Junior Seau play, I have never seen his timing off so bad. Maybe we can attribute that to injury, maybe it was just overcompensation, I don't have that answer. Only Junior does. What I can tell you with a certainty, is I saw a different player than I remember from a few years back.

Seau, 6-3, 255 pounds, was limited to 13 games this past season with lingering ankle injuries. He sustained the original injury in week three and continued to play despite constant pain. He ended up missing week 5 in Denver, came back to play sparingly vs. Kansas City then sat out the following week in Oakland. He also sat out the finale vs. Seattle. That's all well and good in being named the teams' "Most Inspirational Player", but he should have shut it down.

Seau finished the season with 84 tackles and used his patented rush blitzes to provide 11 stuffs behind the line of scrimmage. Eight of his eleven stuffs came in wins. With his ankle injury limiting him he seemed to try and get a jump on the play, which caused more offsides penalties than he is used to, as he crowded the line looking to get a jump on the snap. The 84 tackles were the lowest of his career, even less than his rookie season. Seau added one interception, one forced fumble, 1.5 sacks and seven passes defensed. He admitted after the season that he should have taken more time off to heal and may have hurt the team down the stretch.

After 13 seasons of rush blitzing, the defense appeared stale. Seau is, maybe was, one of the best run blitzers I ever saw. Not now, not last season. He was slow off the ball, and tried to compensate by reacting. I have never seen him picked up by a blocker so often. Where he used to slip through the cracks, now he is getting pushed back off the line. The tally shows in his sacks the last two season, a total of 2.5.

Ok, so part of that is due to injury. Part of that is age. Part of it is because he has lost a step.

In the eyes of the Bolts, it is the combination of all of that. "Production, potential and economics," said coach Marty Schottenheimer during the season ending press conference in December.

Well analyzing all three of those, I come up with the same conclusion the Chargers organization did. His production has slipped. Since 2000, he has become pedestrian. His potential is not what it once was, and on the wrong side of 33 that is no longer a factor. Economics on top of that and the move had to be made.

"It was an unfortunate thing, that it has to come down to this. It will be hard to move on, but I understand the move, as much as I am hurt by it, the team is on the rise. This may put us there quicker," said Scott Hartnell a fan from Chula Vista who attended the press conference at Seau's Restaurant.

Zeke Moreno, 6-2, 246 pounds, may get the shot some feel he deserves. It is unfair to compare him to Seau, but it will be inevitable. He is from USC, same as Seau is. He has followed Seau to the Chargers, and now may replace him as the starter. Their may be other options, but this is the only one I can consider at this moment in time.

The problem is he is not Seau; he is his own man and will be hampered by the constant comparison.

"Play your own game Zeke," I say.

Whenever he is in the game he makes plays, a nose for the ball. Moreno started in three games during the season and had 25 tackles, one pass defensed, one interception, and 1.5 stuffs in those games alone. He ended the season with 32 tackles in limited action.

Moreno was the top performer in the preseason with two forced fumbles and plenty of tackles. Moreno will make $389K as a base salary in 2003. He continues to perform in limited opportunities; the Chargers have found it harder to keep him off the field. That may be one of the reasons they feel they can move on. There are other holes to fill, and the potential cap savings would help them fill those holes with concrete instead of the sand currently being used.

"It's disappointing to me because of how much he has given to the city and the Chargers," Zeke Moreno said. "When you think of Chargers football, the first name that comes to mind is Junior Seau. It's like that wherever you go.

"This is just like Muhammad Ali when he beat Sonny Liston. It shocked the world, that's what this one did."

Well Mr. Moreno it is time for you to shock the world.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net or via the following link: Denis Savage

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