This after entering the season with high hopes, with talk of reaching the playoffs, with whispers of mentioning Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson and David Boston in the same breath as Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
Instead, the team has been a Texas-sized disappointment.
Marty Schottenheimer's "damn good football team," has become a damned mess. General manager A. J. Smith's "push year" has transformed into him being possibly pushed out the door, if things are righted quickly.
While others look at the Chargers and figured them as a lost cause — they're right. But there's more to be determined than just how fast they can pack after the season-closing game against the Raiders.
Is Brees really the quarterback of the future, after getting yanked for backup Doug Flutie in last week's loss at Chicago?
Is Schottenheimer, the NFL's winningest coach, the right man for this team?
Is Smith, in his rookie year as a general manager after being the longtime right-hand man for the late John Butler, to blame?
What's with the coordinators, Cam Cameron (offense) and Dale Lindsey (defense)? They had never held such positions until being hired by Schottenheimer in 2002. Can they survive what could be some kind of coaching staff/executive staff housecleaning, something that always seems to follow a terrible season like this?
The Chargers have eight games to answer these and other questions. The answers might not be rosy considering among the final eight rivals are the Vikings, Packers, Chiefs and Broncos.
While this season may have circled the drain long ago, future decisions will be based on what happens these final two months. The talk is often that players are playing for next year. In the Chargers' case, that is true — but it also pertains to coaches and executives.
SERIES HISTORY: 5th meeting. The San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings have split the four previous games. But this is the first time since 1984 the Vikings have traveled to San Diego; the Vikings have swept the previous three games, all of which were in Minnesota. In the latest loss, 35-27, in 1999, Cris Carter (136) and Randy Moss (127) both had 100-yard receiving days.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
BY THE NUMBERS: 56,847 — Number of career professional passing yards for Doug Flutie.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was going to saying I wasn't going to be evasive, but I am." — Coach Marty Schottenheimer, as he declined to name Sunday's starting quarterback.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
One wonders if defensive tackle Jamal Williams, the team's best run-stuffer, is hurt more than the team is letting on.
Williams strained a calf in Sunday's loss at Chicago, and is listed as questionable for Sunday. But he didn't work on Wednesday, and the Chargers made a roster move which might have tipped their hand.
Defensive tackle Clinton Ballard was added to the practice squad; the team let defensive end Omari Hand go. If Williams is slow to recover, Ballard, 6-3, 308-pounder, could be added to the regular roster. If nothing else, Joe Salave'a, another big body at 310 pounds, will see more playing time.
How the Chargers shore up the run defense could be critical, especially if Michael Bennett returns to form.
GAME PLAN: Despite their horrendous record, the Chargers have the personnel to possibly defeat the Vikings. Or rather, the person: RB LaDainian Tomlinson. The Vikings defense traditionally struggles against power backs and players with good cutback ability, traits Tomlinson has in spades.
If Flutie plays, his height will come in to play. Many of the Vikings' 18 interceptions this season were the result of their defensive linemen getting their hands up when quarterbacks throw. The diminutive Flutie will likely be asked to bootleg and rollout on most pass attempts, playing to his strength and to a Vikings weakness.
INJURY IMPACT: C Jason Ball (ankle) didn't practice and doesn't look like a go for the third straight week. Veteran Cory Raymer replaces him.