With the Chargers inexplicably missing the playoffs for a second season in a row heads are going to roll, starting from the top down. In a perfect Chargers world, Head Coach Norv Turner and General Manager AJ Smith will be long gone by kickoff 2012. The first thing the new brass needs to do (or perhaps thing 1A, next to bringing in a rock star head coach) is sign Vincent Jackson to a long term deal. Jackson has been the consummate pro, kept his profile low and his output high. Yes, the injuries have limited his effectiveness but Jackson has played in every game this season. There is an anti-Jackson contingent out there and they have valid reasons why he shouldn’t get that long term deal but keeping it real, there are a lot more reasons Jackson MUST stay in Charger blue and has proven his worth this season.
1. Numbers don’t lie. Jackson has 58 catches for 1077 yards and eight touchdowns. Jackson ranks 13th in the league (11th among wide receivers) and has the third highest yards per catch average in the league.
2. Jackson has came up big against the biggest teams on the schedule. Ten catches, 172 yards and two touchdowns against the New England Patriots. Seven Catches, 141 yards and three touchdowns against the world champion Green Bay Packers. Seven catches, 165 yards and a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. Jackson has torched the best teams in the league. No other wide receiver has THREE games over 140 yards receiving. Without Jackson, this team would be a lot worse than 7-8 going into the last game of the season.
3. Philip Rivers needs Vincent Jackson for his own sanity. Breaking in new receivers has to be taxing for a quarterback. Rivers and Jackson have the mental connection we’ve seen from other great qb-wr connections like Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison or Steve Young and Joe Montana to Jerry Rice. Rivers to Jackson will be another to add to the list if Jackson plays his entire career in Charger blue.
4. Who will you find who can replace his production? This is a down ear for Jackson and he’s still producing at a Pro-bowl level. No doubt you will see him in Honolulu at the end of January. The only way to replace Jackson is hope to find his equivalent in the draft or trade him for someone close in value. Not to sound like a homer but I can’t think of one wideout i’d rather have on this team that would justify trading Jackson. Ok, I will give you Calvin Johnson but we all know that will NEVER happen. Could we trade him to get the draft rights to Justin Blackmon? I seriously doubt it. Even then, as sure a thing as Blackmon looks to be, he will still be a rookie and the Chargers vertical passing game doesn’t work without Jackson taking two people with him.
There really is nothing wrong with the skill positions on offense other than keeping all of them on the field at once. Antonio Gates is looking like his old self after toughing it out over the course of the year. Malcolm Floyd is the perfect two and Vincent Brown is showing he is better than a number three receiver as we come to a close of the season. Aside from adding depth QB, TE and WR are set and as long as Ryan Mathews works on his fumblitis over the offseason this offense will be a juggernaut once more. Yes, the offensive line needs major work but this offense’s failure was play-calling and that falls on Norv Turner. The defense needs to add more youth and a pass rush. Antwan Barnes and Donald Butler shined when given a chance to start due to injuries to the starters. Getting a hard-nosed coach on board like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden will set the tone and give the Chargers their swagger back. However, for the master plan to work and to get this team and offense back to elite status, Vincent Jackson needs to be a Charger.