June 11, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy talks with players during Chargers minicamp at Chargers park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Can McCoy teach the Chargers to take a punch and grow a backbone?

Forgive a slight rambling introduction, if any of you has read my articles before, I like talking about schemes, personnel decisions, & lists. In general the strategic & intellectual side of the game; but sometimes you have to face the reality of the human factor, and in the specific case of the Chargers and their strength of will and ability to handle adversity. There is more to football then a well designed game plan, excellent execution of a play & identifying your opponents weaknesses. First off let’s get the obvious on the table are the Chargers a weak character team?, in a simple answer YES THEY ARE!!!

Simple facts: The last 4th quarter comeback this team had was on November 8, 2009, against the New York Giants. Also the last 4th quarter drive to win a game (game was tied) was on December 20, 2009 against the Bengals. Nate Kaeding hit a 55 yard field goal to end the game.

I will ask all of my fellow charger fans when the following plays (or circumstances) happened last season did you really think the chargers would win, when they happened in the back of my mind I thought they are done, this game is over, the simple fact is the most recent teams of the Chargers when they get hit with a knockdown punch they stay down:

Week 3, Rivers throws INT before half, Falcons go in for TD before halftime for 20-3 Lead. Game ends 27-3.

Week 5, Melvin Ingram gets called for a roughing the passer penalty on Drew Brees, the penalty negated a pick 6, that would have made the score 31-14 chargers in the third quarter, Saints kept drive alive went onto to score a TD, Saints kept the momentum and went on to win 31-24.

Week 6, the infamous Broncos 24-0 lead game, the Broncos opened the 2nd half with a supremely easy TD drive, the chargers follow that with a drive that crosses the Broncos 50, Rivers is stripped sacked, and the Broncos return the fumble for a TD to cut lead to 24-14, Broncos continue pounding on Chargers for a 35-24 win.

Week 8, the curse of the 4th quarter comebacks comes back to rear its ugly head, the Chargers trail 7-6 to the last place Cleveland Browns (who were 2-6 at the time), and the Chargers who had more than 2 minutes to get a field goal in their final drive were stopped just before getting into field goal range.

Week 10, Rivers was having his best game of the season, in the first half he was 16 of 18, for 218 yards and 3 TD’s. But the chargers had a blocked punt for a TD, and took the final and devastating knockout punch in the 4th quarter, with a pick 6 INT, that gave the Bucs 31-21 lead, the game ended with a 34-24 score.

Week 12, Chargers had 13-10 lead on the Ravens, and then they gave the conversion on 4th & 29, need I say more. Lost 16-13 in Overtime.

Week 15, after playing their best game of their season against the Steelers, they lay the proverbial egg, and are outscored 21-0 in the first quarter against the Panthers. The rest of the game is an exercise in going through the motions, Panthers win 31-7.

The chargers for 2012, were 0-5 in games decided by 7 points or less. If you notice that when that big punch lands, this team tends to quit and lay down. We don’t like to admit it to fans of other teams, and probably ourselves, but this team has a serious strength of character problem.

I try to avoid giving Norv Turner too much of the blame, but we can’t escape the simple fact that this team had fire before Norv arrived, in 2006 the chargers had 4 4th quarter comebacks in 5 weeks, including the amazing 28-7 halftime comeback against the Bengals. To use a cliched term from the Rocky movies, this team had the “Eye of the Tiger”, and clearly they didn’t have it from 2010-2012, with their grand total of ZERO 4th quarter comebacks. So my statement to Mike McCoy not only do you have to install a modern day offense, that makes life easier for Philip Rivers, and is proficient in what many modern offenses do like: no huddle offense, 3 step drop thows to the WR’s, a commitment to use and maximize the slot receiver, just to name a few; and on defense continue to build on a young and improving defense. You have to change the character of this team, and teach them to refind their swagger, and fight.

The truth is, we wont know if this team has found its mojo, until they get hit with a major momentum breaking play, or they have to make that clutch drive in the 4th quarter, or defensive stop. Up until that point we know the problem exists, and a culture change was needed, did it work, that why they play the games.

To best describe the chargers situation, I want use a quote from “The Devil Advocate”:

John Milton: It changes everything. Pressure.
John Milton: Some people, you squeeze them,
they focus.
John Milton: Others fold.
John Milton: Can you summon your talent at will?
John Milton: Can you deliver on a deadline?
John Milton: Can you sleep at night?
Kevin Lomax: When do we talk about money?
John Milton: Money?
John Milton: That’s the easy part.
From Devil Advocate (film)

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: San Diego Chargers

  • C.Steele

    Sergio, I can see where you coming from with your article You certainly do have plenty of 4th quarter folds to point to. I would offer another perspective. It may not be that the team is or was a “weak character team” as much as they were a team lacking talent and depth. Much like in basketball and baseball you need a Superstar talent to “close” the game and bring home the victory. I would argue, as football is the ultimate team sport and fields more players at one time than the others I mentioned you not only need a Superstar closer, but you need more than one. We certainly didn’t have that in the past couple years, much less multiples on the field at the same time. Your reference of the lines from the Devils Advocate are a perfect example. “It changes everything, pressure”. When it counted the Bolts D couldn’t generate any and on O they were ALWAYS under a ton of it! Finally, I believe as our talent improves so will our late game production. But, as always a well thought out article, with lots of facts listed. Love that. Keep up the good work. #GoBolts!

    • Sergio Quintero

      There is something in this roster psyche, a monkey on their shoulder they have to conquer to rise. We have to see them take that major punch, and comeback the next drive score a TD, or drive it down in the 4th quarter and win the game.

      They aren’t enough wins in easy games, and we wont know until they are tested and they come out winning and they prove it multiple occasions will we or even them belief in themselves.

      They are not the most talented roster in the league, but being clutch is more than talent, its something in your head, its a confidence, drive and belief. McCoy has to make them believe, but they have get over the hurdle and prove it to themselves.

  • Alter Ego

    Nice job Serg – your onto something here. I think C.Steele is right about the required talent needed – but I think R. Matthews assessment of the state of things (while controversial & unpopular) was spot on. He said the team was plagued with complacency under Turner. No killer… anything.
    McCoy is a completely different breed of coach than Turner – I think he breathes fire – there will be no “complacency” on his watch.
    The Chargers are going to tear into some ass this season !

    • Sergio Quintero

      Clearly the chargers needed a fiery coach, there too many games to mention that the chargers seemingly came out flatter than a pancake, and were under an early deficit, because the other team came out with more intensity.

      The chargers have a lot to prove, most experts have them as top 10 pick for 2014 draft. Most projections have them in 3rd place behind the chiefs. Rivers specifically has more doubters than a politician. Show all of us, that you are better, and you are clutch. I’m not the most optimistic fan in the world, and I think there is 9-11 wins in this team.

      • Alter Ego

        I think we get the sneaky bully award this year. I believe we shock the league like the Colts did last year. 11+ wins.

        • Sergio Quintero

          I think they can do 10-11 wins, but they have to win close games, and possibly steal a game or two, with excellent 4th quarters. Until I see it happen I will still have doubts.

          Getting off to a good start would be ideal, so they can build confidence early the season to carry them throughout.

          • Alter Ego

            Ok Serg – This team is more different than the same as last year. You have to articulate why you feel the Chargers can not win big this year. That bibbling babble post today just aint gonna cut it.

            Stick by what you say – I’m calling for an AFC title birth. I think we can compete and beat any team on any given day. There is no wishy washy decision for me.
            Go on record – when does the SD season end?

          • Sergio Quintero

            You want me to go on record for a projection for 2013, here goes 9-7 record 2nd place AFC West, they have the talent of a 7-9 win club, the schedule helps so I’ll take 9 wins. There will be plenty of close games, that where I’m straddling the fence they can win 10-11 games, but until I see the killer instinct I’ll keep my 9 wins and out of the playoffs.

            They are not a 12-14 win level club, they’re just not, the 49ers/Seahawks have that level of talent, the chargers have whole lot more of maybe’s and ifs. If the young players that will get chances to play develop, and they continue drafting well then they might have that level of talent for 2014, until then slightly above mediocre.

          • Alter Ego

            You can have an opinion – you can’t straddle the fence to see which way to jump. Guys like that are as close to being a fraud as you can be.

    • Nick in PB

      Paul, thanks for pointing that out. It’s never a popular thing for a player to make a statement like that regarding a coach and he took some heat for it. But I think, as a fan, we all needed to hear that. Pretty much confirmed our suspicions all along. Give Dean some credit for bringing in the people he did. Gives the fans hope and the team a much needed cilture change.

  • ECAVILLE/Ace of Spades

    I believe that the talent level was there and then some. The strength and conditioning was not. The fire of a great Head Coach was not. The accountability was not existent. Out of shape and far from motivated were most of the individual athletes on that team. The team lacked identity and counter punch back. This truly broke my heart in the worst of ways. This year is different! The changes that were needed were made. Strength and conditioning light years better. This is Football and the team in better shape will end up trampling down their opponents. All Super Bowl Championship Coaches know this and so does Mike McCoy. He has that “Eye of the Tiger!” with Lightning Bolts surging straight through the soul. He might be a first year head coach but it sure seems like he knows his game plan and how to make it happen.

    • Alter Ego

      We are on the same page Ace. Nice post.

    • Sergio Quintero

      Lets hope the change of culture is a fast process, because we have seen to much of a soft team, that kept on getting softer under Norv.

      And you’re right McCoy will also bring something in the gameplan, I think their new offense will surprise people.

  • 1961 Fan

    Your article should be tattooed on Dean Spanos’s head; you don’t fire a 14-2 coach and expect to get any respect from other teams in the NFL

    • Nick in PB

      Exactly… and then bring in a panty waste coach to follow it up.

    • Sergio Quintero

      Everything I have read and seen on McCoy I’m impressed, but the chargers have to prove it on the field. They have make a comeback, or answer back to one of “those plays” with fire.

      I know the rest of the league thinks they are soft, you earn a new reputation.

  • Nick in PB

    Sergio, great article to post for this down time. It’s certainly something that has hindered us the past few years. I sincerely don’t think Norv was capable of breeding success. The players basically took on the identity of their coach. When things are going well, he had a smug look on his face. When things started falling apart, he looked worried, really worried. I don’t think anyone would look and Norv and perceive toughness. I fear it may take a while to get that “Eye of the Tiger” back. Although, I have a strong belief that McCoy and his staff will make that happen. Toughness, belief and a winning attitude are all part of a combined culture and that starts with the head coach. We wasted too much time, and talent, with a culture that lacked accountability. Like you, I would lose faith as soon as that knockout punch was delivered. I’ve said it before, the Charger teams under Norv were fine when everything was going well. As soon as it started to unravel, the team just folded.

    • Sergio Quintero

      We as fans are not legendary for our patience, I hope the process is shorter than what probably should be our realistic expectation for this team.

      I know the schedule is as easy as it going to be for the next few seasons, so I can hope.

      What a wonderful way to say it: When thing were going well, this team was more than okay, but once shit hit the fan. This team has been losing any ability to counter punch.

      I think a new scheme that makes Rivers life easier, will surprise many in the league; the guy was the most accurate passer in 2012 in throws shorter than 20 yards, what a novel concept to do what your QB does well. If they find their mojo then 10 wins is not a pipe dream.

      • Nick in PB

        I totally agree Sergio. I think the key will be staying relatively healthy. If we don’t have many setbacks injury-wise we could easily be a 10 win team. More than anything, I was to see a team that competes for 4 quarters! A team that never thinks they are out of it. That will set the tone for seasons to come.

    • http://www.BoltBeat.com/ Peter Thompson

      We all lost faith. I remember my friend who is a Giants fan saying, “you guys have this” during that Denver meltdown. I said “no we don’t”. They proved me right, unfortunately.

      • Nick in PB

        I was with Family in StL watching the Cardinals blow a lead to the Giants in the Nat. League championship. We would turn over to the Charger game and I couldn’t believe my eyes, that we were winning. I actually DID feel comfortable. Then the Cards game was over and we flipped it to the Charger game and if it didn’t happen during the Norv era, I wouldn’t have believed my eyes! People outside of SD watching the game just thought, great job by Peyton. They didn’t realize what we all knew, the Chargers lacked the “killer instinct” and that was all Norv, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Double bad night for me.

  • RZ

    Yes they sucked it up pretty bad last year..onward and upward is all they can do now…Let’s Go Boltz!!