The recent comment in which Chad Johnson expressed confidence in the Chargers ability to make the playoffs became news worthy because he’s quite alone in terms of former players, and national media experts expressing any confidence towards the Chargers 2013 season.
You will be hard pressed to find any season projection that shows any confidence or optimism, to name a few: Yahoo sports 24th power rank, NFL.com 21th power rank, cbssports Under 7.5 wins, Bleacher Report 6-10 record and a 26th ranked in the power rankings, Walter Football 6-10 record, 3rd place AFC West, ESPN.com 23th power ranking (post draft). I looked high & wide for any credible projection that had the chargers at 10 wins plus, there just isn’t any.
Locally there seems to be a different perspective, with the end of the Norv Turner & A.J. Smith era in which the talent and seemingly the ability to win a close game kept getting smaller.
The Chargers fanbase is fully hopeful that new coach Mike McCoy will infuse a new culture in which this team will have more fire, and will be able to win close games, as well as install an offensive scheme more in line with many of the modern offenses in which the short pass, and the no huddle is a major factor in creating advantage for the offense. In terms of new GM Tom Telesco, there is a view of a cost-effective upgrades through out the roster, as well as putting very talented young players on the field, that can and should outplay declining veterans that were let go.
At least speaking to most fans locally, the generalized opinion is that they should be better, by having a better coach, and the roster is better than last year’s, not substantially but enough to be a difference and win some of the close games they could have won last year. If I would put a guess on the local perspective, the expectation seems to be around 8-11 wins and fighting for a wildcard.
So why this gap in perception from the national media and the local fanbase, the easy answer if the chargers aren’t good the national media has no reason to care about their transactions or the status of the roster. The chargers are not the Cowboys, Giants, Jets, Patriots. That no matter if they are good, bad or mediocre they will know 40 players on the roster, and intricacies of their style of play.
The chargers share the lack of interest by the national media with teams like the Jaguars, Rams, Browns, Bengals, Seahawks, Bills, Colts, Chiefs. The Seahawks & Bengals, will actually force the national guys to care a lot more than usual because of visits to the playoffs. But start losing, and the indifference returns. I find it funny how many times the radio hosts from 1090 & 1360 AM in San Diego, ask experts about the chargers roster and playoff chances, and come up with an answer that is along the lines of you should know that better than me, I cover the NFL nationally I really don’t know many specifics on the chargers.
The national perception is reduced to this:
1. The chargers have gone from 13 wins to 9-8-7 wins, simply stated the window has closed and the arrow is pointing down.
2. Philip Rivers now sucks, he had 64 turnovers in his last 40 games. Was it because of lack of weapons, and a drop off in the O-Line doesn’t really matter, the guy can’t play.
3. Ryan Mathews is a massive draft bust, and can’t play. This seem to be the point were the chargers fans and media agree. But the guy actually got to a pro bowl before the line got horrible in 2012.
4. Rookie coach, means status quo, that McCoy should be better than the message that got old from Norv, doesn’t matter, rookie coach tend to be handled as status quo or worse than the previous year.
5. I recognize no names from the defense, plus the names I knew like Phillips, Jammer & Spikes left so they must be worse.
So it the end, what is the answer to the question are the chargers as bad as the national media says they are, my personal opinion is that they are a whole lot better.
My personal expectation, is that:
Rivers will fit nicely into an offense that emphasizes the short pass, one of the least known statistics of 2012 was that Rivers was the most accurate QB in the NFL in passes shorter than 20 yards at 76.8%.
That with O-Line guru Joe Delissandris will get their O-Line to play at a middle of the pack in terms of pass blocking, and their run blocking will take a major move towards improvement.
And what that improved run blocking Mathews will return to his 1,100 yards of 2011.
That the defense which is based on young and ascending players will improve on their 9th total yards of 2012.
So what does that means in W’s & L’s, for me its 9 wins, 2nd place in the AFC West just missing a wildcard birth. I need to see this team win close games, and get better veteran depth in the back-end of the defensive roster for 10 or more wins. Put me down for 9 wins, and let the national media feed the motivation for this team to make the playoffs.