Ray Lewis, Joe Montana, John Elway what do these guys have in common? They believed in their teams and believed in the abilities of the guys next to them, they rallied and won championships. The title says it all, we must believe! New head coach Mike McCoy has been reshaping the way our Chargers players think, play and react. The team will pull together in the coming weeks and hit the battlefield during exposition games. What will make or break this season isn’t based on talent alone but the leadership of this team winning the games for one another. Here are a few of the guys who will have to be the voice, the strength and the heart of the team to play as a team.
5) Darrell Stuckey – Our Special Teams ace and captain. Football is a three phase game and the Chargers know that better than anyone else as we were the doorstep to most of our 2010 opponents. First in offense, first in defense but it didn’t matter as we were walked upon on special teams. Stuckey will need to remind his special teams players they play a pivotal role, what they do sets the tone for every play thereafter.
4) Nick Hardwick – The only returning offensive lineman at his original spot. The offensive line is a gelling unit, everyone must be on the same page, one loose cannon, one bad start, one false move and the problems start to show. McCoy is hard at work to pin down the best five guys, it will then be Hardwick to hold them together and redeem a confidence that’s been lacking since the days of Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeil.
3) Donald Butler – It’s time! Butler has been groomed from one of the best in Takeo Spikes, not only as a player but as a person. Butler has been taking the bull by the horns and teaching a very impressionable Manti Te’o. Te’o has referred to Butler as an older brother figure, that’s the kind of stuff I like to hear! Cohesive and brotherhood will go a long way. Shaun Phillips and Spikes are gone and Jarrett Johnson has never truly been a vocal inspiration, we haven’t heard loud barking since Shawne Merriman was Shawne Merriman, now would be the perfect time to hear battle cries from our defense!
2) Eric Weddle – Eric Weddle is the best safety in the NFL. The best safety in the NFL is a San Diego Charger. With the departure of Quentin Jammer and Shaun Phillips, Weddle is now the longest active Charger on defense. He is a very influential player, being the best safety in the NFL and the longest active Charger indicates that many defenders, veterans and rookies alike will be looking towards him for inspiration and guidance. If Weddle doesn’t motivate, the entire defense could suffer, if Weddle does excite the entire defense will potentially roar.
1) Philip Rivers – The captain, Philip Rivers. This used to be Ladainian Tomlinson’s team, he was clearly the captain and steered us from being a bottom of the barrel team to legitimate contenders. Tomlinson restored hope after the Ryan Leaf bust and Leaf’s empty promises of Superbowl parades through the streets of downtown San Diego. Tomlinson carried this team and once LT was done he passed the torch to Rivers to carry this team. Philip Rivers did a fine job from playing in an AFC Championship game without an ACL, throwing to 17 receivers in a single season most of which were unknown players to never having thrown more than two interceptions in a game until he was the age of 30. If he can play confidently, get back up and thrive after every bad play and rely on his natural instincts to play relentless and gritty football that will trickle down to everyone else under his command.
There has been a clear sense of redeemed hope amongst San Diego Chargers players and fans. I will be the first to admit that this time last year I had already looked at the Chargers roster and checked out the rest of the way. Friends and critics all around were already judging an 8-8 season. This year, it’s been different, although the experts are still indicating the San Diego Chargers will struggle, the renewed faith that our team is in a better place is already telling of what’s to come. Dean Spanos did the right thing by turning over the regime, scouting the country for the best possible general manager and head coach and invigorating the finest city in the world. Believe, that’s the first step to a dynasty led by Philip Rivers, Eric Weddle and company.