Sep 22, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; San Diego Chargers fan Bennie Kinney of Russellville, KY prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers Identity Crisis in 17-10 Loss to Bengals?


Dec 1, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy questions a call made by officials during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Qualcomm Stadium. The Bengals won 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

At the conclusion of last season Norv Turner stated the fans should be patient with the next incoming staff. He went on to explain that this team isn’t one or two players away from being competitive for a championship. We all knew that, but Turner insisted that things would be different every season and the problems would be fixed. Being the fans we are, we let him continue to give us the “Coach talk”, or lip service and let him “stay the course” right out of his third tenure as Head Coach. Now this isn’t about blaming Norv for the 17-10 loss to the Bengals, far from it. This is about “Identity”.

As fans we are familiar with Turner’s tenure and it’s results, while the case can be made the 2013 squad has similarities to its predecessor, the reality is they came under different circumstances. Now before you get riled up that I’m about to make excuses for McCoy, not a chance. I stated before the season started, I wasn’t going hold the new regime accountable to Turner and Smith’s disappointments. A good example would be, Mathews had a history of fumbles. Yes? “Under Turner“. I wanted to give a fair assessment of RM24 under McCoy. So far he’s fumbled twice and almost has half as many +100 yard rushes in 12 games, than he had the entire time under Turner. But enough of that, back the point: Identity. That is the overall picture of what I see, this team doesn’t have an identity. The win one, lose one is a symptom of not being sure of who they are. If I have to bring things into context, is this team a physical and disciplined with big play ability? Some time. Are the Chargers “feared” for its front seven, that makes offenses one-dimensional? No. Are they ground and pound, that can kill you with the pass? Maybe glimpses. That’s what I mean, I can’t tell you what they are good at, because they are not consistent enough to be identified as a team that people say, ” Hey, the Chargers are a team that will beat you with……?”.

Right now they are a team with a Rookie Head Coach. A former Head Coach as the conservative play calling Offensive Coordinator. A career Linebacker Coach that was given the job as Defensive Coordinator, for the purpose of continuity. A patch work O-Line that has exceeded expectations “because of” the O-Line Coach. A former DB Coach that was fired from his former gig (in Denver) because his DB’s were out of position and got beat. A new offensive scheme, new schedule for workouts, training staff, and practice. Lastly a mishmash of layover players from 2012, Rookies and FA that really don’t know each other that well, who’s total playing experience, is on the light side. It’s not ONE thing.

This is what they REALLY have to overcome, a lot of NEW. And somewhere in that new, they need to find what they are good at and stick to it. What I think is, the coaching staff only sees Rivers and Weddle, everybody else is sorting themselves out as to who the coaches can lean on and/or build from. Now what I think doesn’t matter, but it’s my perspective, from the outside, looking in.

So it’s your turn to sound off Bolt Backers! Am I on to something, or just on something? Is Mike the real McCoy or Norval the second coming? Did the Chargers make some good personnel changes? Or is it too little too late? Show you love, or hate, I’m a big boy.

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  • TheReturnOfMrBlanks

    Good stuff Arnie. I think we are carrying a ton of dead weight on this team our depth all over is complete crap. Once our depth is really good and Whiz grows a pair we will be good lol.

    • arnie

      Thanks Mr. Blanks, but I think it goes deeper that just depth an whiz. The depth on this team suffers from in-experience, lack of development and playing time as a unit. Whiz needs to decide if he’s going to do things his way, or work with the talent I front of him.

  • Stefanie Smith

    omg, arnie. This article is so spot on. You are right. I have been thinking about it also and I could not put my finger on it… no identity….and a whole lot (maybe too much) NEW. Find out what we are good at, and stick to it! Clapping.

  • Stefanie Smith

    We have to get back to the days past when we were known for something. Not a hodge podge of I don’t know what. The only thing we are sort of known for is Rivers. It is pretty much the general consensus that he is high up there for a QB.

    • arnie

      Now you understand what i liked about M.A.R.T.Y.? He wasn’t the best in the playoffs, but he was KNOWN for punishing teams with the run, dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides and great pass rushes.

      • Lee

        well we did have a HOFer running the ball back then…

        • arnie

          So did norv…

  • Blue&gild_blood

    Besides our D. I think the conservative play calling has been killing the chargers .

    • arnie

      True. However the Defense played well against the bengals. Richard Marshal showed he was an upgrade over Cox, and i would like to see more Addae on the field. That second TD was break down coverage on D. Butler.

      • Stefanie Smith

        arnie: You really think the D played well? We are the laughing stock of NFL Network and NFL.com…. They are all talking about our blown coverages and no sacks or hits on the QB. How is that a good performance by the D?

        There was no coverage in the endzone for Green. How on earth did that happen? Touchdown!

        How come none of our D gets sacks? The only one who really did something was Weddle with those interceptions.

        • arnie

          When have we ever listened to the NFL network for their “brilliant insights”? The only time they speak of the Chargers wins is to explain how the Cowboys an Colts lost the game. When the Chargers lose, it’s to validate their opinions of this team not being good, “because of” a rookie HC. Maybe you and i were watching different games, but part of the reason The Awesome AJ Green, didn’t light things up was the coverage, particularly the change at CB.
          Going into this game our rush defense was the strength, and it let us down. Part of the reason? Pags didn’t load the box, and Weddle played FS, BTW has been covering for the front 7 for 3 seasons now, as a Nickel Linebacker.
          As for “communication and coverage breakdowns”? What else is new? That has been consistent with the defense all season long. It’s the reason i mentioned Pags, the DB coach, limited playing time together and in-experience in the first place.
          This D may not have had hits or sacks, they did force 3 turnovers, Marshall defended a TD pass, thee shut down the TE Gresham, and forced more 3-n-out’s in one game than they have all season. Manti? looked better, not great, just better, because he had trouble getting off his blocks still. Over all they held the team the averaged 30 to just 17.
          The Defense played “WELL ENOUGH”, and gave this team a chance to win all the way to the fourth quarter. The OFENSE blew it.

          • Stefanie Smith

            Never thought I would see the day when holding a team to seventeen points was considered a good performance.

          • arnie

            LOL Some teams are happy to get seven, ask the saints. LOL

  • Stuart Adkins

    Another solid draft next year should make us better, but I’m thinking two more strong drafts and FA acquisitions will put us in contention and perhaps even a serious run by the 2015 season. Lousy drafts and letting talent leave was the reason Norv gave for the lack of success over the last few seasons, so our resurrection is weighing heavily on our new GM and scouts doing not just good, but “great” jobs loading our team back up the way AJ did his first few years as GM. I’m feeling good about the whole new regime, but patience is required to see San Diego reach its fruition. BOLT UP!

    • arnie

      I agree Stuart, now consider this, the O-line is ranked 4th in the league in fewest sacks and there is only one draft pick on it. Coaching has played a part of that success. Norv had one of the most talented rosters early in his tenure here, how did that work out?
      I’m all for draft picks, but they are 50/50 at best. How McCoy establishes his coaching will set the tone a steer this team.

      • Stuart Adkins

        Touche my friend. A team definitely should be worth more than the sum of its parts and should be able to find a way to win regardless of how many superstars are on the roster. However, I’ve watched the Chargers come up just short of victory over and over this year which leads me to think that maybe improved coaching in some areas AND a few quality draft picks (even if it’s just one talented rookie per position–vis-a-vis Fluker for the O-line along with Joe D’Alessandris’ superb coaching) might be needed to fill some of the gaping holes in our team. Even as injured and depleted as we’ve been this season we’re just a few plays away from being a winning team. That says something about this new Charger regime and how just a couple players and coaches added to the soup might be enough to get us victories in more of those close games next year.

        • Stuart Adkins

          I think you hit it on the head: “This is what they REALLY have to overcome, a lot of NEW.”
          Although no one wants to admit it here in S.D., this IS a rebuilding year and finding/developing an Identity is part of the whole renewal thing.
          These darn Chargers got us all excited by winning some tough games against play-off bound teams and fans patience went out the window and we all started dreaming play-offs, etc., when we should have remained calm and simply enjoyed watching our new team develop with wins and losses and finding their identity.
          BTW, Arnie–great article man!

    • Joel Ayala

      Totally agree bro.

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

    Nice piece, Arnie!

    I’m hoping that the new identity is one of a team & staff that takes sound risks, and lives with the results… rather than play it safe, for fear of backlash, or just by not accessing your team’s strengths properly. As a fan, there were many times this season where I wished they would have taken a shot, even if something bad happened. Instead, they went conservative on us….. and almost every single time… it happened anyway. Often times… it ASSURED that something bad happened.

    • arnie

      Exactly! Nobody gave McCoy an this team a chance anyway, so why not go for it? I would rather they figure out what they have this year, and build on it for next season.
      Allen, Tutu, Green, Woodhead, Mathews, the Chargers can build from that group.

  • Stefanie Smith

    I am trying real hard to like the new regime, but it is not like they have a ton of experience, other than maybe Whisenhunt. This is just me, but I don’t like the swapping out players like the Chargers have been doing. Ajirotutu one week then he is gone. Same for many other that are talented and can produce if afforded the opportunity. Why do they keep doing this? No consistency from one week to the next.

    And something has to be done with the defense. Today, we are the talk of the NFL, on how the Chargers’ D blows coverages and don’t get sacks. They don’t blame our demise on Rivers–but on the D and a flimsy o-line.

    Personally, I thought the o-line held up okay and probably will get better over time.

    • arnie

      That’s part of the problem an i agree. Tutu may have not been in training camp, or OTA’s but he’s here now and he can make plays. The problem for me is, despite him making plays he’s still on the low end of the depth chart, because he is not here long enough to “earn” more playing time. NON-SENSE I SAY! McCoy keeps telling us it hard to win, but why make it harder on yourself by keeping playmakers on the bench?
      Keep is simple: Production equals more playing time, everything else runs the marathon. If Tutu can make plays and Brown can’t, sit brown, stop ignoring that Tutu is better for the team.

      • Stefanie Smith

        And if McCoy’s and Whisenhunt’s way was the way to go—then if they worked for the 9ers, Kaepernick never would have gotten a chance. No way–too radical.

        It’s obvious to me, their approach is short-sighted and wrong.

        • arnie

          I wish i could say “their” approach is obvious, however what i have trouble with is, this is Coach Whiz offensive system, NOT McCoy’s. McCoy is responsible for it all and does sign off on everything for Whiz, so he’s accountable.
          I do agree they need to change how they go about putting players on the field.
          Part of the problem, and i’m guessing, McCoy’s philosophy has been “…doing what our players do best..” since we have no vertical game with DX am Floyd out, the stuck to short passes an running the ball. With Whiz there is certain set of guys he “trusts” to in his system. What they do in Denver, is closer to what McCoy does, find your playmakers and get them the ball.

        • boltingindiego

          actually mccoy would adopt to kaep since looked what he did with orton, tebow, and manning. he does adjust to his qb.

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

      Arnie brought up a REALLY good point the other week, and it has stuck in my mind. He pointed out that at the beginning of the season McCoy said that he would let Rivers keep some of “his plays”. That’s great, because it gave him some confortability in the new offense. But, you have Whisenhunt calling “his” plays. Obviously, because he is the offensive coordinator. However, Mike McCoy also has “his plays”, from when he was Denver’s OC. Basically, there could be a problem with “too many Chef’s in the kitchen”. This could possibly be why we are seeing so much transition on the offensive side of the ball. One minute, things are rolling right along, and they suddenly switch out the personnel package to run the other guy’s plays. It might shed light on why this team seems so “Jekyll & Hyde” at times. You have three guys, with three different styles, all trying to get their plays run or have “their input” be put into execution. They throw it all together as the “game-plan”, and have trouble deviating from it. Which brings us right back to the title of Arnie’s article… what is the “identity” of this offense? As the offense goes… so the defense goes. Which affects the “team identity” greatly.

      • arnie

        And really that is the only analogy i can see that keeps me from losing my mind on this team.

  • RZ

    The BOLTZ are 5 up 7 down..there isn’t any Identity crisis at all.You’re as good as your record.I’d rather be the worst 8 and 4 team than the best 5 and 7 team any day. So the only possible identity I see is that they are not that good….but that continuity crap they wanted with Pags is working ,because the D still continually sucks. With that said I will still Rock the Chargers apparel up here in Niner/Raider territory..but damn they need to give me better reasons to Rock it! Go Lightning*

    • Stefanie Smith

      What is really weird, is that last year, sports people didn’t think our defense was that bad. What changed? Pags still here, but some of our vets on the defense are gone….making big plays for the Broncos and other teams. Was this Pags’ idea to unload all these guys?

      • arnie

        I could by that if that is Defense was worse, the numbers tell us they are almost identical. And the common denominator is Pags.

        • Lee

          one stat we really miss from the mid 00′s is the ability to get our defense off the field on 3rd downs and turnovers. it’s a very underrated statistic in my opinion. we need to address the lack of play making ability on defense and i believe we could really see a turn around in our record. we cant rely on our offense every game although we wish we could.

          • arnie

            Agreed. That’s the importance of having a good front office and coaching staff.

      • RZ

        If we were to ask coach M who’s decision it was I’m sure he would give the same answer he always does as in “It was an organizational decision” on letting the Vets go..but the “D” wasn’t that good last year either. They have a lot of decisions to make this off season,let’s hope they are right ones.

        • Stefanie Smith

          Shaun Phillips is doing fine as are many of the other vets we let walk. They are making plays for other teams. The point here is that now, at present, sports analysts acknowledge that our defense is bad. They comment on it. Last year, not so much. And if we are observant and honest, they have gotten worse.

          Here is what they are writing about our Chargers’ D…

          “No defense has more coverage busts than the Chargers. When guys get open against their secondary, they get wide open. And too often, the Chargers give up big plays after a reception is made like a crucial Andrew Hawkins catch and run in the second half.”

          “The Chargers’ defense didn’t have a QB hit or sack Sunday.”

          • arnie

            Sean Phillips is doing fine because, he is on a “better” defensive team.

      • C.Steele

        One Position answers our front sevens woes. Nose Tackle! It’s the one position that makes everything else go. Cam simply isn’t cut out to be NT. He’s a 1 gap DT. Ask Donald Butler if he misses Antonio Garay! #GoBolts!

    • arnie

      The outcome is obvious, but the reasons WHY are not.

      • RZ

        I’m leaning towards Talent in a few key spots…mostly on the D side, CB & NT definitely…just to start.Just gotta hope for the best since we have no control over this madness..haha!

        • arnie

          I agree. Talent is an important part of the mix, yet the popular belief is the Chargers let to many vets go. logically less talented/experienced players should equate to worse defense. Yet the D remains virtually the same in stats. Better players would improve the defense, overall i believe they will still perform art a sub-par standard due the DC.

  • NorvRules

    The fact that you idiots are still talking about Norv and the difference between players performance this year compared to last year is baffling. You idiots still haven’t figured out Norv wasn’t the problem. Still just pointing finger like typical chargers fans because they don’t love up to your unrealistic expectations.

    • arnie

      First off that isn’t what the article was about. I was looking at the “similarities” of Norv’s team an McCoy’s. I also tried to squarely establish that the problems this team has, is on McCoy and his staff.
      The truth is norv was a good coach, just not good Head Coach. He was on his third tenure here and no matter where he went the reasons are same, IT’S NOT NORVS FAULT. The facts say, he coached a .500 team no matter where he was. The simple thing you must face is, norv ran a vertical passing system with 2 WR, a single RB, in a max protect formation. All this was dependent upon the talent available to him. When the talent was not there, promises were made to fix it, Veteran FA were the answer to make it work. While young talent sat on the bench.
      The reality is, The Chargers are better offensively with less talent and some of the same veterans norv had. The defense is the same, with the same young players that occupied the bench under norv.
      The bottom line is McCoy is a rookie HC making rookie mistakes, with a Rookie GM that is still sorting through the mess that was left behind. The only “unrealistic’ expectations i had is believing this team could be in the playoffs “Now”, instead of 2 years down the road. Then again i’m a FAN, i’m supposed to believe this team can do miracles. Just like believed norv could….

  • tubbs45

    The roller coaster continues. But I do feel like we have improved and will continue to improve. I just wish we could expect consistency. Great write up as always!

  • boltingindiego

    mccoy needs to either find an o coordinator that fits his type of play calling since whiz isn’t cutting it or run his offense himself and have a situation/ time consultant in the booth to help out with that. Also we need to get a new d coordinator.

    • arnie

      Personally, I think both coordinators are not in the long term plans. I can Whiz getting a new HC gig soon, and Pagano his job is to make the players communicate and understand their assignments. The blown coverages, is perfect example of consistent behavior from this defense.

  • scott

    Should have kept fozzy!!!

  • Tazzster

    Great article Arnie.

    Did you see the Seahawks game last night. I couldn’t help how much different there team looks. On defense there are guys flying around everywhere. Every play ends with a solid hit on the ball carrier. As an opposing team I would almost be a little afraid to have the ball, because I know I am going punished at the end of the play.

    The Chargers D does not look like that… at the end of the play its usually 3 guys hanging on for dear life to bring a guy down.

    Is that coaching? Is it talent? Is it atitude?

    I’m not sure, but something needs to change.

    • arnie

      It’s all three, and the most important, time. The Seahawks have been building that squad for some time now. They had pieces there to work with but they’ve been bad for a while and drafting well in the top rounds.
      If I had to describe them, smart, aggressive and technically sound football team. From one end to the next.
      As far as change goes? We got the biggest one of all, the two jokers that made and this mess were replaced.

  • Bryan O’neil Y. Arce

    From what I’ve seen this first year of HC Mike M. I feel he is too dam conservative. At certain times in this season when watching the games, I feel like breaking the F#$king tv from the the decisions he makes. Accepting the penalty the last game to give the Bengals 1st and 15, instead of 2 and 11 when our defense is trying to get the the dam ball back for our offense to come back. The fucking difference of four yards and give the Bengals one more play to get a first down is an absolute horror of a decision especially when our defense is the shittiest in the NFL. Mike Mccoy I don’t think will last too long as HC. He has 0 common sense, 0 balls. I don’t want him, send his ass back to Denver.