Halfway through the season and an NFL team should have an identity. Coaches and players should already be in a frame of mind, are they making a push for the playoffs, or are they playing for respect and their jobs? Fans should be either excited for the possibility of their team making the playoffs, or should be googling who their team will be taking in the 2017 NFL Draft. There has been plenty of ball played for everyone invested in a team to make a determination where their mindset lies. That being said, who are the San Diego Chargers? Are they a bad team that plays good? Or are they a good team that plays bad?
Oct 30, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin (12) and wide receiver Tyrell Williams (16) sit on the bench as the fourth quarter comes to an end against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Chargers 27-19. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
A BAD TEAM THAT PLAYS GOOD
It is no secret, the Cleveland Browns are a bad team. In fact, they are the worst team in the NFL. Be that as it may, they always compete from start to finish regardless of whatever the scoreboard reads. Now the San Diego Chargers are not on the level of the Cleveland Browns (yet), but this does sound an awful lot like them. A healthy Chargers team is a talented team. But the Chargers are not healthy. The product they are putting out on the field is not very good. Due to numerous injuries, San Diego is starting second, third, and even fourth-string players at almost every position. Their starting wide receivers are comprised of a 2015 undrafted free agent out of Western Oregon (Tyrell Williams) and a former CFL player for the Toronto Argonauts (Dontrelle Inman). Behind their bell cow running back Melvin Gordon, the Chargers have Kenneth Farrow, another undrafted free agent.
Now onto the defensive side of the ball. Because San Diego felt inclined to let Eric Weddle leave via free agency, it is safe to say, that the Chargers might have THE worst start safety combo in the league. Who are they you may ask? Dwight Lowery, a 9 year journeyman that has been a liability
Aug 11, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh speaks with defensive back Eric Weddle (32) before the game against the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
in coverage, and another undrafted free agent, Adrian Phillips (who replaced injured, starting strong safety, Jahleel Addae, who also is an undrafted free agent). At the inside linebacker position, due to injuries, the Chargers have been forced to start Korey Toomer, a player that they signed from the Oakland Raiders practice squad a couple of weeks back.
The optimist will quickly say, Tom Telesco, the general manager of the Chargers, has done a superb job of finding players in an unconventional way that can be key contributors for the team in times of crisis. But has he? Just because these players are starting, doesn’t mean they should be. A lot of these players would be, at best, emergency backups if not practice squad players. These are the players that are responsible for the Chargers being 24th in the league in total defense, passing yards per game (275.1), and points allowed per game (26.5). San Diego is ranked 23rd in the league in rushing yards, with 94 yards per game. Want to know why? It’s because outside of Gordon, the Chargers brass don’t trust anyone else in that backfield to handle the ball for more than three times a game. That puts a lot of stress on their running game and severely limits their scheme. The inexperience at the skills position on the offensive side is the reason San Diego has a -3 turnover ratio with 11 lost fumbles, and 7 interceptions.
“You are what your record says you are.”-Bill Parcells
Bill Parcells had a famous quote, “You are what your record says you are.” The San Diego Chargers are currently in 4th place in the AFC West with a 3-5 record. Translation, the Chargers are a bad team that are competitive enough to just lose.
Oct 30, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54) celebrates with defensive end Joey Bosa (99) after recovering a fumble in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 27-19. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
A GOOD TEAM THAT PLAYS BAD
You know what separates a good team in the NFL from a bad team? A franchise quarterback. And the San Diego Chargers have one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Philip Rivers can make an offense successful with a toothpick, paper clip, rubber band, and a piece of chewed up gum. Rivers is a lot like Peyton Manning in the regard he makes his supportive cast much better than what they are. The San Diego offense is without key starters Keenan Allen, Brandon Oliver, Danny Woodhead, and Stevie Johnson. And yet, they are ranked 8th in the league in total offense. Philip Rivers has single handedly been responsible for an offense that is 3rd in the league in points scored (28.1) and 7th in the league in passing yards per game (271.8). The San Diego signal caller is also receiving some help from his second year running back, Gordon, who is a reasonable Comeback Player of the Year Award candidate. He has done a tremendous job as the Chargers bell cow rusher. He is among the leaders in the NFL for touchdowns scored with 10 total and is on pace for 1,200 rushing yards, 48 receptions, and 450 receiving yards.
Oct 23, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) celebrates after he scored a rushing touchdown in the first quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Offense sells tickets, but defense wins games. San Diego has a young, but emerging front 7. The stout front 7 of the Chargers have dramatically improved in areas where they were once considered weak. Thanks to the young core of Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Jatavis Brown, Denzel Perryman, and Corey Liuget, San Diego is 7th in the league in stopping the run (allowing only 86 yards per game), 11th in the league in sacks (18), 8th in fumbles forced (8), and 2nd in interceptions (9).
Yes, the San Diego Chargers are 3-5, but that is not indicative of who they are. Even with all the injuries they have had over the year, the Chargers have been in every game. They defeated the reigning Super Bowl Champions and the NFC South division leaders in back-to-back weeks. This team is not bad, just unlucky. If the Chargers were bad, they would not be among the top of the league in so many categories.
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Fans and experts can make an argument for both cases. I spoke with NFL analyst, Pat Kirwan on Sirius XM’s Moving the Chains this past week to get his take on the San Diego Chargers. Kirwan went on to say, “The San Diego Chargers are a good team that plays bad.” He made a case that he doesn’t think the team should fire Mike McCoy, it’s head coach. Kirwan then went onto say, the Chargers are in every game because of the young talent the Chargers have and the game plans they implement. However, San Diego loses these close games because the young talent makes mental mistakes and doesn’t know how to put it all together yet. I tend to agree with him. The media says all the time, the Chargers are the best 3-5 team out there that no one wants to play. The verdict is still out on the Chargers. Thanks to their strength of schedule and the fact they play 5 out of the 8 remaining games at home, the Chargers are a team that can go 6-2 in the second half of the season to sneak into the playoffs. So what do the fans and readers think? Is San Diego a bad team that plays good, or a good team that plays bad?