A simple recipe for Chargers to make the Super Bowl

Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa holds his award for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in the press room during the 6th Annual NFL Honors at Wortham Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa holds his award for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in the press room during the 6th Annual NFL Honors at Wortham Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers
NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers /

Do the Los Angeles Chargers have the right ingredients?

Well, let’s take a look:

1. One of the main reasons why the Chargers finished with a 5-11 record in 2016 was because of their former head coach, Mike McCoy. McCoy, who was a great offensive mind in Denver, couldn’t give the Chargers that Mel Gibson-esque Braveheart leadership. Even Joey Bosa, the 2016 Defensive Rookie of the Year, said McCoy just wasn’t the right leader.

“We needed strong head coach to come in and make players take accountability for what they do, which there wasn’t enough of last year,” Bosa said, via Mighty 1090 AM’s Marty Caswell. “I feel like if we had a coach, nothing against Mike McCoy, I just don’t think he had the voice to really get s–t.”

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Despite a plethora of injuries, McCoy’s Chargers were in all but two games, so he deserves a little bit of props. Unfortunately, his team couldn’t close out games if their lives depended on it. After missing the playoffs the last three years, it was time to move on. Hopefully, Anthony Lynn, who NFL.com ranked as the No. 1 HC hire, will add a much-needed spark. From the sound of it, Lynn is leader. His staff consists of OC Ken Whisenhunt and DC Gus Bradley, both of whom failed as head coaches but thrived as coordinators. It’s a solid staff that Chargers fans haven’t seen in a while.

2. Bingo, we have a winner! He’s getting up there in age, but Philip Rivers, 35, is still one of the better–and smarter– quarterbacks in the game. The fiery five-time Pro Bowler threw for his fourth consecutive 4,000-yard season, and he finished the year with 33 passing touchdowns, the second-most in his career. Unfortunately, his 21 interceptions led the league (not all were his fault when you factor in dropped balls by receivers and constant pressure coming at him via porous O-line play).

You can’t expect to win when you give the ball away. It’s no coincidence that both the Patriots (14-2) and Falcons (11-5) made the Super Bowl after tying for first with each other for the least amount of giveaways (11). That said, Rivers is still playing at a high level and will continue to thrive when his supporting cast comes back healthy.

3. According to PFF, the Chargers’ offensive line was the 31st-worst unit in the league, one spot up from its 32nd ranking in 2015. Enough said.

4. The Chargers finished with 20-plus players on injured reserve, the most of any team, per ESPN. A good portion of players weren’t even backups. No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen, No. 1 cornerback Jason Verrett, starting nose tackle Brandon Mebane and third-down specialist Danny Woodhead are just a few who missed all or majority of the 2016 season (and that’s not counting players who missed time but weren’t placed on IR). Enough said.

5. A solid defense? Check. A potential elite defense? It’s looking like that could happen. The Chargers have a ton of young talent on the roster, including Bosa, pass-rusher Melvin Ingram (who is an unrestricted free agent), linebackers Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman and corners Verrett and Casey Hayward. They finished No. 16 in total defense in 2016, ranked No. 10 in rushing defense and even had a guy (Hayward) lead the league in interceptions (seven). Also, they tied with three other teams for the fourth-most takeaways (28).

Unfortunately, they allowed the fourth-most PPG (26.4). You can’t put all the blame on bad defensive play, though. The offense turned the ball over a league-leading 35 times, which put the defense in a bad position in a handful of games. That said, the defense gave up a lot of big plays and failed to stop offenses on third down plenty of times, too. The Chargers are one or two pieces (safeties Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker?!) away from being a top-five defense.

6. The AFC West is the complete opposite of a weak division. The Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos all finished with a record above .500. On the other hand, the Chargers have gone 1-13 against their division since November 2014.

*The Chargers have the (optional) No. 1 WR in Allen in No. 1 RB in Melvin Gordon. Having superstars at each position won’t always get you to the Super Bowl, but it’s a huge help.

There you have it. The Chargers have a franchise QB in Rivers and a solid defense with good depth, but the No. 1 (good head coach), No. 3 (above-average O-line), No. 4 (healthy players) and No. 6 (weak division) ingredients have gone against them. Perhaps Lynn will become a true leader, the offensive line gets fixed through free agency and the draft and the injury bug dies off in 2017.

For Chargers fans’ sake, let’s hope it happens.