After an ugly loss to the division rival Denver Broncos in Week 5, everyone is looking for someone to blame. Most are pointing to Philip Rivers, Ken Whisenhunt and the offense’s inability to score points.
On one hand, there is a valid point to this argument. Rivers was definitely less than stellar on Sunday, completing 32-of-48 passes (66.67%), for 211 yards passing, no touchdowns, two interceptions, negative three yards rushing. These numbers only tell part of the story.
Melvin Gordon did not have the return that he envisioned either, gaining 31 yards on 12 carries, catching four passes on six targets for seven yards, no touchdowns, not even one first down.
Austin Ekeler did not fare any better on the ground gaining only seven yards on three carries. He did catch 15 passes for 86 yards receiving. Overall not a great day for Rivers or the Los Angeles Chargers running backs.
The offense has struggled this season. As pointed out in an earlier piece, this Chargers team has a difficult time scoring points. A team can gain 700 yards of offense but if they do not follow through by scoring points more often than not, they will lose the game.
After the Denver game, I had an interesting “chat” with some of my contemporaries here at Bolt Beat. I immediately pointed to the offensive line as the culprit. Some of my peers contradicted me pointing to the fact that the O-line did not allow a sack to Denver’s defense, which would indicate better protection.
They then pointed to various references that would show indications of better performance from individuals on various days. These are all fine. These are all 100 percent true and correct. On certain days Dan Feeney has played at an elite level. So have Sam Tevi and the rest of the offensive line. On certain days.
Many of my fellow writers are blaming Rivers. They argue, rightfully so, that Rivers looked to be panicking and rushing his reads. I will not argue. They are correct. We all watched the same game. Rivers did not look comfortable in the pocket on Sunday against a previously winless Broncos team.
That is basically my point. How can Rivers be expected to do his job when he has zero confidence in the men who are attempting to protect him?
My peers argue that this is the job. Yes, it is Rivers’ job to orchestrate the offense on the field and get the ball to the team’s playmakers. I will not argue that fact.
The Chargers’ organization has done a terrible job of protecting Rivers and surrounding him with an even average offensive line. Pro Football Focus graded the Chargers 2018 offensive line 29th out of 32. That 2018 offensive line was the same group that the 2019 Chargers intended to take the field for the 2019 season.
Injuries have once again played a factor. Left tackle Russel Okung suffered a pulmonary embolism and is out indefinitely while just this week, center Mike Pouncey was placed on injured reserve and is out for the year. These were the Chargers’ two best linemen.
NFL rosters are sometimes referred to as ‘fluid’ since they are constantly changing and in flux. General managers are constantly looking for ways to improve their teams, looking for ways to get a competitive advantage and undercut an opponent whenever possible. This is the job.
As far as general managers go, the Chargers are generally very fortunate. Tom Telesco is one of the better talent evaluators in the business. He and Ed McGuire, Executive VP of football administration/ player finance, generally do a fantastic job. This team is well balanced on both sides of the ball.
An NFL offense is like a military sniper unit. When a sniper is lining up a shot, they have to trust in their spotter. A sniper has to be able to focus on the target, line up the shot, correct for angle, wind speed and so on. Playing quarterback is a similar mindset. A quarterback must be able to trust in his protection, his offensive line so that he can go through his reads, find the open man and deliver the ball.
Rivers does not trust the men blocking him. That is by no fault of his own. Rivers did not pick these men. He did not sign them. Rivers has been the good soldier, never complaining, taking the hits and the sacks as he just motors on. Year after year, game after game.
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It is unreasonable and unrealistic to continue to expect Rivers to take the punishing he does on the field and not be affected by it. This is Telesco’s greatest failure. He has either refused or been unable to protect this franchises quarterback. It is my belief that the inadequacies of this offensive line are taking their toll on Rivers’ psyche.
This is where the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Telesco. It is the general manager’s job to evaluate talent and sign players. It is Telesco’s job to put players in front of Rivers that can block and win their assignments more often than losing them. If Rivers has lost confidence in the offensive line it is Telesco’s job to sign players that can protect him and earn his trust. Not the other way around.
It is time that people stop placing the blame for the 2-3 start on Rivers and start looking a little deeper at why Rivers might be trying to do too much. Fix the offensive line issues or watch as yet another promising season swirls down the drain of the porcelain throne.