Injuries, bad luck, and coaching issues can be blamed partially for the downfall of the Los Angeles Chargers from their 2018 form. However, discipline has to be looked at as the main culprit in why the team is so terrible in 2019.
It’s the start of the third quarter. Anthony Lynn just told his team at halftime that they need to cut down on the turnovers, of which they committed three in the first half. On the broadcast, Melanie Collins says this in the keys to the second half segment at the beginning of the third quarter.
The loss to the Minnesota Vikings was the absolute worst performance by the Chargers this season. It was all their problems throughout the season escalated to the highest degree. Turnovers, poor offense, dumb penalties, and getting in their own way.
Ever since October started, Rivers has been a turnover machine. Add his interceptions to his fumbles, and he has 21 on the year, equal to the touchdowns he’s thrown. There’s some decline involved in this, considering declining arm strength and a loss of accuracy. But the main culprit is really bad decision-making.
Even in games where the offensive line has played well, like the Mexico game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, Rivers has made really bad decisions. He ranks second in the league in interceptions to Jameis Winston.
Some of the Rivers stuff is explainable, but the lack of discipline and smart football is potent throughout the entire team. The team is tied with the 1-13 Cincinnati Bengals in turnover differential, at -16. They’re bottom-10 in fumbles per game as well.
Other than turnovers, there’s also been a complete lack of development on multiple fronts. Other than Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler, there really hasn’t been much to be impressed with in terms of development. The 2019 draft class looks like an utter disaster from rounds 1-3 in retrospect.
Jerry Tillery was a healthy scratch once, Nasir Adderley didn’t even play in the regular season prior to hitting the IR, and Trey Pipkins has been forced to play due to injury. Drue Tranquill has been a welcome surprise, but other than that, it feels like there’s been more stagnation and regression than progression with several players on the team.
Where the lack of discipline is really felt seems to have emerged in the last few weeks with players missing team meetings. Denzel Perryman and Roderic Teamer were both sent home prior to the Jacksonville Jaguars game for disciplinary reasons, per Lynn, which many speculate to mean missing team meetings. This week before the Vikings game, it was Desmond King who seemed to receive a similar suspension.
Effort must be prioritized to prevent situations like Sunday. The loss to the Vikings wasn’t just a bad game. It was the culmination of everything wrong with the Chargers this year. A turnover heavy game filled with personnel mistakes (yeah, throw Brandon Mebane out there again, see how it turns out) and both sides of the ball looking like they’d rather be anywhere else than Carson, California is an effective summary of the entire year.
Has Lynn lost the locker room? For me, it’s hard to base that conclusion off of one bad year. However, it would be a lie to say that it hasn’t been disappointing to see the lack of effort, sloppiness, and apathy given by the team and organization.
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The 2019 offseason has a lot of questions to be answered, ones that may change the face or faces of the franchise entirely. But one thing that must be taken into account when looking at personnel decisions for 2020 is really who wants to be here.
The Chargers are already eliminated in 2019, but if they don’t want to suffer the same fate in 2020, they have some high priority decisions to make. Most of those decisions fall under the category of discipline.
Do they trust Lynn to be a proper disciplinarian when things aren’t going right? Is it possible for Rivers’ decision making abilities to rebound to 2018 form? Can Gordon be relied upon to be anything but a headache for the organization?
The answers aren’t clear to me as of now, but discipline, effort, and personnel are issues that need figured out from March to September of 2020 if they want to avoid heads rolling next year.