The Official BLOG of

You are currently NOT on the Homepage
Please send any questions or comments to:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Chargers Team Report 2-26-10

Source: USA Today

It’s a question which could dog Chargers fans for years. A mystery which really never will be solved.
It comes to light again in the wake of the team releasing the incomparable LaDainian Tomlinson.
As the future Hall of Famer heads for another team, he does so by leaving behind an offense which is pass-first.
This isn’t always the way it was.
Not when Tomlinson, the NFL’s MVP in 2006, was in his prime, playing for a head coach who embraced the run in Marty Schottenheimer.
The Chargers, with Tomlinson leading the way, were inching their way into the category of being an elite team. After going 14-2 while riding Tomlinson in his MVP season in which he set the NFL mark for touchdowns and led the NFL in rushing, the wheels came off.
The Chargers coughed-up a fourth-quarter lead to the Patriots in the playoffs and lost a home game they should have won.
The result was a percolating power struggle came to a head, and general manager A. J. Smith got his way with Schottenheimer being canned.
But one can’t help but wonder: Would the Chargers have won that elusive first Super Bowl if Schottenheimer and his pound-and-ground approach stayed in place?
“Definitely you look back when you don’t win a championship, you always look back and wonder what if?” Tomlinson said. “I do. But at the same time things always change in the NFL and changes were made and you roll with the punches.”
But Tomlinson was never the same — and the back of his football card proves it.
“I would say since Marty left — and I’m just being honest — the focus of running the football the way it was every year, my numbers dropped every single year. So for me I look at the numbers … did I get old the year after I won the MVP? I don’t think so. What about a couple of years? I certainly don’t think so.”
Tomlinson was the benefactor of a coach, as he put it, placing “the ball in his stomach.”
But that thinking went south when Norv Turner took over for Schottenheimer. He decided, with Smith’s blessing, to move the ball through the air, that the running game would be marginalized as the team decided its best shot at greatness came on Philip Rivers’ right arm and not Tomlinson’s two legs.
But three years later are the Chargers any closer to reaching, let alone winning, a Super Bowl? Turner was brought in because the Chargers’ brass believed he was better wired to win in the playoffs.
While the first year proved that point when the Chargers — many think on the fumes of Schottenheimer’s last club — advanced to the AFC title game.
But since, it’s been one rough playoff patch after another for the Chargers. And while Turner can point to a 3-3 playoff record while wearing Chargers headsets, the truth is he has lost three of his last four playoff games and the team, at this point in the offseason, seems to have regressed.
Marty-ball is long gone. So too, is Tomlinson.
But Chargers fans will long debate if the club’s eventual kicking of them both to the curb was the right thing to do then, as well as now.
—There is increased chatter Darren Sproles will not be brought back as the Chargers aren’t inclined to pay last year’s franchise player $7 million in 2010.
—LaDainian Tomlinson nearly got through his emotional farewell press conference without breaking down. But when he brought up the support of his family over his nine years in San Diego, the tears couldn’t be turned off. “I was all prepared and said I wasn’t going to do this,” he said after nearly a minute pause. “Sometimes emotions is what makes a person and as you guys know, I’ve always wore my emotions on my sleeves. So for that I’m not sorry.”
—Tomlinson’s agent, Tom Condon, said the team did his client a favor by releasing him early in the offseason. “That part of it was positive,” Condon said.
—WR Vincent Jackson was convicted of his second DUI charge and could be suspended a game or two next season by the NFL.
—ILB Stephen Cooper admits the Chargers’ dressing area will be different without No. 21 in his cubicle in its southeast corner. “He was universally respected and it will be strange not having him in the locker room,” Cooper said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I told him I wish on my part that I could have contributed more as a GM to make it happen for him to hold that trophy or a Super Bowl ring.” — GM A.J. Smith on failing to build a Super Bowl team while Tomlinson was playing for the Chargers.
The biggest news, early on, will be the Chargers parting ways with running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
It’s clear the future Hall of Famer isn’t going to return at any price, as his pride was wounded during a season in which he was an afterthought in the offense.
The team also has to decide how to attack Darren Sproles, another running back. He was given $6 million last year, and that seems to be a little rich for a guy who can’t rush every down — but is a heck of a returner and receiver out of the backfield.
It was believed the Chargers wouldn’t bring back outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, but in an uncapped year, his return is more plausible.
The team also needs to structure a long-term deal for left tackle Marcus McNeill, a key part of an offense which leans so heavily on the pass.
1. Running back: With Tomlinson being released and the team balking at paying Darren Sproles $7 million next season, this shortcoming has grown in importance and needs to be addressed.
2. Defensive tackle: Jamal Williams missed all but one game last year injured; the Chargers have to face the fact he is returning for his 13th season this year. A replacement here is needed.
3. Cornerback: If the Chargers go a different direction in regard to starter Antonio Cromartie, a replacement needs to be found. He may not be on the roster, and that includes former first-round pick Antoine Cason.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
—DT Alfonso Boone filled a need last year but the team looks to get younger here.
—TE Brandon Manumaleuna is a solid blocker and should return — he likes the offense.
—C Dennis Norman is at a spot where the team has depth and likely won’t come back.
—WR Kassim Osgood is a three-time Pro Bowler as a special-teamer; he wants to try his luck at receiver and could flee.
—OL Jon Runyan is going to retire and run for Congress.
—DT Ian Scott doesn’t have the upside the Chargers are looking for and will likely depart.
—TE Kris Wilson is a solid special-teams player, but if someone offers him more of a chance to contribute in a base offense, he’s gone.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)
—RT Jeromey Clary will return but will be pushed by Brandyn Dombrowski for a starting job.
—*ILB Tim Dobbins is a solid backup after getting lapped by Brandon Siler; he should return.
—*WR Malcom Floyd could likely get more passes thrown his way elsewhere, but he likes San Diego and will likely take a little less to remain here.
—*DT Antonio Garay was a late-season addition and doesn’t figure in the team’s plans moving forward.
—*C Eric Ghiaciuc won’t have a place with the number of linemen — when healthy — ahead of him.
—*OLB Marques Harris is a decent pass rusher but the Chargers will likely see him go where he would get more of a chance to contribute.
—*WR Vincent Jackson is the team’s top receiver and will be brought back — unless the team has grown tired of his immaturity; that’s doubtful after two 1,000-yard seasons.
—*DL Travis Johnson will probably have to settle for less money, but the former first-round pick of the Texans might have found a home in San Diego.
—*LT Marcus McNeill is a stud at left tackle and among the team’s biggest offseason priorities.
—*OLB Shawne Merriman will return, possibly, if willing to swallow his pride and lower his price tag. A motivated Merriman playing on a one-year deal could be attractive to the Chargers.
—*RB Darren Sproles isn’t likely to be named the franchise player again this year and could flee if offered a long-term deal.
—*LB Dontarrious Thomas seldom saw the field when arriving late last year and appears to be a goner.
—*QB Charlie Whitehurst is learning a ton at the No. 3 spot, so he finally absorbs one more year of education and then moves on.
—OLB Antwan Applewhite can deliver a burst off the ball and is keen on special teams. He should be brought back.
—FB Mike Tolbert continues to improve and the Chargers could give him more carries in the base offense, depending on the situation at running back.
—RB LaDainian Tomlinson (released).