With the Chargers season officially over, the team finally removed the tumor that was its coach and general manager, firing coach Brandon Staley and GM Tom Telesco. After another dismal showing, amid a depressing season that caps a now discontinued and pitiful tenure, the Chargers’ fortunes are surely to change, right?
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Unfortunately, the organization will never be cancer-free until it’s rid of owner Dean Spanos.
It’s hard to say how many fans were devastated when Justin Herbert announced season-ending hand surgery this week, but if I had to rank the groups disheartened by the news, I’d guess No. 1 is fantasy football players (despite Herbert’s down season by his standards). Coming in second would be Oregon Duck supporters, then casual football followers, and lastly, in a trail position so far behind that they’re barely visible, are Charger fans.
The group who should be the most upset that one of the league’s few bona fide franchise QBs is languishing away on an organization that no one cares about, in a city that can’t be bothered, is the NFL. There are at least 15 teams, some in playoff contention, who would swap quarterbacks with the Chargers right now, injured Herbert and all.
You knew the Bolts were headed for a bad place when Austin Ekeler called out coaching and teammates following the team’s Week 1 loss to the Dolphins. The 36-34 defeat was one of five that came by one score this season. While watching Staley juggle chainsaws is always entertaining because more often then not it ends up with a dismemberment, this kind of franchise mismanagement would’ve elicited a trade request in most other professional sports leagues.
Thursday night’s 63-21 shellacking at the hands of the lowly Raiders was further proof that this team is Herbert, a little Ekeler (who did request a trade in the offseason before prying a contract out of Spanos) and not much else. The Chargers’ best receiver is 31-year-old Keenan Allen, Mike Williams has a suite reserved on the IR and rookie Quentin Johnston has been lucky to break 50 yards in a game.
I like Derwin James and Khalil Mack as much as they reportedly liked their head coach, but Staley’s defenses hemorrhaged yards during his tenure, and that was supposedly his area of expertise. The reason he didn’t get the hook after the team’s epic playoff collapse against the Jaguars in January is because Spanos didn’t want to pay the money it takes to replace a poor coaching hire.
So the team went into this season with only the requisite coordinator changes one makes when they’re trying to salvage a head coach’s job. Kellen Moore was brought over after being fired from the same position in Dallas, and LA elevated Derrick Ansley from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator. Spoiler: That failed miserably.
Both units are middling to bad, with no balance to either. They can’t run the ball or stop the pass, and Herbert wasn’t even that bright of a spot before he went down. If you remove the Denver start that he left early due to injury, the fourth-year QB still averaged the fewest passing yards per game of his career this season (about 250, good for middle of the pack).
Obviously, if a team is having a down year it’s likely because the QB is as well, and some of the losing is on Herbert, but for christ sake, this is malpractice. I know I sound like every other analyst and am defending a guy without a playoff win, yet my respect level for that organization might be the lowest of any club in the NFL. Considering how many woeful franchises are in the NFL, that’s really, really bad company.
The Chargers should be fun to watch, but not in a “What’s Marmaduke going to do now?” kind of way.
Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow and other young star quarterbacks have shown that playoff runs can be made if they’re given talent and coaching on par with their abilities. I wouldn’t go as far as to say Spanos views contending rosters with contempt. Actually, you know what, I would say that.
He has a disdain for doing more than the minimum, which should be the antithesis of his strategy when other contenders go all in with their franchise QBs. Even notable cheapskate Michael Brown couldn’t talk his front office out of spending a little money to assist Burrow.
The Giants, Steelers and Vikings have been trying to prop up model decoys of quarterbacks for years now, and eventually Justin Herbert is going to notice, and ask, “Why can’t I have nice things, too?” To which Dean Spanos will reply, “Shut up, or I’ll take away your left tackle.”