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The Chargers Just Aren't That Good




Can we finally admit that the Chargers aren’t that talented?  You know, the same conversation we were having about the Bills when they lost to the Bengals a couple Sunday nights ago?  Buffalo and Los Angeles couldn’t be more different cities, but on the football field they have something very important in common: both of their rosters?  They ain’t that good.


It’s okay to say it.  This is a safe space.  Most Bills fans have come to terms with it.  It’s time for Charger fans to do the same.  Aren’t we all ready to stop kidding ourselves?


We do this every year.  “Oh, look at the Chargers,” some pundit will say in the preseason, “Look at all these big names.  This team has so much talent.”


But no.  It doesn’t.  And it hasn’t.


The Chargers are a middling team.  Not just in terms of talent, but in terms of wins and losses too.  I’m not doing this to shame anyone – it’s so that next year, when everybody is all excited to make their predictions, we don’t have to argue whether or not the Chargers have a Super-Bowl-caliber roster.  They don’t.


We should start with the coach. You’re not solely to blame Brandon Staley (but you’re about to get so scapegoated).  It’s not fair.  But boy oh boy, Brando.  Really, what’s left to say?


The fourth-down decision-making is legendary.  You’ve turned going for it deep in your own territory into an art form.  And while yes, it’s true that artists are rarely appreciated during their lifetime, I think it’s safe to say that Staley is less “artist” and more a “throwing-shit-against-the-wall” type.  Nobody is buying what Staley is selling these days.


But honestly, the fourth-down decisions aren’t even the biggest blemish.  When Staley was hired three years ago, it was because of his performance as a defensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams in 2020.  The 2020 Rams finished #1 in both points and yards allowed.  Staley’s Chargers have never finished in the top 20 in either category.  That’s unacceptable.  


If you’re wondering what the point of keeping a defensive head coach who year after year cannot field a competent defense, you’re not alone.  Staley is currently the odds on favorite to be the next coach fired (though Ron Rivera might have locked up that after the debacle that was the Washington Commanders’ performance against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving).  If the Chargers can’t at least keep things competitive against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Staley might be on the way out.


At the same time, Staley can’t be held accountable for what’s been a consistently overrated roster.  His schemes might be failing, but the state of the roster belongs to general manager Tom Telesco (who may also be out of a job by the end of the season).  And like Staley, Telesco can’t be held solely responsible either.  This is a total, organizational failure – and no one escapes blame.


Which is why, appropriately enough, we turn our attention to the quarterback Justin Herbert.  And before you skewer me, I am not suggesting that Herbert isn’t “good.”  I’m not trying to convince you that Herbert isn’t a “franchise QB,” though I’m having a harder and harder time figuring out exactly what that means every day.  Herbert’s got everything you want: size, athleticism, arm strength, accuracy…


He’s just a step behind the top guys.  You know, the top guys.  Patrick Mahomes.  Joe Burrow.  Josh Allen.  Even Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts.  Every one of those QBs has shown the ability to win consistently, even against top competition.  They’ve all (except Jackson) reached a conference championship game.  Meanwhile, Herbert’s Chargers blew a 27-point lead to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Divisional Round last year.


Again, I’m not blaming Herbert for everything, just like I’m not blaming Staley or Telesco.  I’m blaming us.  It’s our fault.  We keep pretending like the Chargers have all-world talent when they’re barely all-Los Angeles (and I’m including USC and UCLA too!).


Keenan Allen is a great receiver.  The rest?  Blah.  The media threw running back Austin Ekeler an offseason pity party after he scored a bunch of touchdowns over the last two seasons, but not extending him looks like one of the best personnel decisions Telesco has made in years.  Rashawn Slater is good, but he’s been living off his stellar rookie year for a while now.


And don’t even get me started on the defense.  Joey Bosa doesn’t impact the run game and is injury-prone.  Khalil Mack and Erik Kendricks are past their prime.  Derwin James gets lots of media love, but he’s a dinosaur in the NFL playing as a box safety.  And though the Chargers have tried to address a leaky run defense by signing guys like Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson and Nick Williams, it hasn’t worked.  Can you guess why?  Say it with me, “Because they aren’t that good!”


I have no ill will toward the Chargers.  The entire franchise is amusing – if they’re happy, I’m happy.  But for the sucker who falls for their schtick every – single – year, this is for you.  After they lose to the Ravens on Sunday (no doubt, it will come down to the wire), people will point fingers at Staley, bemoan the Chargers’ misfortune and continue to wonder why the football gods haven’t seen fit to bestow upon the Chargers nothing but good times for always and forever.  But you’ll know the truth.  The Chargers aren’t cursed.  They aren’t snakebit or unlucky.  They’re just not that good.

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