For the fifth time this decade the Chargers have gotten into the playoffs with high expectations but will not have advanced to the Super Bowl.
But this year was different. This year the Chargers had a different feel. This was the year the Chargers were better than the Patriots, Ravens, and Steelers. This was the year that all the Chargers would have to do is beat a team they've made a living beating; the Indianapolis Colts.
But it wasn't to be. The Chargers, who were widely considered the weekends biggest favorites, came out Sunday and laid an egg. The game had the familiar feeling of Charger losses of the past. L.T was useless, Rivers got hot-headed, Nate Kaeding missed three field goals, and Merriman stood on the sideline gasping into an oxygen tank. Norv Turner ran out on the field to dispute a fumble that wasn't even under review, and Charger fans bailed on their team to the point where, in front of the biggest national audience Qualcomm has had in decades, a loud "J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!" chant could be heard.
The game solidified a lot of unfortunate things for the Chargers. First and foremost it solidified Norv Turner's butt back on the hot seat. The expectations this team had did not warrant a "one and done." Second, the pressure is on Philip Rivers. I think Philip Rivers is a great quarterback, easily top ten in the NFL, but if you really think about it he's been far from stellar in the playoffs. He has three playoff wins as a starter, two against the Colts, one against the Titans, and one win against the Colts came from the hot hand known as Billy Volek.
The pressure has also fallen onto LaDainian Tomlinson to leave San Diego. It's time. You've meant more to this franchise than any other player, at the very least you're on the same plain as Seau and Fouts. Unfortunately your playoff resume has sickened San Diego fans to the point where they booed every time you touched the ball on Sunday. I know it wasn't his fault, but that music video was released at a really unfortunate time for Tomlinson. But look at the bright side, if Ed Reed, Brett Favre, and Kurt Warner all retire this year, mixed with Seau, it could be a pretty stacked Hall of Fame class in 2014.
It's also time for Merriman to leave. That was obvious before this game, but he's useless now. Ever since the steroids thing in 2006 he's been a shell of his former self. Charger fans will not be the least bit upset if he's not on the roster entering 2010.
And then there's Nate Kaeding. What else is there to say about Kaeding besides stating the obvious, he is the new Mike Vanderjagt. When the pressure is off, or even in "big" kicks in the regular season, he can make them all. In the playoffs, I'd take anyone but Kaeding. He is the new Mike Vanderjagt, plain and simple.
The Chargers also become this decades AFC version of the Eagles. The team that always looked like a Super Bowl contender, but could never get it together. I suppose the Eagles will get more attention as the "Bills of the 00's" because they had more success overall than the Chargers (the Eagles at least got to five NFC title games to the Chargers one), but Chargers lack of success is worth noting. I often put them in the same sentence as New England, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis, but that may need to change until they win.
Don't get me wrong, the Chargers are a very good team, but like the Dallas Cowboys, talent doesn't equal wins. There is too much immaturity on this Chargers team (stemming from their leadership in Rivers and Tomlinson) and that needs to change. This is a team that faces adversity like the Raiders pass the ball: they don't. The Chargers gave up today.
The Chargers probably won't fire Norv, though they should. Rivers is their quarterback as long as he wants to be, he's that good. This is a team that cannot win a Super Bowl until they change something though, and it's more than a head coach, it's a culture.