You might recall that before the 2007 NFL season kicked off, I picked the San Diego Chargers to win Super Bowl XLII. We had my prediction packaged beautifully with flashes of lightning coming out of the sky on the cover of our NFL preview section. The words "Lightning Bolts" were sprawled across some of San Diego's star players.
The layout was awesome, the design brilliant.
The pick stunk.
I'll admit I'm red-faced about the Chargers pick, just as embarrassed as I was last year when I wrote that the Panthers would win Super Bowl XLI.
That's the same Carolina team that failed to reach the playoffs.
It looks like the Chargers are destined for the same fate.
San Diego is a mess in just about every way imaginable.
Let's start with an offense that can't get its running game going anywhere near the level it was generating yards and points last season. LaDainian Tomlinson, the Michael Jordan of the NFL, enters San Diego's Week 5 game against Denver as the NFL's 18th leading rusher. He trails standouts such as Charlie Ward and Mercury Morris. Oops, excuse me, that's Derrick Ward and Sammy Morris. I'm still trying to figure out who those guys are and why they are ahead of the player who was selected first in probably 99 percent of all fantasy leagues this season.
Wait . . . just found the answer. Look at San Diego's sideline and see who's running the show? It's Norv Turner and his lifetime coaching record of 59-85-1.
For two quarters last week, Turner seemed to figure out how to use his personnel. Tomlinson had 116 rushing yards and a touchdown and the Chargers led the Chiefs 16-6 at halftime. But Turner, proving that his .410 lifetime winning percentage is no fluke, gave Tomlinson six carries in the second half that produced 16 yards.
The Chiefs, who were averaging less than nine points per game before last week, somehow managed to score 24 points in the second half and win in San Diego. It was a colossal collapse, one that could haunt the Chargers when the AFC's final playoff berths are determined.
There's plenty of blame to go around for San Diego's struggles. We don't need to just pick on Turner. But on a side note, I nearly laughed out loud when announcer Dick Enberg referred to the "chess match" that was going on between Turner and Herm Edwards in the Chiefs-Chargers game. I do believe I've seen more impressive strategic moves in my Connect Four showdowns with my 6-year-old daughter.
OK, back to the Chargers.
Quarterback Philip Rivers has regressed since last season. I don't understand why Eli Manning has taken so much heat for his inconsistent play since he's been a pro while Rivers has basically been given a free pass. The two came into the league at the same time and were involved in a memorable trade between the Giants and Chargers.
I guess it's the difference between playing in New York and San Diego. Rivers has shown to have no pocket presence and poor decision making so far this season. His poise will remind you of David Carr. That's not a compliment.
And what's happened to the team's defense?
The Chargers' secondary has been a disaster, allowing long, game-changing touchdowns to Green Bay's Greg Jennings and Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe in the last two weeks. San Diego's run defense isn't bad, but that doesn't matter much when the secondary is being picked apart as consistently as Mr. Potato Head.
With all that being written, I think the blame for the Chargers' underachieving play goes straight to the top.
It was general manager A.J. Smith who fired Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season. It was Smith who couldn't, and refused to get along with Schottenheimer. It was Smith who unnecessarily dumped Drew Brees prior to last season when the wiser move was to keep the proven commodity at quarterback.
It was also Smith who heard San Diego fans chanting "Marty, Marty" at various points of San Diego's loss to Kansas City last week. As a person who believed in this team before the season began, I'm chanting "Mercy, Mercy."
I wrote that Chargers fans would be singing their team's catchy fight song at Super Bowl XLII in Arizona. I was wrong. I think they'll continue to sing the blues this season.
Cleveland at New England, 11 a.m., Ch. 2
Seattle at Pittsburgh, 11 a.m., Ch. 13
San Diego at Denver, 2:15 p.m., Ch. 2
Chicago at Green Bay, 6:15 p.m., Ch. 5
Dallas at Buffalo, 6:30 p.m., ESPN