We’re deep into the task of opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar! This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.
LIKE us on facebook; follow us on twitter @TFQuarter
Door #16 – The Chargers
2012 finish: 7-9; missed playoffs
TOTAL PICKS: 7
Things in San Diego reached a new low in 2012, but at least it finally brought about the end of the perpetually-troubled tenures of GM A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner. In come Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy to replace those respective positions.
At 40, Telesco is the youngest general manager in franchise history, but don’t expect any inexperienced decisions. He spent the last 15 years in Indianapolis, most of those as a personnel man under guru Bill Polian, and Chargers owner Dean Spanos also hired GM legend Ron Wolf as a consultant. When they were running their own franchises, Polian and Wolf had reputations for patient team building and savvy timing, which is why anyone who disagrees with San Diego’s extremely conservative approach so far this off-season should wait to pass judgment on the new front office. On the other hand, if you think that adding RB Danny Woodhead and CB Derek Cox are noteworthy moves, then you need as much help as this team does.
McCoy goes from coaching the QB who has perhaps needed the least amount of massaging in NFL history – Peyton Manning in Denver – to one who, though he claims to remain confident in pulling the trigger in the pocket, has to be rattled – Philip Rivers. Rumors are swirling that the embattled quarterback could be forced out of town if he doesn’t deliver next season. 2012 was a season during which Rivers experienced his lowest output of yardage, TDs and passer rating since the 2007 season. (In fact, his 88.6 rating last season ranked him 20th in the NFL…. one spot higher than Mr. Elite Money, Joe Flacco. What a long, strange trip this league can be.) But McCoy is arguably the most underrated QB miracle worker among the new young cadre of head coaches this side of Jim Harbaugh. In 2009 he coached Kyle Orton to a career year, and then sustained that success for the better part of ’10 until the quarterback floundered. Then, McCoy recalibrated his whole offensive scheme – mid-season, no less – to make Tim Tebow successful. Given how those two passers have fared since McCoy, it’s safe to say that the coach deserves a lot of credit for their success. Oh, and then he re-adapted the offense again last season, to suit Manning and the coinciding emergence of receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. With that revamped attack Denver got three horrible coverage jobs by their defense away from the AFC Championship. So it’s safe to say that if McCoy can’t turn Rivers’ play around this season, it might be wise to seek other options at QB after all.
Running back, however, is another issue altogether. Ryan Mathews has been a disaster since being taken 12th overall in the 2010 draft. Summing up his disappointments can be remarkably succinct: Mathews has missed sixteen games over the first three years of his career – and still managed to fumble twelve times in the 38 games he did play in. San Diego re-signed Ronnie Brown to back up Mathews. At this point Brown is probably fastened together with duct tape, so, yeah, running back is a concern. But as luck has gone in Chargerville in recent years, this is a pretty weak draft for running backs.
Given this climate within the franchise, it’s easy to assume that the Chargers won’t get fancy with this year’s draft. Like other teams such as the Jets and Steelers, this roster is just too weak not to opt for the best talent available at each pick. (With the near-obvious exception of QB in the higher rounds…. Though wouldn’t it be ironic if Rivers saw a hot young prospect get drafted and pressure him as the starter, much like when Rivers himself helped force Drew Brees out of town years ago? Now that would be getting fancy.) And since the offensive line is in shambles, having allowed 50 sacks in 2012 and added no reliable pieces so far in the off-season (not to mention the departure of T Jared Gaither who was a huge contract bust due to injuries) look for Oklahoma’s T Lane Johnson to go to the Bolts at 11 overall. Johnson has pro-level balance and doesn’t get moved out of his space very often. He’s also got a rough attitude on him – something Rivers shares. However, there are a lot of tackle-needy teams in the top ten of Round 1, and if enough of them opt to prioritize that need before San Diego gets to pick, Alabama G Chance Warmack or North Carolina G Jonathan Cooper couldn’t hurt either.
(News broke yesterday that the Chargers have talked with the Ravens’ free agent left tackle Bryant McKinnie, but since McKinnie has also said that he doesn’t expect to talk to Baltimore again until after the draft, he might not be so quick to sign with another team prior to that.)
Beyond that, it’s difficult to predict what a best-talent-available strategy will yield, seeing as how it all depends on which players are still on the board at the time of each selection. One thing’s for sure – Chargers fans won’t have much patience for another year of rookie disappointment(s) – on the roster or among the staff.
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK. FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @TFQuarter
STAY TUNED FOR THE REST OF THE DAYS LEADING UP UNTIL THE 2013 NFL DRAFT. WE’LL TAKE A LOOK AT EACH TEAM, AS WE OPEN THEM UP IN THE ADVENT CALENDAR. WE’LL ALSO BE DOING A LIVE TWEET-UP DURING THE DRAFT.