The Colts, who had Andrew Luck fall into their laps in 2012, somehow managed to blow the worst division in the NFL to a team that had the worst passing attack in the league and was missing its best defensive player for most of the year. Mere weeks later, Jim Irsay came down enough to fire the man who traded a #1 pick for Trent Richardson, although for reasons that remain unclear the coach remains in place. Fortunately for Irsay, Trent Baalke just became available, so the organizational philosophy can seamlessly continue.
Speaking of squandering talent and gross managerial incompetence, Magary noted this week that even before the Chargers shot the hostage San Diego is one of the most tortured sports cities in the country:
But this is wrong. As pain goes, the Chargers have a resume that stacks up with pretty much anyone: Nate Kaeding, Ryan Leaf, trading a first-round pick to draft Bryan Still, trading ANOTHER to draft Mikhael Ricks, nine blown leads of 10-plus points in this decade alone, Marlon McCree fumbling his own interception in the playoffs against the Pats, losing at home in the playoffs to the Jets… TWICE (once to Herm Edwards and once to fucking Mark Sanchez), Craig Whelihan, Junior Seau killing himself, Eli refusing to play there (there!), Dr. David Chao, letting Drew Brees walk for nothing, Terrence Kiel’s lean, LaDainian riding his exercise bike, and on and on. There was also the time where the Chargers were reduced to extras in the only Super Bowl they ever made… a 49-26 whomping at the hands of Steve Young and the 49ers that was preordained the moment San Diego won the AFC title.
I know a few Chargers fans. Their fatalism is no different than that of your average Jets fan, or Eagles fan, or any of their other northern NFL counterparts who know exactly when things will go wrong for their team, and how they will go wrong. And the Chargers’ failures are just as traumatic for them as other teams’ more notorious boners are for their fanbases.
Barnwell had a great piece earlier this year observing that San Diego is now the most tortured fanbase in the country. In addition to the Chargers, the Padres have been to the World Series twice — first, against the best American League team of the 80s and next against a team that has a serious argument as being the best team in the history of major league baseball. And in the latter, the series started with Richie Garcia — one of the few people in American sports with an arrogance-to-competence ratio higher than Grigson’s — gift-wrapping four runs for the Yankees because he was pissy about the Padre catcher doing his job and trying to frame pitches.
Anyway, one management decision that never gets the scale of criticism it deserves was A.J. Smith’s decision to fire Marty Schottenheimer coming off a 14-2 season and having his team outplay Belichick and Brady in a playoff game but lose because an idiot decided to return what should have been a game-sealing interception. I wouldn’t be inclined to fire a 14-2 coach even if he was blundering in the playoffs — the Chiefs aren’t going to fire Andy Reid, even though he seemed to take an even higher does of Boulevard-and-Ambien at halftime last week, because unless Belichick is tired of the singles scene in Boston firing him would almost certainly make the team worse. But Schottenheimer wasn’t blundering in San Diego — he was just incredibly unlucky and the end of close games. And not only did Smith fire Schottenheimer, he replaced him with…Norv Turner, already well-established as the platonic ideal of head coaching sub-mediocrity. That talent base should have gone toe-to-toe with the Patriots for years, but Smith blew it, and now Chargers fans will never get the chance for another winner.
On to today’s games:
ATLANTA (-6) over Green Bay Did Denver winning last year with bad QB play portend a change in the NFL? Between Denver’s “historic defense and getting the breaks in every single close game” model predictably proving to be unsustainable and 3 Hall of Fame QBs and a fourth who was better than any of them this year in the championship games, I thin we can safely say “no.” You can make a case that my analysis from last week still applies here — in a shootout go with the QB with a longer track record of greatness — but Atlanta is a major step up in class offensively from the Cowboys, and while Ryan has never been this good he’s been good for a while. I’m not picking against one of the best offenses in NFL history at home in a shootout.
TEAM TRUMP (-6) over Pittsburgh Playing its best game, Pittsburgh can certainly win in Foxboro, but New England’s offense has also been fantastic, and Roethlisberger has been too erratic to pick against Brady and Belichick on the road, particularly since Brown actually had a point about the extra day and a half the Pats had to work with. Anyway, you know these teams. But connoisseurs of “Josh McDaniels, COACHING SUPERPROSPECT” stories can enjoy Peter King making sure to preemptively explain how Jed York’s grapes were sour after the 49ers decided to go with Shanahan. You see, McDaniels is an incredibly great coach who will be able to win as long as he takes over a team with championship-caliber talent. Hard to argue with that logic! I do fully expect him to be back in the Super Bowl in his appropriate role as Belichick’s playcaller, though.