In the wake of the San Diego Chargers' 20-23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Monday night, I sat down with John Gennaro of Bolts from the Blue to discuss the current state of his team.
Andy Tisdel: NFL pundits regularly mention the Chargers in the discussion of the best teams in the AFC, but they haven't won a playoff game since 2008. Why is this, and is 2011 the year the Chargers can reverse that trend?
John Gennaro: The Chargers are a team full of talented football players, but also a team prone to make mental mistakes. Monday night's loss to the Chiefs is the most recent testament to that. So the pundits see the talent and assume that the mistakes have been fixed (because by the end of the year they usually are, only to crop back up again the next season). Sometimes the talent is enough to win the division, but in the playoffs those mistakes are almost always the number one reason for the Chargers getting bounced out.
The 2011 Chargers are no different from the Chargers teams of the past. They'll still shoot themselves in the foot 10 times before making the most of an opponent's mistakes. The trend will not be reversed.
AT: The Chargers currently rank sixth in total offense, averaging just under 400 yards per game, but are a comparatively low 15th in scoring. I've also seen some posts on Chargers fan blogs describing how the offense seemingly stalls inside the opponent's 30- or 20-yard line. What's your explanation for this?
JG: The simple explanation has been Antonio Gates' absence. When he came back against the Jets, it seemed as though the red zone offense was fixed (or, at the very least, less predictable). However, playcalling and Gates' absence are only half of the problem. The other half has been turnovers and penalties (remember I said "mistake prone"?) at the end of drives.
AT: In light of the overtime loss to Kansas City, how are Chargers fans feeling about the team this morning? How do you think San Diego will do over the rest of the season, particularly with regard to reclaiming the AFC West title?
JG: Awful. Those that have held out hope that this is a good team have finally given up. This isn't the normal mid-year jump off the bandwagon, either. This time it's permanent. The mental mistakes will keep this team from ever being as good as the Packers or Saints or Patriots or Steelers or even the Jets. Teams like the Raiders and Chiefs are beating the Chargers regularly with less talent because they make less mistakes, and Charger fans have realized that the only way this team will ever be competitive is if they get a new coach that can somehow limit the mistakes.
AT: San Diego loves the deep ball, and the Packers have given up plenty of long passes this season. How is Norv Turner likely to attack the Green Bay secondary?
JG: Let me correct you, they loved the deep ball. Back when Philip Rivers was an All-World QB with pinpoint accuracy and a strong arm, those deep balls seemed unstoppable. Now when the Chargers throw downfield, it's usually way overthrown or right into the hands of a waiting safety that had time to jump the route and catch the fluttering football.
You want to know why Vincent Jackson is having a down year? It's not because Gates hasn't been around for half of the season, it's because his greatest strength (the deep ball) has been taken away because of Rivers' down year. The Chargers have been relegated to a short-passing offense with these very tall receivers whose specialty is to get open downfield, and it's not working very well.
AT: If you were the Chargers' offensive coordinator, what would be your game plan against the Pack?
JG: I honestly have no idea, at this point. I would run Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert a lot and hope they can be successful.
What's your predicted final score?