As the Doors once said, "This is the end." Well, for the 2008 season for the San Diego Chargers after losing to the Steelers 35-24 on a cold and snowy Sunday in Pittsburgh.
It was one heck of a ride for sure, and I'm sure I have a lot less hair now than what I did before the start of the season.
There were some shining points in the season (Rivers throwing for 34 touchdowns breaking Dan Fouts' team record) and some low points (Merriman gone for the year and Ted Cottrell's 'go easy on them' approach to defense).
The year started with a huge injury (Merriman's knee) and ended with another huge injury (Tomlinson's torn groin tendon...ouch), forming perfect bookends to a crazy season.
Before the start of the season, the Chargers were a Super Bowl favorite and true to Chargers form, they dashed those hopes by the mid point of the season and almost cemented their place as one of the sports' biggest disappointments when they were 4-8.
Then they went on a little run in the last four games of the regular season that brought hope back to the fans of the Chargers. As if the football gods lined it up for the Chargers, San Diego played the Raiders, Chiefs, Tampa Bay, and Denver to finish off the season.
All four of those teams not playing their best football when they faced the Chargers and not playing their best football when they were NOT playing the Chargers, helped San Diego reach the playoffs for the third year in a row and a third straight year as the AFC West Champions.
The Chargers then followed up their regular-season winning streak by beating the favored Indianapolis Colts and MVP Peyton Manning in the AFC Wild Card weekend in San Diego. This earned them a date with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Unfortunately, Pittsburgh was too formidable of an opponent for San Diego to overcome after making a couple of mistakes in the second half of the game. Only seeing the ball for one snap in the third quarter pretty much sealed the Chargers' fate.
Pittsburgh was just a far superior team and much better coached than the Chargers on Sunday and it showed. The lack of being able to make a tackle by San Diego makes you think that Deon Sanders is a coach on the team.
The Steelers won the game fair and square and my hats goes off to them. I would not be surprised if they are lifting the Lombardi trophy here real soon.
Now for my end of the season report card.
Head Coaching: (D+) Way too many questionable play calls and playing not to lose is a sure fire way to ensure that your team has to come back late in games.
Offensive Coaching: (D) See above.
Defensive Coaching: (F) First half of the season, (C+) Second half of the season. Ted Cottrell really hurt the defense and they are still trying to recover from it. Ron Rivera made some huge strides in trying to get the defense back on track, but, lack of being able to tackle (yes, I'm looking at you Eric Weddle) really really hurt the defense time and time again.
Quarterback: (A) Great effort by Philip Rivers this year. There were a couple of games where he couldn't hold on to the ball that cost the team a win or two.
Running Backs: (B) L.T. playing hurt most of the year and still got over 1,000 yards rushing and Sproles filling in for him, made for a great tandem. Too bad their offensive line didn't always come to play.
Offensive Line: (D) The lack of getting a forward push when you're run block and letting far too many defenders in the backfield really hurt the team this year.
Special Teams: (C+) Scifers, Kaeding and Osgood I think are the cream of the crop in the NFL on special teams. Too bad the rest of their teammates did not perform as well as they did. Too many missed tackles and too many big gains on returns is not good.
Defensive Line: (C+) No Merriman is no excuse to not put pressure on the quarterback. Too much talent for that not to happen. It is time to look for Jamal Williams successor while Williams still has year or two left in him.
Linebackers: (D+) Definitely regressed this season compared to last season. Couldn't make stops on pass plays over the middle. Very poor tackling and the appearance of them forgetting that offenses have Tight-ends was horrible.
Defensive Backs: (F) I know not getting pressure on the quarterback does have an effect on coverage, but, way too many missed assignments, confusion on who to cover and trying to tackle opponents like they were covered in feces is not acceptable.
Every one of them needs to take a long and hard look at themselves in the mirror and really be honest and ask if they really gave 100 percent this year.
Overall Grade: (C) Not because of their 8-8 record, but, they under performed in almost every aspect of the game. However, a late season resurgence and going to the Divisional round of the playoffs, does count for something.
Now the Chargers can take it easy and heal their wounds and prepare for the 2009 season. Will they still be in San Diego? Will Norv Turner develop a killer instinct? How will L.T.'s injury heal? Will the Chargers be able to keep Ron Rivera? All questions will have to wait to be answered until the opening kickoff of the 2009 season.