"There's Always Next Year": A San Diego Chargers Fan's Slogan?

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It was just now a little over a week ago when Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers walked into a cold and dry Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs and were dominated far worse than the final 35-24 scoreboard showed.

It was their third straight year entering the playoffs with momentum and sparks flying around them.  There's no doubt in anyone's mind that the Chargers came in this year's playoffs with the similar blaze. 

Everyone saw the San Diego Chargers for what they had expected in Week One of the 2008 season; the defense was playing defense, the offense was being...the offense and even LaDainian Tomlinson was playing like LaDainian Tomlinson.

What was the fired up San Diego Chargers is now a team of questions and uncertainty. 

As well as Tomlinson played before suffering a "strained groin" (announced following the 52-21 Week 17 home game against the Denver Broncos for the AFC West championship) questions have now surfaced about the star running back's future in San Diego. 

Tomlinson missed the Chargers' devastating loss in Pittsburgh as it was announced during that week that the actual state of his injury was that it was a detached tendon which connects his groin muscles to his pubic bone.

But wasn't it just a year previous when he had that hyperextended knee and was held to less than a drive against the New England Patriots in the AFC championship?

That's the question everyone knows the answer to. And the answer is what brings us to the present's question.

Earlier in the season, the Bolts lost key defensive player, outside linebacker Shawne Merriman for the season and the team (most notably, the team's front office) thought the defense wouldn't suffer and that the back-ups and practice squad promotee's would be fully capable of filling his role..."thought."

The decline of the defense had the front office clueless as to what was going on.  But the fans, and the rest of the league knew exactly what the problem was.

It wasn't until the playoffs came around until the defense finally started making at least a little ruckus.

However, some news has brought hope to this franchise and other news hasn't.

On Tuesday, Jan. 13, the Chargers' official Web site announced that four assistant coaches would not be returning in 2009. Secondary Coach Bill Bradley and Tight Ends Coach Clancy Barone were released from their contracts after two seasons with the Bolts.

Offensive Line Coach Jack Henry and Assist. Secondary / Quality Control Coach Kevin Ross have expired contracts and will not be re-signed for the 2009 season.

And here's the bad news...

The running back will be turning 30 in late June and will be looking at his ninth NFL season next year. His recent injury history and salary cap issues have Chargers' GM A.J. Smith having to actually think about what to do with LT.

Shawne Merriman is also in need of a contract extension before he becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season.  The Chargers have shown all this season how valuable Merriman truly is, and the signing of him should be a top priority right.

Both men don't come cheap at all, and neither will the raise that Philip Rivers is expecting to receive.

And you haven't heard the end of it just yet.

You may have heard of him, but I'm not sure you or any defense in the NFL can see him as he uses his lightning speed to hide behind his lineman and "bolt" right into the open field but LaDainian's backup and kick returning ace, Darren Sproles, will be an unrestricted free agent as well. 

As pricey as L.T. and Merriman are, Sproles is definitely going to be in for a treat should San Diego intend to keep him this year...And they better start intending to keep him because as soon as the rest of the NFL finds out that Sproles is up for grabs it won't be long before a team just like the Atlanta Falcons picks up their new star running back.

With all of these issues that need to be solved, with all of these dilemnas and questions...The phrase "maybe next year" will be the next Chargers.com motto for more than one year to come.

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