After a decade of playoff contention, the Chargers could not recover from another slow start and missed the 2011 postseason.
Has the Super Bowl window been slammed shut for the organization?
This is not a new question, and on the surface it seems like the question was answered with San Diego's failures last season.
Upon further inspection, though, the answer is still up in the air.
Despite a down season, Philip Rivers is still in his prime. He may have looked off last year, but he improved as the season went on—not coincidentally, Jared Gaither's arrival and solidifying Rivers' blind side coincided with his improvement—and wound up just 86 yards shy of his career high.
His YPA took a hit, and he threw a career-high 20 interceptions, but he threw just six of those in the second half of the season. Again, Gaither's presence seemed to help, as Rivers had his four best games in terms of NFL rating after the big left tackle's arrival. The 30-year-old QB was sacked just twice with Gaither in the lineup compared to 28 other times.
Gaither was re-signed, surely to his quarterback's relief, and the Chargers have reloaded. Though Robert Meachem and Le'Ron McClain are not quite Vincent Jackson and Mike Tolbert, the offense should keep ticking.
Notice we have yet to discuss the defense, which will also need to improve from its middle-of-the-road ranking last season. With Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer in the division and the Chiefs getting healthy, San Diego must get better.
The defensive front took a step in that direction when San Diego signed Jarret Johnson and drafted Melvin Ingram. The Chargers hope to improve their pass-rush from a year ago, and Ingram is a good candidate to do that.
Of course, the team may be doomed no matter what as long as Norv Turner is the head coach if his track record is any indication. Perhaps this is the year Turner will get the monkey off his back.
It will not be easy with an improved AFC West to contend with.