Several years ago, the Chargers were the perennial powerhouse of the AFC West, but now they face missing the postseason for a third consecutive campaign.
There are problems on the field, on the sidelines and in the executive suites. There are too many issues for this team to regroup and rally for a postseason push this season.
The following is a list of five reasons the Chargers 2012-13 season is over in Week 9.
You may wonder how a solid, veteran middle linebacker could be a reason why a team would miss the postseason. After all, Takeo Spikes is in his 15th NFL season, has played 178 games and has been selected to the Pro Bowl twice.
On the long list of accomplishments throughout Spikes' distinguished career there is one thing missing. Never, in his tenure in the NFL has Spikes ever played for a playoff team.
Spikes has played for the Bengals, Bills, Eagles, 49ers and Chargers, and while the uniform has changed over the years, the one constant has been Spikes experiencing the postseason as a spectator rather than a participant.
Sure it may seem crazy to suggest the Chargers will fail to make the postseason because Takeo Spikes is on the roster, but in sports, streaks have meaning. Based on the recent performance of the team, I think this one stays intact.
The Chargers once had a three-headed monster in their receiving corps comprised of Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates.
Jackson left via free agency to Tampa Bay and the Chargers have failed to adequately replace his production. Floyd is now facing the opponents' top cover corners and Gates has been slowed by age and injury.
The Chargers first option to replace Jackson was former Saints wideout Robert Meachem. Through seven games, Meachem has only 12 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Across the country, Jackson has 29 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns. Replacement fail.
Meachem's lack of production can be attributed to lack of cohesion with quarterback Philip Rivers, a lack of comprehension of Norv Turner's offense and a lack of capacity to be the big-play receiver the Chargers need. His dropped pass against the Cleveland Browns has quickly become a metaphor for a season characterised by missed opportunities and lack of focus.
Behind Meachem is a group of uninspiring pass catchers who don't seem capable of making a significant impact to this team. Eddie Royal was brought in from Denver to be a legitimate slot receiver and help in the return game, but in reality, he has missed two games due to injury and been about as productive as Meachem in the games he has played.
Vincent Brown showed flashes of being a potential star last season but has missed the entire season with a broken ankle and appears to be quite a ways out from making a return.
The Chargers offense is known for it's big play vertical passing game, but with the current crew of receivers, the team is struggling just to get past the first down marker.
Much of the blame for the Chargers recent failures has fallen on the poor play of Philip Rivers. And while he does deserve the criticism he's receiving, many other factors must be taken into consideration.
There are three main aspects that contribute to the success or failure of a quarterback. Those include a consistent run game, solid receivers and protection.
The Chargers run game has been generally good when called upon and I covered the weakness at receiver in the previous slide, but the lack of protection may have the most significant impact on Rivers's reversal of fortune.
The Chargers offensive line was once comprised of three Pro Bowlers. Marcus McNeil, Kris Dielman and Nick Hardwick were the glue that held the line together. The strength of those three made up for the weakness on the right side of the line. Now in 2012, McNeil and Dielman are out of football and Hardwick doesn't have enough around him to pick up the slack.
Last year's perceived savior, Jared Gaither, started the season in neutral with some mysterious back problems. When he has been healthy, his play has been inconsistent and uninspired at best. To his right, Tyrone Greene has proved to be a better substitute than starter. The right side of the line has always been weak, but that weakness is magnified when the team can't compensate on the left side.
With Rivers' lack of mobility and quirky mechanics, the offensive line needs to provide a comfortable pocket for him to find his targets and step into his throws. Rivers has looked distressed this year, resulting in rash decision making and underthrown passes.
While I'm sure it comes as no surprise that Norv Turner is on this list, some may be shocked that he's not my No. 1 reason the Chargers won't make the playoffs this season.
Turner definitely deserves his share of the blame. Most recently, Norv had two weeks to prepare the team for a road game against the lowly Cleveland Browns. His squad failed to score a touchdown in an embarrassing 7-6 loss in the rain.
Norv's reputation as an offensive genius is debatable but even the most talented play callers need some help from those on the field. As mentioned in previous slides, Norv is currently saddled with a shoddy group of receivers, a patchwork offensive line and the curse of Takeo Spikes.
The issue is that Norv has had more talented teams to coach in San Diego. Ultimately, the team has been inconsistent and often seems unmotivated and unfocused and has failed to reach the organization's goal of winning a Super Bowl.
Norv didn't exactly bring a winning resume to the table when he came to San Diego to replace Marty Schottenheimer in 2007. In nine seasons as head coach of the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders, Turner won only 58 times in 141 opportunities.
The argument can be made—and I'm making it —that the Chargers used to be talented enough to win in spite of Norv Turner, but that's no longer the case. Loss of free agents and lackluster drafts have exposed Norv Turner for the loser he truly is. He lacks the capacity to lead this team to the playoffs.
The Chargers just flat out don't take care of the football.
Ryan Mathews is a fumbling machine and when Philip Rivers isn't busy showing Mathews how it's done on the ground he delivers turnovers via the air as well.
The Bolts have thrown nine interceptions and lost six fumbles, which for those of you who are mathematically challenged, is 15 turnovers in seven games; an average of over two turnovers per game.
In their current three-game losing streak, the Chargers have turned the ball over nine times and done so democratically with four fumbles and five interceptions. I don't think any NFL analysts will tell you that turning the ball over three times per game is a formula for success.
You can blame Norv Turner, general manager A.J. Smith, injuries, weather or any other number of factors, but in the NFL, you can't win games when you don't secure the ball.
The receivers might not be what they once were but they are limited in opportunities when Philip Rivers is handing out interceptions like Halloween candy. The offensive line isn't very impressive but they become spectators on the sideline after Mathews hands the ball off to the other team.
The Chargers have enough going for them to win some games against mediocre opponents, but when they face tough teams like the Broncos, Ravens and Steelers, they will fold like origami and cough up the ball and their playoff hopes.