Antonio Cromartie: From Rookie Sensation To Utter Frustration

Ronald ManbaumCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2009

SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 30:  Cornerback Antonio Cromartie #31 of the San Diego Chargers walks on the field during the game with the Atlanta Falcons on November 30, 2008 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  The Falcons won 22-16.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

I want Antonio Cromartie to do well.  I really do.  I remember vividly the cornerback that burst onto the scene his rookie season making Chargers fans swoon over his unlimited potential.

I recall him intercepting Peyton Manning three times in one game as a rookie.  One of those interceptions was so impressive that I think I spent the next two weeks re-watching the clip on YouTube.

I even ignored his regression last year accepting as fact that the only reason we weren't seeing the same Cromartie was because of an injured hip.  After four games this year, I am no longer certain that the injury was as significant as it appeared last year.

Yesterday, Cromartie posted a message on Twitter blaming the zone defense employed by Norv Turner and the Chargers for his struggles against the Steelers.  I am almost willing to buy the excuse, but even I can't put all the blame on Norv Turner or Ron Rivera for this one.

Honestly, if there is one coach in all of the NFL who is able to get the absolute least out of his players, it is Norv Turner.  He has proven this over and over again, and continues to do a phenomenal job doing exactly what he does best—lowering expectations, starting slowly, and then relying on team talent to bail him out.

Luckily for Norv, the Chargers have had an overabundance of talent the past few years.

However, with injuries taking a toll again on San Diego, it becomes less and less likely each season that Rivers, Tomlinson, Gates and the rest of the Chargers can do anything to bail Turner out of trouble.

As for Cromartie, a zone may start you 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, but it doesn't make you lose track of your man as often as Cromartie does.  Even the most basic move leaves Cromartie turning in the wrong direction, resulting in either an easy completion or Cromartie's new speciality, defensive pass interference.

Cromartie remains incredibly gifted, and he may yet develop into the superstar he seemed poised to be as a rookie, but only time will tell.

Right now, the Chargers may not be able to afford having him as a starting cornerback.