This coming year will be just SUPER for the Chargers!
Let's just breathe a bit before you guys start criticize me about having such a bold statement for my headline. You folks must understand, I am totally stoked about this upcoming year's San Diego "SUPER" Chargers.
Why you ask? Very simple. First I must give you all a bit of a Charger history lesson so you folks understand why this is the season for the SUPER CHARGERS to take home the Lombardi Trophy.
The Chargers had their chance at winning the big one back in 2006 and that was the best chance they had with the roster they finally waited five years to build.
The Chargers were the most complete team in terms of what they were trying to do leading up to the 2006 season. I mean in philosophical terms. Meaning, building a team that runs the ball effectively and have a very stout defense.
The Chargers as it may started building this 2006 team ever since 2001 when the late John Butler and (then assistant and now current GM) AJ Smith first took over the failing franchise.
John Butler/ AJ Smith were responsible for building the Bills team that went to the Super Bowl four times. Yes they faltered but they built the roster that'll get them to the game. That's all the Chargers need is to get to that dance.
The Chargers brought in Marty Schottenheimer to be their head coach. Marty made a lot of sense to John Butler and AJ Smith at the time because they just drafted LaDainian Tomlinson.
Long story short, if you look at the draft history and all the players the Chargers picked up via free agency to include undrafted rookies, you'll see that the Chargers were try to build on the Marty coaching philosophy of winning football games by running the heck out of the ball, use it to set up the play-action, and play tough defense.
Taking a look at the Chargers roster back in 2006, they finally built a team that Marty can actually use to get the Chargers to the promise land of the Super Bowl. Take a look for yourself:
QB-Philip Rivers, Billy Volek, and Charlie Whitehurst
RB-Ladainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner
FB-Lorenzo Neal and Andrew Pinnock
WR-Keenan McCardell, Eric Parker, Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Kassim Osgood, and Greg Camarillo
TE-Antonio Gates, Brandon Manumaleuna, Aaron Shea, and Ryan Krause
OT-Marcus McNeil, Shane Olivea, and Leander Jordan
OG-Kris Dielman, Mike Goff, Scott Mruczowski, and Cory Lekekerer
C-Nick Hardwick and Cory Withrow
DE-Luis Castillo, Igor Olshansky, and Jacques Cesaire
NT-Jamal Williams, Ryon Binghom, and Derrick Robinson
OLB-Shawn Merriman, Shaun Phillips, Steve Foley, Marques Harris, and Carlos Polk
ILB-Randall Godfrey, Donnie Edwards, Stephen Cooper, Matt WIlhelm, and Tim Dobbins
CB-Quentin Jammer, Drayton Florence, Antonio Cromartie, Cletis Gordon, and Markus Curry
S-Marlon McCree, Terrence Kiel, Clinton Hart, and Bhawoh Jue
That Chargers roster screams RUN all the way through. Here are some stats to consider about the Chargers 2006 season. The Charger offense were fourth in the league in total offense. Sixteenth in passing. Ranked second in rushing.
Also, they led the NFL in points per game! The Chargers defense on the other hand was tenth in total defense. Thirteenth in pass defense. Ranked seventh against the run and led the NFL in total sacks with 61.
The Chargers spent 4 years to build that team that was tailored to Marty's "Marty Ball" concept. That was the last time I was excited about the Chargers.
Everyone predicted them to take it all. I seen that very possibly happening with the way they played that season to the tune of a 14-2 record.
With the close defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots, with a team that was perfect for Marty and his philosophy, and the bad relationship between Marty and management over the last two years, the Chargers decided to go a different route without him.
Enter what I call now next year's team to be the Charger team to get us over that hump.
In 2007, AJ Smith hired Norv Turner to take over. Everyone scratched their heads about this move. One thing I did know about Turner is given the right players to fit his system, he can take it all just like the Cowboys team he took to multiple Championships in the 90's.
AJ Smith knew that he would have to change a couple things to the Chargers roster to suit Norv Turner's needs as a passing type of coach.
Turner took over Marty's run oriented offense and slowly turned it into a passing roster. Look at it. Look at every transaction whether through the draft or via free agency from 2007 until now. During this time, the Chargers brought in multiple players that will help make that change towards a passing team.
They drafted Craig Davis during Norv Turner's first year as a head coach. The Chargers at the time wasn't too sure of the current WR's on the roster at their ability to be part of a pass-catching offense. Thank goodness our WR's from the Marty era was able to up their game. Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd were both able to make that transition.
Also added during the 2007 season was WR Chris Chambers from the Miami Dolphins who made the Chargers even that much more dangerous at the passing game.
Not to mention they already had a great pass-catching TE from the "Martyball" days in Antonio Gates who thrived in the play-action offense of Marty.
A WR by the name of Legedu Naanee was also added that 2007 season. That year the Chargers went of to a 11-5 record and winning their first play-off game in many years.
The 2008 season came with many changes and struggles that the Chargers had to learn offensively and defensively. It was a season of change. Many changes.
Long story short, the Chargers let go key players such as Shane Olivea I believe during the season or after it. They also let go long time FB Lorenzo Neal. They let go Michael Turner. Also let go many play-makers on defense especially in the middle linebacker positions.
Offensively, they added Jacob Hester who took over Lorenzo Neal's position and OG Kynan Forney, who played for pass-happy University of Hawaii. They also had the opportunity to see many back-up players play and see what glaring holes the Chargers have for the following seasons.
As the 2009 season came, the Chargers almost made their passing offense complete. They let go long time OG Mike Goff then drafted pass-blocking OG from Texas Tech Louis Vasquez.
Many players have shown progression along the way like Jeromey Clary, Legedu Naanee, Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Kris Wilson, Marcus McNeil, and even Kris Dielman from the run-blocking mammoth to becoming great in the passing game.
The one position that has became so constant in continuing to get better was at the QB position with Philip Rivers. In the last two years, Rivers was the BEST QB in the entire AFC and 2 years ago, the highest rated QB in the league.
With the Chargers letting go L.T. and Brandon Manumaleuna, the Chargers are primed at getting the players they need through the draft to finalize the roster Norv Turner needs to win the big one.
Norv will get the RB he'll need with fresh legs to carry the weight and not to mention, add a different dimension to the pass-catching game the Chargers thrive on.
I believe the Chargers will address the needs at NT and at RB in such a deep draft pool of talent I haven't seen in a couple of years.
If you look at the Chargers offense next year, it is nearly complete for Turner to make that deep push to the big game. Turner will finally have his offense much like Marty had his during the 2006 season.
Turner will also have a revamped defense that will fit the scheme that Ron Rivera runs. With Cromartie never doing any damage in the zone base scheme that the Chargers run, he was let go for a future draft pick.
Now with Cromartie gone, the Chargers added to the CB position Strickland and Vasher who already played in Ron Rivera's defense and have THRIVED in it in Chicago before the D-Coordinator left.
Not too mention that Antoine Cason will have his chance to prove that he can handle the defense better than Cromartie can.
The Chargers have a young defensive line who now has one year of experience under their belt.
Not to mention the fact they fared pretty well without Shawne Merriman in 2008 and Jamal Williams in 2009. I bet they will be even stronger this upcoming season with everyone coming back.
The Chargers 2009 linebacker were great this past season in making up for the absence of NT Jamal Williams with aggressive line of scrimmage play.
The Chargers have the deepest LB corps in the entire NFL with Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips, Larry English, Jyles Tucker, and Antwan Applewhite at OLB and Stephen Cooper, Kevin Burnette, Brandon Siler, and Tim Dobbins at ILB.
At safety, we are young but boy we are talented with many of the young players like Paul Oliver, C.J. Spillman, and Kevin Ellison stepping up HUGE last season.
Those safeties beat the Browns starting line-up and the Redskins starting line-up. The Chargers are deep in depth at all positions except NT and RB.
The 2009 Chargers proved they can win without a running game and to the tune of 13-3 last season, I don't doubt that they will kill with a decent ground game from some fresh RB's legs.
Also, the 2009 defense proved they can play well enough to help the offense win games through the season even with a hole at the NT position.
The 2010 Chargers will be the team to beat if they address the NT position and the RB position. Knowing AJ Smith with his tendencies to bring a complete team this upcoming draft, the Chargers will be crowned the Super Bowl Champs.
No other season besides the 2006 season have the Chargers have a complete team. The Chargers since 2006 have been in transition from a running team, that suited Marty, to a passing team that suits Norv Turner just fine.
The defense also made a transition from the attacking defense of Wade Phillips to the bend-but-don't break defense of Ron Rivera.
All the pieces are their for the Chargers to make the deep run this year. The Chargers 2006 roster screamed RUNNING OFFENSE and ATTACKING DEFENSE. The Chargers 2010 roster now screams PASSING OFFENSE and BEND-BUT-DON'T-BREAK DEFENSE.
No one in the NFL has the type of depth the Chargers have besides the the RB position that the Chargers will address with multiple picks in a deep RB draft class. Last year had so many key injuries with the NT position, offensive line, and linebackers.
But the back-ups proved they can also play just as good as the starters in front of them.
The play of so many young players last season to include first time players in a chargers uniform showed the Chargers Front Office that they don't need to make any drastic changes besides letting go the rest of the Marty players that don't fit into the current system.
They all got a year under their belt with HUGE amounts of playing time in the regular season that will only benefit the Chargers in this upcoming year.
No excuses to not win the Super Bowl in the next two years. I believe it's this upcoming 2010 season. Let us start this decade right and make that run starting next season.
I BLEED CHARGER BLUE BABY! GO BOLTZ!