It seemed likely after the 2011 season that general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner would be looking for work.
However, club president Dean Spanos gave both a stay of execution, while making it crystal clear that more .500 records and another absence from the playoffs wouldn’t be tolerated.
When the Chargers won three of their first four games, things were looking up.
But then, they blew leads in successive losses to New Orleans and Denver and the wolves were back at their doorstep again. The game against the Broncos was especially stupefying as the Chargers found a way to build a 24-0 halftime lead and then lose 34-24.
In what was seemingly as much a pep talk as it was an admission of the obvious, Smith put it bluntly after the Denver game when he said, “I take full responsibility for the present mess this team is in at this point in time. The construction and direction of this organization is on my watch. In the next 10 games we will either rally and see a slow, steady rise from the ashes to a division championship – or the beginning of a new era in Chargers’ football.”
Smith went on by saying, “We have some outstanding, talented players on this team and some outstanding coaches across the board. But obviously we cannot play as a team. We appear to not be able to handle adversity or finish games. Individual and team confidence appears to be going south.”
Finally, he summed everything up concisely when he said, “It was an embarrassing and humiliating performance by a team going in the wrong direction fast. We played a team that’s coming together fast and building confidence. Peyton Manning had one of the greatest second-half performances I’ve ever seen in my time in the league … We have dropped three out of our last four games (and lost) on back-to-back national broadcasts. We are about as low as a team can get right now and going into the longest bye we will ever experience.”
For the life of me, I’ve never understood how the NFL could deem legal cut blocks from behind that are as dangerous as any play in football. Yes, it’s understandable that the league wants to make sure quarterbacks and receivers are protected as much as possible. They score points, and that’s what the NFL wants to make sure happens in as many games as possible.
However, to allow cut blocks goes against the essence of the stance the league has been taking for player safety and implementing rules changes that focus on those defenseless offensive players.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen put it all in perspective in the wake of the loss of Texans linebacker Brian Cushing for the season when he said, “It is a tough block to defend. In a league that talks about taking care of defenseless players – players in defenseless positions – that is a situation (where there is) nothing he can do to defend himself. There is no place for that. If you take out a guy’s knee, he may never be the same player after that. If we are going to talk about player safety, it needs to be equality (for) all players. My knee is just as valuable as Tom Brady’s in my eyes. There are hits on (defensive players) that could be illegal and probably save some defensive players.”
A Fine Mess
Lions’ receiver Nate Burleson was fined $10,000 for a touchdown celebration last week against the Eagles in which began flapping his arms, then gestured as if he was firing a rifle. Hunting Eagles. Get it? Burleson said the fine letter noted that what he did was a “violent action toward another team.” Burleson didn’t agree with that notion, and said, “It could have been a Super Soaker.”
*Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw practiced Thursday and said he will be ready for Sunday’s game against Washington. “I feel good, man. No setbacks and I’m ready to go,” Bradshaw said. “I just got stepped on during the game and it just hurt the bone a little bit, but I’m cool.”
Meanwhile, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul sent a warning to Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. Of Griffin’s running ability, Pierre-Paul said, “Don’t bring it to my side. Go the other way. Trust me, we chase quarterbacks all the time. We turn and run to the ball, no matter what. He may get past us and zoom right past us, but trust me we’re right behind him. You’ve got to respect that too. It’s not all about the speed. We’ve got guys, all 11 guys that can run to the ball very quick. You’d be surprised. Very surprised.”
*Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson admitted that his ankle is “hurting consistently,” but he said he should be fine for the stretch of two games in five days the Vikings have Sunday against Arizona and Thursday against Tampa Bay. Peterson said, “Since I twisted it up and it happened, it’s been hurting consistently. Then we go out and play, it re-aggravates it, just the cutting and different things you’re doing out there. So, it’s sore, but you’ve just got to push through it.”
*With backup running backs Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight probably out Sunday, Jets coach Rex Ryan said quarterback Tim Tebow could see time as a running back. Ryan said, “That’s a possibility. The thing about Tim, with him being a football player … By playing quarterback, he knows all the positions. So can you plug him in at running back? Can you plug him in at tight end? I think the answer is yes. “His skill set would be more based on power. He’s not going to be a blazer compared to other running backs, but he’s got power.”
*Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey injured his knee against Tennessee in a Week 6 Thursday game, and he practiced Thursday after missing Wednesday. “It feels great so far,” Pouncey said. “I think the brace and the tape job helped me a lot today. If I feel good (Friday) morning, I think I’ll have a good chance of playing Sunday. I did all the individual drills and took a few reps in team drills, and I felt pretty good. So we’ll see.”
*Those with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis on their fantasy teams couldn’t have been pleased after Davis not only didn’t have a reception Thursday night, but wasn’t even targeted. Asked what’s going on, Davis said, “That’s up to the offensive coordinator. I don’t know what to do. I run my routes hard to get open but there’s nothing there. We’ll see, we’ll see.” Davis did acknowledge, “Some of the routes I usually run, they are taking them away. The (routes) up the sideline, it’s not there. Nothing’s there. When I run my corner routes, the cornerback is dropping to the corner. They are just taking stuff away, some of my explosive routes and stuff.”
Speaking of shooting a rifle, maybe, just maybe, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton could have chosen a better analogy when he was asked about the loss of center Ryan Kalil for the rest of the season. Said Newton, “When one soldier dies, it’s not a time for mourning, but for someone to pick up the rifle and keep shooting.”