As improbable as it may seem, the San Diego Chargers are a playoff team.
Okay, they aren’t a playoff team officially yet, but the Bolts would hold the No. 6 if the postseason started today. For a team on a three-year drought from playing football in January that really is a remarkable accomplishment.
What’s even more impressive is the ascent of the AFC West in the hierarchy of NFL divisions. For a division that many thought didn’t even deserve a playoff bid as recently as 2011 when three teams finished 8-8 and the other finished 7-9, the AFC West would have three teams make the postseason if it started today.
While the Bolts have yet to face the daunting competition offered by divisional foes in the 6-1 Denver Broncos and 7-0 Kansas City Chiefs, they have faced a difficult enough slate to start the season. Two cross country trips and two Monday night games have left the Bolts a weary group heading into their bye week.
But the credit for this impressive start to the season has to go to head coach Mike McCoy. The cupboard was pretty much bare when McCoy arrived with everyone giving up on quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates. The team has lost loads of talent in free agency due to former general manager A.J. Smith’s frugal and nonsensical ways, but the majority of the personnel messes have been cleaned up and what remains is a team capable of playing with anyone.
The players have bought into what McCoy is selling wholeheartedly, and that really drives home the point that all this roster needed was a change. The message from the previous coaching staff was growing stale, and it was never really all that effective to begin with. When discussing what his new philosophies have brought to San Diego, McCoy told U-T San Diego:
“We have a great staff that has done a great job. But it’s all about the players, and ours have bought into the system. Don’t just learn your position, learn the system. We’ve had injuries, but in this league, nobody’s feeling sorry for you on Sunday. You’ve got to make the most of your opportunities.”
There are no excuses to be made by players on this team anymore, and that comes from the attitude of the coaching staff. These guys all accept accountability for their actions and pour everything they have into finding success. It’s that pursuit of success that has allowed this team to experience such an abrupt culture change.
The 2013 Chargers are a night-and-day difference from the 2012 version under Norv Turner. It’s not a potshot at the former coach to point out just how uninspired these same players looked under him less than 12 months ago – that’s reality.
McCoy has these Bolts looking like the team many expected to see in years past, and a push to the playoffs is certainly not out of the question. And given the complete 180 in attitude, it shouldn’t have been unexpected, either.