Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to a time when the San Diego Chargers were the epitome of dysfunction from the front office to the sidelines.
The offseason following the 2005 season was a divisive time for fans and the guys in the locker room after a silly decision by former head coach Marty Schottenheimer to play his then starting quarterback in the second-half of a meaningless game against the Denver Broncos led to a very worrisome injury. That signal-caller was Drew Brees, and the injury to his shoulder actually convinced the Miami Dolphins to pass up the chance to sign the then free-agent during the offseason.
Things worked out well for Brees clearly, but the other end of the spectrum was the decision by then general manager A.J. Smith to allow a franchise quarterback to walk away. Of course former No. 4 overall selection Philip Rivers was waiting in the wings for his chance to start, but many were skeptical of his ability to take over for Brees. That included Schottenheimer who returned for the next season with Rivers under center to lead the team to an impressive 14-2 record for the best mark in the NFL. What followed in a Divisional Round playoff dismissal began the finger-pointing and unraveling that was alluded to in the opening.
San Diego really gave dysfunction a new meaning with GM Smith showing Marty the door following such an impressive year. What further underscored the dissension in the ranks was the man hired to replace the impressive resume in Schotty with Norv Turner. His sub-.500 career record as a head coach replaced one of the winningest coaches in league history with a team that was supposed to win yesterday. Although Turner did take the Bolts to the AFC Championship game in his first season, that proved to be beginner’s luck as the team regressed every season with him in charge until his eventual dismissal last offseason.
So here we are in present day where soap opera drama is a thing of the past and harmony rules the roost between the new GM/HC combo. Both new head man Mike McCoy and new GM Tom Telesco saw success in year one as the team finished above .500, made the postseason and won a playoff game for the first time in a handful of years. What really gives their performance credence, however, are the words owner Dean Spanos offered to U-T San Diego about the duo as he said:
“I have all the confidence in this offseason that we’re going to have a good draft and make the right free agency moves and personnel changes that we need to give us a real good chance to compete for the playoffs and hopefully get back to the Super Bowl. That’s the way I look at it. I feel very confident about that.”
Just two years ago that would have been looked at with the same eye roll that Chargers fans had become accustomed to giving over the reign of mediocrity. Lip service meant very little when the same mistakes were repeated over and over while quality players were allowed to walk out the door in favor of signings like Robert Meachem and Jared Gaither.
Thankfully things are different now, and that has to be a product of the GM and head coach actually seeing eye to eye. One would think a shared philosophy was mandatory to these two important positions, but it really hasn’t been until this new regime arrived in San Diego.
Purging the dysfunction of the past to finally achieve some harmony over the past 12 months has already proven to be a successful idea for the Chargers. There’s no reason to think the list of achievements will stop anytime soon as this team looks to build on its 2013 revival in the years ahead.