We are officially less than a month before the start of the NFL season, so it's probably time to start previewing the monster. The key to the NFL's success — other than fantasy football and gambling, of course — is the rabid nature of its fans. That is to say: You don't see a lot of people painting their faces for their favorite golfer.
We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, even a TV guy or two, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, why My Team Is Better Than Your Team. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever. We will be running two a day until the beginning of the NFL season.
Right now: the San Diego Chargers. Your author is The Mighty MJD.
The Mighty MJD runs his business daily at TheMightyMJD.com and writes for this here Deadspin site on the weekends. His words are after the jump.
I've got a great plan for the Chargers organization, and they can feel free to use it and not feel like they owe me anything. Anyone reading in the Chargers organization, here's what you do.
Send Marty Schottenheimer to the league offices with a big bottle of whiskey. He meets with Roger Goodell and tells him that it's tradition for the new commissioner to do a shot with all the veteran head coaches. They do their shot, they get to talking, they have a few laughs, they do a few more shots, and before you know it, Goodell is shitfaced and crying about how his daddy never loved him and neither did Paul Tagliabue. It's then that Marty Schottenheimer talks him into taking a bold stand in his first days as commissioner by outlawing the forward pass.
At that point, the Chargers become Super Bowl favorites.
It would eliminate both of their weaknesses at once; the shoddy secondary, and the unproven quarterback. You can say what you want about Marty Schottenheimer, and he does have his shortcomings (for example, January), but when it comes to the ground game, things have stayed classy, San Diego. If you believe that being able to run the ball and being able to stop the run are the measure of a good team, the Chargers should be ready to take their mighty lightning bolt in their hands and forcefully jam it into their opposition, week in, week out.
They were the best team in the league last year against the run, which gets even more impressive when you consider that they faced two of the league's top five running teams, Kansas City and Denver, twice each. On the other side of the ball, they still have LaDainian Tomlinson, which means they have at least half of a good offense. The offensive line, despite consisting of spare parts collected from places like the seventh round of the draft and other teams' scrap heaps, is pretty decent. And their defensive front seven is among the best in football.
But in the unlikely event that the forward pass is not outlawed sometime before September, the Chargers could be in a little bit of a pickle. They made the decision to let a Pro Bowl quarterback go, just as the rest of team is rounding into shape, and they will go to war with a guy who, while being a promising young talent, probably can't grow facial hair.
There were perfectly logical reasons to let Brees walk — offseason shoulder surgery, confidence in Rivers, a huge contract offer from New Orleans — so it's hard to get too upset about it. But the fact of the matter is that this is a team that shouldn't have too many weaknesses right now, and what they've done, in effect, is to jam a big red question mark into an offense that should've been all periods and a few exclamation points.
The pass defense is a little suspect, too, if you interpret "suspect" to mean "sucky." They addressed it by signing Marlon McCree to fill the giant hole at free safety and drafting Antonio Cromartie to hopefully overtake one of the many below-average cornerbacks on the roster. McCree should help, but it's hard to envision Cromartie contributing too much in his rookie year. Maybe Quentin Jammer will get better. That guy always seems to have himself good in position, but he avoids balls like Ellen Degeneres.
Big picture, though, I think there's reason for optimism. At the very least, the Chargers should be one of those teams about which people say, "Hey, they're difficult to beat, as long as their quarterback doesn't make the big mistake." I hate to pigeonhole Phil Rivers into the "game manager" category, but hey, in your first year as a starter, with a less-than-stellar group of wideouts, there could be worse things. As long as he's not screaming, "KNOCK IT OFF!" to reporters and then crying on his way out of the room, the Chargers should finish on the good side of .500