The San Diego Chargers sit at 5-6 after coming off a victory in Houston. Despite being behind in the AFC West, San Diego made winning its final six games an important goal that they want to accomplish as a team–and beating Houston was only the beginning.
Every year, the majority of the teams in the NFL have to come to the realization that the playoffs are far off or out of reach entirely. The Chargers need a miracle in order to make it to the postseason, but this is no reason to “tank” as many fans from all organizations begin to scream when the season looks like it’s over prematurely.
On the contrary, the Chargers tanking the season defeats the purpose of everything we want as a fan base and organization. I am a firm believer that, barring a bust, every first-round pick has starting potential, or else they would not be going as early in the draft as they do. The draft will always be there and the picks might be later, but they aren’t going anywhere if the team wins more games this year.
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The biggest positive this season is that the backups and younger players are getting valuable reps and developing invaluable chemistry. Whether it’s Tyrell Williams getting comfortable being a starting receiver, Casey Hayward leading the league in interceptions, or our rookies Joey Bosa, Jatavis Brown and Hunter Henry establishing themselves as regulars in the starting lineup, the “next man up” in San Diego has most definitely stepped up big this season. Only a quarter of the way into 2016, the Chargers lost Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Manti Te’o and Jason Verrett, all of whom were starters and established playmakers who helped define the identity for the Bolts.
Fast forward to today, and the Chargers have won four of their five wins without these players.
Nov 13, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) reacts after throwing a fourth quarter interception against the Miami Dolphins at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
After a Week 5 loss in Oakland, the doubt came from all angles. Were the 2016 Chargers any different from their 2015 counterparts? Could the team survive so many losses to its core unit of players?
Then came Thursday Night against Denver. Everyone in the country had the Chargers written off, but the team had other plans coming into their only scheduled primetime game of the entire year. Putting on a clinic in the first half, the Chargers held the Broncos to only three points and even continued to hold onto this into the third quarter. Eventually, the Broncos would score points, but it was too little too late, and the Chargers would get their first divisional win since November 2014.
This was done without any starting middle linebackers, no Antonio Gates and a banged up wide receiver corps. Next, the Chargers had to walk into Atlanta a face the No. 1 offense that featured Julio Jones, who was notorious for balling out regardless of who is lined up against him. Again, after the nation wrote them off and expected them to lose, the Chargers would leave Atlanta winners in what was considered an upset.
And they were back at 3-5. The Chargers went on two split their next four games, which leaves them at 5-6 heading into Week 13.
Nov 27, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Tyrell Williams (16) catches a touchdown pass against Houston Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye (21) in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
This team was down and had two choices: Keep losing or stand up and win some games–and they obviously came out on top after winning four of their last six games. This team learned it can count on each other to win, and this is one of the most important parts in developing a Super Bowl-winning team.
Bringing in Casey Hayward from Green Bay, Brandon Mebane from Seattle and Joey Bosa from Ohio State was no coincidence. General manager Tom Telesco is trying to build a team of winners from top to bottom, and the only way to get to that point is to win games. Not every single game or season goes your way, but developing a winning tradition like what Denver, New England and Seattle have done can give you the belief in your teammates to get the job done.
Players now believe they can win games, and when we get these youngsters back with our starters, the team will be more complete than it has been in year’s past. These young players now know they can compete and win. Developing a winning culture is the only thing we should be encouraging our players to do. I’d rather have an 8-9 win season than a higher draft pick, because regardless of who’s added, they will be walking into an organization that can win football games.
And if we can start winning this year, anyone we add next year will be the icing on the team’s cake that is full of potential.