NFL 2016: Expect another season of drama from Chargers
SAN DIEGO (AP) Here the Chargers go again.
Will they stay in San Diego, their home since 1961, beyond this season, or will they really bolt for Los Angeles, eventually to join the Rams in a new stadium in Inglewood?
Their long-suffering fans will be exposed to another season of drama not unlike last year, when the Chargers attempted to gain approval for a stadium they would have shared with the archrival Oakland Raiders in the L.A. suburb of Carson. NFL owners sacked that plan, but did give the Chargers until Jan. 15 to decide if they'll eventually join the Rams in a new stadium in Inglewood in 2019.
First, though, comes Election Day, when voters will be asked to approve an increase in the hotel room tax to provide $1.1 billion for a $1.8 billion stadium and convention center downtown.
The team has as big a fight on its hands to get that measure passed as it does on the field. Some fans are still angry with owner Dean Spanos for his scorched-earth campaign last year to discredit San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his plans for a new stadium at the site of aging Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.
Plus, the powerful tourism industry is opposed to the Chargers' plan for a downtown stadium that would be built just east of Petco Park, home of baseball's Padres. The measure needs two-thirds majority to pass, a number considered virtually impossible in anti-tax San Diego.
So it's on. Again.
Here are some things to watch for as the Chargers play perhaps their most pivotal season in San Diego:
THE STADIUM SAGA: The Chargers have tried and failed for 15 years to get a new stadium built. They wouldn't negotiate with Faulconer over his Mission Valley plan as they looked toward L.A. Rebuffed by Spanos' fellow owners, though, they set their sights on downtown and qualified a citizens' initiative for the Nov. 8 ballot. Several groups are opposing the measure, which would include an offsite ''annex'' to the city's bayfront convention center. Many specifics, including the stadium's actual design, wouldn't be finalized until the measure passes.
JOEY BOSA: The Chargers absorbed another PR hit when they got locked in a contract stalemate with first-round draft pick Bosa, the No. 3 selection overall from Ohio State. He missed all of training camp after his agents sparred with the Chargers over the payout schedule for his $17 million signing bonus and other issues. The Bolts issued the old ''we've made our best offer'' ultimatum, and Bosa signed five days later.
The saga got so silly that Bosa's mother, Cheryl, took shots at the Chargers on social media. ''What do you expect a mom to do?'' Joey Bosa said. ''She loves me, she wants what's best for me and she made a dumb decision, like I have before, saying something she shouldn't have said on social media.''
That drama over, the Chargers need Bosa to pile up sacks and help patch the leaky run defense.
THE HOT SEAT? Coach Mike McCoy presided over a nightmarish 4-12 season in 2015 and was rewarded with a contract extension. The front office said it believes in McCoy, who then fired most of his offensive staff, including coordinator Frank Reich. McCoy is 23-27 in three seasons, including a playoff win and loss in 2013. The Chargers pretty much bottomed out in 2014, including being swept in the AFC West.
WHIZ IS BACK: After firing Reich, McCoy brought back Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator, the job he held before taking a short-lived head coaching position in Tennessee. In 2013, Whisenhunt helped scheme an offense that allowed Philip Rivers to bounce back from a few rough seasons. It appears Whisenhunt will cut down on the number of times Rivers lines up in the shotgun, hoping that having him under center more will help running back Melvin Gordon. However, Whisenhunt hasn't ditched the delayed draw on third down, causing some angst among fans.
GORDON: No one's looking for a bigger bounce-back year than the second-year running back. After starring at Wisconsin, his rookie season was dreadful. He failed to score a touchdown, never had a 100-yard game, was benched twice because of fumbling problems, then missed the last two games with an injured left knee. He's come back from microfracture surgery and will need some help from the offensive line, which often struggled last year.
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