As I continue with the AFC South, I get to the team I have the most problems with: the Los Angeles Chargers. Partly it's because I just want to keep calling them the San Diego Chargers. At least with the Rams, I'm used to hearing the Los Angeles Rams from my youth. The L.A. Chargers just sounds wrong. The other problem is that this team seems to strive for mediocrity. If they get out to a fast start, then the lose near the end of the season. Start off slow, then turn it around to get near the middle of the pack. And it's been that way the 12 years that Philip Rivers has been the starting quarterback. And like many years, the team ended up 2017 near the middle at 9-7.
The Chargers made the move up to Los Angeles because they weren't filling the 70,561 seats at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. So they played 2017 (and I believe will play 2018) in the Stubhub Center that seats 27,000.
For the nine years prior to moving, the team averaged over 60,000 attendees per game, with 2016 being down to 57,000 when folks knew they were leaving. It's a head-scratching decision that the Chargers tend to make. The team went into the new city with a new Head Coach, Anthony Lynn, an offensive-minded coach who has worked his way up in the NFL. The team has only done better than 9-7 once since 2008, the 13-3 2009 season. Otherwise they've been between 7-9 and 9-7 most of the time, except the last two years of Mike McCoy's tenure when they did worse.
They went into the season with high hopes, as all teams do, then lost their first four games and six of their first nine. That is starting off in a ditch. Then around week 11, they flipped a switch and won six of their last seven. Why the slow start? There wasn't a huge turnover of players. The biggest named was the signing of Russell Okung to play offensive tackle. They had one blowout loss and a few blowout victories, but otherwise all of the games were close. It just seems that the team lacks the ability to play consistently, regardless of who the head coach is.
That's an even tougher question, because you can't look at River's numbers and say he's not a good franchise quarterback. His numbers are great. Over 50,000 career yards, 342 touchdowns, and a career quarterback rating of 94.8. His rating for 2017 was 96. Having just completed his 14th season and just turning 36 last month, Rivers is playing at the high level he always plays at. But he is missing the one element that great quarterbacks have: the ability to make those around him great. There's a reason why most players who leave the New England Patriots don't do as well in other systems. Tom Brady helps make them better. Drew Brees does that in New Orleans, Aaron Rodgers does it in Green Bay.
The Chargers are in a division with one young franchise quarterback set in place: Derek Carr with the Oakland Raiders. The Denver Broncos are still searching for their quarterback and the Kansas City Chiefs my turn the reins over to Patrick Mahomes II next year. The Chargers can go into the season with the consistent veteran again and end up with another middle of the road season, but they have to look at the future. How much longer will Rivers be playing? They need to find their next star and load up on some young talent now. I don't see them going much further than 9-7 next year, either.