San Diego Chargers 2013 Outlook: Onward And Upward Without Norv Turner
By: Melissa Jacobs | Posted: July 04, 2013
Welcome to TFG's 2013 Outlook Series. We'll be taking a quick glance back at the 2012 season before focusing on what factors will impact each team's chances for success in 2013. Check back regularly to read about your favorite team. Up next: the San Diego Chargers.
2012 record: 7-9, a middling effort borne from middling season-long production
Key Losses: Though he opened his San Diego tenure with three straight AFC West titles, head coach Norv Turner's shine began to wear off by missing three straight postseasons. Talk of the end of the Turner Era was consistent last year, and Turner openly acknowledged his assumed fate at several points throughout the season. His termination (along with that of general manager A.J. Smith) was made official on December 31st.
The Chargers said goodbye to two of their previous mainstays – linebacker Shaun Phillips, who had been with the club since 2004, and safety Quentin Jammer, a ten-year Charger. Also leaving the sunny confines of San Diego were offensive tackle Jared Gaither, guards Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green, linebacker Takeo Spikes, cornerback Antione Cason and nose tackles Antonio Garay and Aubrayo Franklin.
Important Additions: San Diego snatched up Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy as its next head coach. McCoy had the benefit of coaching Peyton Manning in 2012 (though "coaching" might be an exaggeration), but his most remarkable feat came in 2011 when Denver made it to the playoffs with Tim Tebow under center. Tom Telesco, who had served as Indianapolis' vice president of football operations, was tapped to fill the general manager vacancy.
The Chargers have been quite active in free agency adding two offensive tackles – King Dunlap and Max Starks, two guards – Rich Ohrnberger and Chad Rinehart, two corners – Derek Cox and Johnny Patrick and running back Danny Woodhead. They also recently signed veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney, largely as a injury replacement for Melvin Ingram who tore his ACL during OTAs.
However, the most attention-grabbing move occured in late April when San Diego drafted embattled linebacker Manti Te’o in the second round. They also took tackle D.J. Fluker with the no. 11 pick overall, and added Cal’s Keenan Allen in the third to boost a below average receiving corps.
Why San Diego has hope for 2013: A new playing deck equals new opportunities. The Chargers potentially hit a goldmine in the draft as Fluker immediately improves an offensive line that allowed an abundance of sacks last season. Allen is an explosive receiver who, if healthy, could be a productive starter. And if he can stay focused, Te’o could be a huge steal. (He could also be terrible, but we’ll address that later.)
McCoy brings a savvy offensive mind to a team and specifically a quarterback, who desperately needs a new direction. And for once the pressure is really off Rivers. He is no longer straddling that line between “very good” and upper echelon.” In fact, expectations are such that Rivers is currently the 17th quarterback being drafted in fantasy this season. He is now in that sprawling group of average quarterbacks – players with faults who have the potential for a big game from time-to-time, but not on a consistent basis. Now with an improved line and the return of talented receiver Vincent Brown, Rivers has the opportunity to creep back up the quarterback spectrum.
While numbers for 33-year old tight end Antonio Gates have fallen a bit, he still nabbed seven touchdowns last season and will continue to be a weapon if he can remain healthy.
The Chargers don’t have much depth at defensive line but this unit is young and littered with talent. Not extreme talent, but enough talent.
Will new head coach Mike McCoy have Philip Rivers smiling again in 2013?
Why San Diego may be doomed for 2013: Rivers has regressed the past two seasons, throwing the fewest touchdowns (26 and 27) and most interceptions (15 and 20) since 2007. I am not convinced the offensive line or lack of receiver talent deserves the blame. As we have discussed, once great quarterbacks who regress don’t generally become great again. (See Cardinals Outlook – Carson Palmer.)
The defense seems to have taken a tumble for the worse. Despite his name value, Dwight Freeney is no longer an elite pass rusher and probably won’t be used as an every-down player. Telesco didn’t bring in enough talent to compensate for the losses of Jammer and Cason, making the cornerback corps one of the potentially weakest units on this team. Te’o has “reaped the benefits” of being sequestered in a small-market but unfortunately the Chargers have eight road games. Expect crazy signs, blow-up dolls, the works.
Ryan Mathews will either a) be hurt by Week 3 b) net under 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns c) be rumored as arrested only to be cleared the next day – again d) all of the above.
Also not helping the Chargers is the fact that both Kansas City and Oakland have more potential for improvement. And when you couple that with Denver being a solid Super Bowl contender, plus games against Washington, Houston, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, it’s hard to envision this team approaching .500.
Circle These Games: Denver Broncos (Weeks 10 and 15). Denver has become to the AFC West what San Diego once was: an overwhelming perennial favorite. McCoy is familiar with his former team's strategy and personnel, perhaps making him the favorite to upset a Broncos team expected to contend for the Super Bowl in 2013.
Odds to win Super Bowl XLVIII, according to Bovada: 51-1
TFG Projected Record: 6-10.