On the eve of the first game of the San Diego Chargers 2013 season, let us take a quick look back at all the changes the franchise has undergone since the final game of the 2012 season.
After that 24-21 win over the Raiders, the Bolts changed their general manager, head coach, offensive coordinator, special teams coach, quarterbacks coach, offensive line coach, wide receivers coach, secondary coach, strength and conditioning coach, a handful of assistant coaches, and to top it off they have 22 new players on the 53-man roster.
To quote Dr. Evil: "Riiiiiight."
The massive turnover can be attributed to a few different factors.
One is, the new front office and coaching staff has an idea of a way it wants to do things. That inevitably leads to roster turnover as they search for players that fit their ideal or system.
Two is, the guys who departed apparently left the cupboard insanely bare. The term I hear most applied to the 2013 Chargers is "rebuilding project." The overall talent level was nowhere near where it needed to be to compete in the NFL, which is amazing when you consider Turner took over a team that was considered one of the most talented in the league.
In 2006 the Chargers sent 11 players to the Pro Bowl. In 2012, they sent zero players to the Pro Bowl. In football circles, that is known as a problem. It was a combination of Smith losing his draft touch, and Turner's inability to make players improve under his tutelage.
Enter Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy. Telesco learned in Indianapolis under Bill Polian, one of the greatest talent scouts in NFL history.
McCoy grew up in the Bay Area watching Bill Walsh's 49ers, then played under several former Walsh assistants. His take on how to build a team is eerily Walsh-esque. McCoy wants to coach the players in the way they learn best. Seems like an obvious way to do things, but in pro football that doesn't happen as often as it should.
Many coaches show the players what to do, then expect them to do it, but don't take the time to walk them through the process of getting from point A to point B. McCoy and his staff are doing just that, almost breaking it down to the fundamentals so they can build it back up again.
It's happening everywhere, but the most drastic renovations came on the offensive line. Only three players from last year's group (Nick Hardwick, Jeromey Clary and Mike Harris) are back for 2013, and only one of them is playing the same position.
Hardwick stays at center, where he's been since being drafted in 2004, the same year quarterback Philip Rivers joined the Chargers. Clary moved from right tackle to right guard to make room for first round draft pick D.J. Fluker. Harris will back up at left and right tackle.
In three preseason appearances the new group played about enough snaps to cover about one full game together. So, they'll have to rely on their time in training camp and hope it was enough to get them all on the same page.
If that has not yet happened, Rivers is going to be in deep trouble ... which brings us to Monday Night Football.
San Diego's first game is against the Houston Texans and reigning Defensive Player of the year J.J. Watt, a man who had 20.5 sacks last year. Watt recorded 26 sacks in his first two seasons. Only one defensive lineman in NFL history had more in his first two years, and that was the late, great Reggie White, who dropped the QB 31 times (It is worth noting, the NFL made sacks an official stat in 1982, so Deacon Jones is not on the list. Legend has it he would have been credited with 50 sacks in his first two years).
The Texans finished 5th in the league with 44 total sacks in 2012. While the 1-game suspension of defensive lineman Antonio Smith will slow them down a little bit, Houston gets linebacker Brian Cushing back from an injury that kept him out of 11 games.
The very simple truth is, if the Chargers rebuilt offensive line can give Rivers time to throw, and open a couple of holes for running back Ryan Mathews, San Diego will be much improved in 2013. If they don't, we'll see a repeat, if not a degradation, of 2012's misery.