SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17: Cornerback Antonio Cromartie #31 of the San Diego Chargers reacts to a play during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the New York Jets at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Greatness has an assassin, and it knows how to find Chargers Park.
It's been there before.
It came cloaked in confidence, armed by outside media, and with locker-room access given by those inside it.
From there, it implanted itself life a virus and ravaged from within like a cancer.
This assassin, this poison, is named Complacency. In Nov. of 2007, LaDainian Tomlinson diagnosed it while backing Shawne Merriman's frustration with how some teammates seemed unbothered by a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It's human nature sometimes to get complacent,” Tomlinson said in the post-game press conference. “People start patting you on your back when you have some success, and you get complacent and you think everything is going to come easy.”
This offseason, Complacency is gone.
All those big names are elsewhere, and so too is the overconfidence that came with them.
The naysayers now outnumber the Super Bowl predictors. They say Merriman isn't the same player. They say the offensive line won't survive without McNeill. They say Williams, Jackson and Cromartie will all be missed.
Easy Street is no longer perceived to intersect at Murphy Canyon Road. The New York Jets have it now.
The team that upset the Chargers in last season's playoffs is attracting attention like light to a mosquito.
HBO is filming “Hard Knocks.” Head coach Rex Ryan is yapping. The team even signed Tomlinson and Cromartie, along with other distinguished free agents, further adding color to their magazine-cover profile.
This may be remembered as the Chargers' greatest off-season: the year they lost players and gained a team.
“We knock on the door year in, year out, trying to get to the Super Bowl,” linebacker Stephen Cooper said in a Monday press conference. “But this year, with workouts during the offseason, OTAs and minicamps, guys are really focusing all about the team and together.
“With those guys leaving, with Jamal, LT and Cromartie — them big faces, we don't really have them big names on paper no more. So now it's all about the team, and we can go out there and get the job done.”
Ding dong. The assassin is dead.