Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sleeping With the Enemy: Week Four, Chiefs @ Chargers

Welcome back for another episode of Sleeping With the Enemy, where we knock heads with a fan of the opposing team. This week, we sat down with Robert Zepeda, who is the Super-Charged hombre over at Bolt Hype. We poked the fire while throwing around household names like Marty Schottenheimer and LaDainian Tomlinson, and attempted to assess what would happen in this afternoon's Chiefs/Chargers throwdown.

Bankmeister: Being a lifelong Chiefs fan, I can't very well begin a discussion about the Chargers' recent issues without probing the past a little. What is your stance on the way the Schottenheimer firing went down? What's the scoop on A.J. Smith? It appears he and Marty didn't get along, and Donnie Edwards has told the media around here that Smith stood in the way of the Chargers success beyond the regular season. Is that a valid statement or is he (Donnie) just bitter? Second, the national "feel," if you will, is that Norv Turner is a good Offensive Coordinator, but not a good head coach, and, well basically, that this team will go down in flames, regardless of their immense talent. I'm curious to hear from a source closer to/more familiar with the team.

Robert Zepeda: There was a growing sense of impatience among Chargers fans. The team was finally winning again and the roster was stacked with elite players. Tomlinson was entering his prime. The stars seemed to be aligning. A Super Bowl seemed to be in the team's fortunes, and fans were drooling. But after going through three winning seasons with not a single playoff win, the blame seemed to fall squarely on Marty Schottenheimer's shoulders. It was, after all, Marty's biggest knock – the inability to win championships.

You mention Donnie Edwards – Donnie and Marty were close, and this of course goes back to their days in Kansas City. Unfortunately for them, AJ Smith felt both were overrated. Smith places a priority on not overpaying for players, and would not pay Donnie Edwards what Donnie Edwards wanted. As a result, Edwards turned to the media to push his agenda. He used media to complain about his contract situation and tried to use that as leverage in contract negotiations. This did nothing but annoy AJ Smith, who made it quite clear that Edwards would not be retained. And as for Marty, lets just say that Smith and Schottenheimer had different philosophies about how to win a championship. And winning a championship is certainly something that Schottenheimer knows nothing about.

On that same token, Norv Turner comes to San Diego with a handful of rings. The role he earned those rings, however, is not from the head coaching ranks. Norv Turner is an AJ Smith hire, and it is proving to be his most pivotal decision since becoming GM – even bigger than his choice to let Drew Brees leave via free agency and to move forward with Philip Rivers.

There have certainly been doubters of Norv since before his arrival to San Diego. But three weeks into the season, its now becoming evident that Norv Turner has an effect on the team's ability to be successful. While the Chargers slow start to the season can't totally be blamed on Coach Turner, the man comes with the reputation of being an offensive guru, and yet they are struggling mightily to run the ball and score points. How the Chargers play the next three games (which happen to be divisional games) is going to go a long way to either bury playoff hopes or to keep those hopes alive.

B: Interesting. I hadn't realized Edwards' ploys with the media. Regarding the slow start, what do you make of Tomlinson's post-game comments last week in terms of not knowing what's going on and frustration. Every time I hear a player (like Tony Gonzalez) say that, I get the sense that what they really want to say is, "Hey, let me call some shots and things will get a lot better real quick." Do you think LT is frustrated with Norv, or is it play execution in general? There's got to be something more than Turner's effect on the team.

RZ: I think after a span of the three worst games in Ladainian Tomlinson's career, he was just at a lost for words. He is having to answer the same questions every week: 'Why can't the run game get going? Whats the difference between last year and this year?'

LT is clearly frustrated with the team's performance and he, as a leader, is assuming some of that responsibility himself. There were high expectations for the Chargers this season, and there still are. This is a team that won 14 games last year and are better on both sides of the ball. But there is an adjustment period going on right now. There is a whole new coaching staff in place and the transition isn't going as smooth as everyone would like. That's not to say this team can't bounce back. The coaches will understand that the Chargers aren't sneaking up on anybody. They are going to get every opposing team's best effort each week. The players know this, but I'm not sure the coaches understand this yet. So until the coaches start putting some better schemes in the playbook and showing teams looks they have never seen before, every team in the league is going to use the same blueprint to beat the Chargers; Do whatever it takes to stop LT from running up and down the field, and test the Chargers secondary.

B: Good estimation. I think, in the game-planning/scheming regard, the Chargers are in the same boat as the Chiefs. Teams are doing everything they can to stop Larry Johnson, which forces the Chiefs to go to the passing game, something a conservative coaching staff is reluctant to do. The Chargers receiving game is a bit puzzling to me. You've got eight guys that've caught some balls, three of whom have put up respectable stats in that category, but it's thus far only translated to one victory. What is the appropriate approach for Turner and company to get on track: Do they actually need to introduce new plays three games into the season, or are they simply calling the wrong plays at the wrong time? What's your estimation of your offensive line's performance thus far? Is LT's lack of output due in part to poor blocking executions, or are they doing their jobs well while the opposing defenses are dominating?

(Editor's Note: Due to time constraints, this exchange was cut short. I think it's safe to assume we both expect the Chargers to win this game. Thus, our mutual prediction: Chiefs 9, Chargers 24.)

Previous installments of SWTE:

Week Three
Week Two
Week One


Cecil said...

I love that Charger homers say this team is more talented than last year's version. Maybe that's true--but talent alone ain't what won you all 14 of those games last year.

I think the Bolts are getting grounded a bit. Their line just isn't getting the push it had throughout the year, and it seems that a sense of entitlement has crept into the locker room (courtesy of Chargers beat writer Kevin Acee, not me) and definitely into the fan community. Funny shit, especially for a team that has won exactly nada in its not-very-storied 4 decades+ history.