Friday, November 27, 2009

Sleeping with the Enemy: Week 11, Chiefs @ Chargers

Welcome in boys and girls, to another episode of "Sleeping with the Enemy." I've mentioned before that I've had some occasional difficulty getting Chargers fans to commit to participating in this feature, but on this go-around, we're thankful to have Loren S Casuto from Bolt Talk join us.

Looking forward to installment two of Chiefs/Chargers this Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, we stoked the fire and and stirred the gravy regarding the current state of affairs in the AFC West, and we'd love it if you too, would join us, just after the jump.

Bankmeister: For starters, tell us a bit about your affiliation with the Chargers. Lifelong fan? Transplant? Bandwagon? What are your top three Bolt memories?

Loren S Casuto: I was born and raised in San Diego, so rooting for the Chargers was natural. I've been a fan since I was about 6 (1990), so I am one of the younger fans on Bolttalk and amongst the Charger population. That means my memories are more recent and I can't claim to have seen the great Air Coryell teams. With that said:

1. Dennis Gibson knocking down the pass to take us to the Super Bowl (standard for any Charger fan).

2. The 2007 Titans playoff game (first playoff game we'd won since 1995 -- basically I went from 13 to 24 in age without seeing a playoff win. Irritating isn't it?

3. The Draft trade that brought Philip Rivers to San Diego for Eli Manning (a bit more unique because I'm a draft nut and was there for the entire drama).

B: Those're pretty good ones. For what it's worth, I've gone from age 20-35 without one.

I’ve said for several years now that the AFC West has evolved into something of a shell of its former self. That is, none of the four clubs were ever a sure win against one another. For the longest time, Kansas City and Denver were big rivals, Oakland and Kansas City were big rivals, and Oakland and Denver were big rivals while San Diego seemed to sort of be the odd man out. Have you noticed any particular changes in the division? Which two teams would you say are the biggest rivals today?

LSC: Primarily I've noted over the last few years that there really hasn't been a division race; it's just been San Diego. I say that not to sound like a homer but since about 2006 we really haven't had much competition in the AFC West for division leadership. I'm sure someone is thinking 2008 but most Charger fans and media believe that the Chargers almost lost it more than Denver came to winning it. If we didn't take most of that year off and had a few things go our way, we would've won that division easily. But for the latter half of the decade we've been the class of the division, and while I think KC is at least making progress in the right direction, you guys are a few years away from competing. Denver, I don't know what they're doing and Oakland is chasing its tail (to be polite). So for the last few years and a few more years to come, I think the Chargers will remain the class of the division.

B: I suppose they don't say "Stay Classy, San Diego" for nothing.

LSC: I think of the three AFC West teams, Denver and Oakland are our biggest rivals. Oakland and us, it's been that way since the AFL and that won't change. Not to mention since we're in the same state with a big population of Raider fans two hours north of us, we come into contact regularly (whether we want it or not). Denver it's been because they've been the closest rival for the last part of the decade and because we keep getting into conflict with each other. In 2007 it was Jay Cutler's and Brandon Marshall's mouthing off on Monday night. In 2008 it was Ed Hochuli and the last game of the year. And now it's Josh McDaniels and his fifth-grade mentality. The Broncos and we keep getting into fights. I think most Charger fans prefer facing the Chiefs because 1) You're not insane like the last two fan bases, if anything you guys are by and large a good group and 2) We usually have good games without controversy or other idiocy.

B: Wow. That was a mouthful I couldn't have said better myself.

There are a number of rumors and speculations regarding the Chargers that I’d like to address. Let’s start at the top and work our way down. Comment as you see fit, and keep in mind that these are not necessarily my opinions, but rather fodder for the masses.

A.J. Smith is an asshole, and firing Marty Schottenheimer was a mistake and done in an unprofessional fashion.

LSC: With Marty and, especially in 2006, superior teams we couldn't win in the playoffs. He did it in 2004 and 2006 and couldn't get us over the hump in 2002 and 2005. AJ might have an ego and be a controlling guy, but he's been the reason we went from being a laughing stock to a Super Bowl contender every year. Marty had an equally as big ego and was equally as controlling (why am I reminding Chiefs fans of this?) and tried to force the owner to bring in his brother Kurt to be our new defensive coordinator. That's unacceptable. And furthermore AJ Smith can at least point to having built this team into the dominant one it has been since 2004. Marty hasn't been given a head coaching job since, any idea why?

B: No. None, really. I'm curious if he's been contacted, though.

Next question: Norv Turner is an incompetent NFL coach. He’s constantly on the brink of getting canned, and is responsible for the quote/unquote descent of this team.

LSC: Scoreboard. Since Turner has taken over he's not only gotten us into the playoffs every year he's been in charge but we've won a playoff game each time. Something Schottenheimer couldn't do. His early starts are infuriating and yeah the last three years he has come close to being fired by the midpoint. However if we continue the way we've been playing, we will win the AFC West for the third time (something that hasn't been done since Air Coryell) and ideally win another playoff game. So he's done what he was brought in to do. We can't argue with the results.

B: Well played. The defense, be it via injuries or not, is not nearly as feared as it was in earlier parts of the decade, and the decline of the play of Shawne Merriman is somewhat related to his cessation of PED consumption.

LSC: It depends on the area. Compared to earlier in the decade we are definitely not as good in run stopping (which was our bread and butter going back to the mid 90s). I'd say we are a little worse as well in pass rush from 2006 when Merriman and Philips had career years, though we blitz more effectively from different spots then just outside linebacker and are far better then we were early in the decade. Pass coverage I'd say we are alot better then in years past, ditto with ability to cause turn overs. So it's touch and go depending on the area. And regarding Merriman, I'd remind you that he had to have two knee ligaments repaired and reattached to his leg, an injury that takes a year to recover from and a year to get back to 100 percent. Find me someone who came back fully and quickly from that injury and I'll show you someone who is taking PEDs. Merriman is making good progress at a good rate. Not to mention he does have some sacks against the Chiefs.

B: Ouch. Okay...Philip Rivers is a punk and a boast. He, with the assistance of his teammates, claims that he never instigates smack talk, and absolutely never uses profanity.

LSC: He doesn't use profanity for one. It is astonishing for such a competitor but for the life of me, I can't find one instance (and neither can other Bolttalk members) of him actually cursing people out. Sure he talks but you can smack talk without using profanity. As far as being a "punk" I believe the person your looking for is one Jay Cutler. Rivers' reputation as a talker started when ESPN showed a few seconds of video of him, Shaun Philips and Matt Wilhelm talking back to Jay Cutler. What no one bothers or cares to report is that Cutler (by all accounts) was talking smack to the Chargers all game long. In fact in every game he's been in Cutler has constantly talked crap (including cursing) to the Chargers but he gets off looking like an angel while Rivers gets criticized. The other case is during a playoff game where he's talking back to fans. While I won't defend Rivers' action, which he later apologized for, let's not pretend that fans are completely blameless in mouthing off to players. They all do it, fans and players. It's not absolving Rivers of blame but it is at least noting that neither side was blameless. Nevertheless Rivers gets fired up and talks during games, something every quarterback does (including Matt Cassel). So let's not pretend that Rivers is that horrible for flapping his gums.

B: Okay. Sensitive subject perhaps. Moving on: The notion that an NFL running back’s career is proving true again with LaDainian Tomlinson, and Darren Sproles, due to his stature, can never be an every-down back.

LSC: I think LT has definitely lost a step. He's not as good as he was in the prime of his career, as is the case with all athletes. I still think he's one of (if not the) best running backs of the decade and that he can still run the ball very effectively. And I think he's still better then alot of teams' running backs (e.g. New England, Indy, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, and possibly San Francisco). Who'd you rather have running the ball? Jamaal Charles or LT? Or Larry Johnson vs LT? Nuff said. He's definitely approaching the end of his illustrative career but he's not ready for retirement just yet. Regarding Sproles I happen to agree. I think he's a wildly talented scatback, returner and third-down running back, but yeah because of his size he isn't capable of carrying the rock 25 times a game regularly. Though some Charger fans would disagree I think its a consensus view on Sproles.

B: In your view, how does the Chargers fan base compare to those of other teams around the league? They’ve been accused of being less intense and passionate about their teams, but then of course there are YouTube clips of fans brawling with other fans in the cheap seats. Would you say a team’s identity or a team’s geography dictates more of the crowd’s personality on game day.

LSC: I think Charger fans can match up for passion, knowledge and intensity with any team's fans anywhere. Most people think Southern Californians are laid back and therefore Charger fans lack passion. While I think we are a pretty relaxed fan base, there are fans who have been with this team since its founding, who saw the old AFL Chargers, and people from all ages all who love their team. We can be fired up as a base but also still be mellow and friendly to opposing teams fans and to each other -- it isn't a requirement to be obscene or insane to be die hard. I don't know what videos you saw

and I won't defend Charger fans who fight with other fans. My only statement is that every team has fans that take it too far or are just punks, the only question is what percentage of those fans are said punks. So I don't see it as a Charger problem as much as its every team's problem.

B: Fair enough. If there’s one thing I can say about this team, it’s simply that the notion of the slow start, then pick up steam and win the division, is an odd one. Why do you suppose this pattern has emerged of late?

LSC: Maybe it's Norv Turner or maybe the team gets its act together later then most teams or maybe it's something in the gatorade. If I knew the answer to this I'd be a rich man. No one has any idea why this is happening but the prevailing opinion is that its Norv Turner's coaching and until I see proof otherwise, that's what I'm going with.

B: I heard a Chargers beat writer say on the radio earlier in the week that he thinks that Philip Rivers will go into the history books with the same level of integrity, numbers, and sheer legend, as Brett Favre. He also predicted that Rivers will win at least one Super Bowl. Are these assumptions on target?

LSC: For now, yeah I'd say so. There's alot of time to go for sure but Rivers is a winner and a leader for a team that hasn't had one of those in a long time. He plays well, he's selfless in how the team decides to win (e.g. he can throw for 400+ yards and carry the team or, like over the last two weeks, he can throw 20 times and let LT run the show), he doesn't have an ego, he's spotless character wise and he's gutsy. He made an instant fan out of everyone when he went out in the 2007 AFC Championship game on one leg and almost led the team to victory. And his record as a Charger starter is ridiculous (33-15, '06-'08). He's basically what every team wants in a QB and has become the leader and the face of the franchise as LT winds down his marvelous career. While it remains to be seen if he can match Favre's iron man streak or his winning in the Super Bowl or his career, Philip Rivers is definitely on the right track.

B: Here’s an exercise I did earlier in the season with a Dallas fan regarding his take on NFC East teams: Give us a summary – be it a phrase or an entire paragraph – of your feelings during the week, and leading up to games against

the Denver Broncos:

LSC: Self-absorbed Punks. They haven't won jack in years, yet they strut around like they own the division. Doesn't matter if it's Jay Cutler or Josh McDaniels. If anything, Charger fans get more irritated by the Broncos than almost any team in the league.

B: the Kansas City Chiefs:

LSC: Good Rivalry and opponent. I don't have too many bad things to say about the Chiefs because by and large we don't have bad experiences with your fans or team. We do need to do some sort of cultural exchange at tailgates though, by which I mean a trade of carne asada tacos for bbq ribs.

B: the Oakland Raiders:

LSC: Pathetic Clowns. I don't like the Raiders. It's personal for me and most Charger fans, but after winning as many in a row as we have (15) and with the Raiders continuing to get worse, I think most Charger fans don't care about the Raiders.

B: Interesting. Have you paid much attention to the Chiefs in recent weeks, months, or years? Things have been pretty bleak for the franchise for some time, but the win against Pittsburgh was pretty big. Can this club return to contention in the immediate future, or are they going about it all wrong?

LSC: I've heard a few things about them here and there, primarily they are rebuilding. I think you guys need to decide exactly what kind of team you want to be and build to that. Are you going to be a 4-3 (Glenn Dorsey) or a 3-4 (Tyson Jackson)? Are you going to be a young team (Jamaal Charles, Matt Cassel, Tamba Hali) or a veteran-built team (Mike Vrabel, Mike Brown, Jon McGraw)? And ironically enough I think by beating the Steelers you sealed your fate against us. I think it was a hell of a win against a team that pounded us, but I think your only real chance was if we took you all lightly.

B: Finally, let’s have a score prediction for Sunday’s game.

LSC: By beating the Steelers, we will be focused on you guys and I don't think you can beat us. I think we will win 31-7

B: Hmmm. I'm gonna disagree with that pick, in that the score is too similar to our previous meeting (37-7). At the same time, I'm not going to make a prediction on the outcome because I really felt that we could hang with you all last time, and obviously we just got smoked. More importantly, though: Many thanks to you and your time. Let's do this again next year.


Anonymous said...

As a diehard Chiefs fan, I gotta say the question where you declare Philip Rivers a "punk" was either ill informed tripe, or a bush league tactic to get this guy fired up. Even as they are our AFCW rival I have nothing against Rivers, the guy is incredibly tough physically and mentally, and lets face it the guy flat out wins games. And apparently he drives a minivan to the stadium......not exactly a "punk" in the classic sense.

Side note- Just because we beat the Steelers at Arrowhead doesn't mean we are on any sort of rise. They kicked our ass in every major stat and because of a few....questionable....plays (dare I say flukes) along with missing Polamalu, Aaron Smith, and Big Ben in OT we came out with a fun (albeit meaningless) win.

Dylan said...

All right anonymous... the "classic" sense you can look up for me later.
When you talk about winning big games...hit that same dictionary and find all of Phillip Rivers Big December Victories.
I'm gonna guess there is few.
Since your name is 7 or cecil, I'm just gonna call the Broncos season what it is: a beautiful Arkansas river waterfall. Tumbling, downward, predictable and BMarsh-beautiful!
See you in the AFC Playoff!
Luv the Chiefs!

Cecil said...

Aw, Dylan, you know us better than that--there's no way we'd take issue with Rivers being called a punk, even as sock puppets.

This was the funniest line in the piece: "I think Charger fans can match up for passion, knowledge and intensity with any team's fans anywhere."

Oh, man. Stop. That's too much. Why don't you passionate, knowledgeable and intense "fans" try avoiding a local TV blackout without help from local media for once, mmmkay?

Pathetic. Charger fans are the worst.

bankmeister said...

Anonymous -- if you'd been reading and comprehending, you would've noticed the part where I typed "keep in mind that these are not necessarily my opinions, but rather fodder for the masses."