Some people are fans of the Los Angeles Chargers. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Los Angeles Chargers. This 2022 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: Long Burger Chargers.
Your 2021 record: 9-8. If I told you that the Chargers started 4-1 out of the gate a season ago, only to have it all fall apart in a manner that truly defied imagination, would you believe me? What if I also told you that Mike McCarthy’s kicker nailed a 56-yarder to beat them at the gun, and that they lost to New England in a game where the Pats’ offense could only muster a single touchdown, and that they lost to the Texans for some reason, and that the Vikings beat them at home by keeping possession of the ball the entire game, and that they got walked off by the Chiefs in overtime, and that they dropped 970 passes, and that their run defense was easier to penetrate than your mom? That all scan?
OK then, how about this: What if I told you that the Chargers missed the playoffs in the final week of the season by losing a game that they didn’t even have to win outright? It’s true. All they had to do was not lose to the Raiders. In fact, they tied that very game at the end of regulation, in truly miraculous fashion, to ensure that both teams would make the playoffs had they simply made a gentleman’s agreement during the OT coin toss to consecrate the greatest and most outrageous tie in football history. But what if I told you that the Raiders—who really did discuss playing for that tie prior to overtime, and appeared ready to concede it by the end of the extra period—won the game anyway?
FUN FACT: That kick not only sent Vegas to the playoffs, but also a Steelers team that the Chargers had already beaten. Because the Chargers are never content to merely fuck themselves.
Oh, and then their landlords won the Super Bowl.
It was that kind of season for the Chargers. That’s EVERY kind of season for the Chargers, but the 2021 edition offered a more freewheeling and analytics-driven version of the original model. This team had one of the brightest young quarterbacks in league history. They had a coach valiant enough to go for it on fourth down every time you’re supposed to do so. And they had three all-pros on their roster. None of a mattered a lick. They still Chargersed, and I find that oddly reassuring in such tumultuous times. Don’t you?
They also had a lightning delay despite playing in a stadium that has a roof. Never underestimate this team’s talent for fucking up.
Your coach: Brandon Staley, who I love and for whom I hope good things happen. But they won’t. Also, I consider this a red flag:
“There’s a really powerful part of this book that has stayed with me…”
Staley stands up and walks over to the bookcase along the back wall of the office, next to his desk. He kneels and scans the shelf with his index finger until he finds what he is looking for — “The Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis. Staley pulls it out and starts flipping through the pages as he walks back to the couch and sits down again. With the book resting on his lap, he turns page after page, searching for a specific passage… The only noise in the office is the flip, flip, flip of turning pages until Staley finds the passage he is looking for and reads aloud. “The new definition of a nerd,” he recites. “A person who knows his own mind well enough to mistrust it.”
Sorry Coach, but I don’t trust any pedant who reads book passages aloud to me. That’s Phil Jackson shit. Also, learn when to take a timeout, nerdlinger. Didn’t mistrust your mind enough there now, did you?
Your quarterback: Justin Herbert, who’s very talented but whose skincare regimen leaves much to be desired. I’ve seen fewer spots on my dog’s underbelly than on your face, kiddo. A mole is gonna eat your face before you get this team to the Promised Land.
Your backup is still the immortal Chase Daniel. If Chase Daniel were my friend, I’d hit him up for money ALL THE TIME.
What’s new that sucks: After watching the Rams win the Super Bowl, the Chargers decided to import all of that team’s least essential players. So say howdy to cornerback Bryce Callahan, who is Not Jalen Ramsey, defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day, and pointless tight end Gerald Everett. Also here, from Detroit, is Kyle Van Noy, who appears to be on some kind of “I played for Bill Belichick!” lecture circuit that takes him to every other team in the league.
But I’ve left out a couple of vital names here, haven’t I? Eager to vault past the Rams as the ninth most popular professional sports team in greater Los Angeles, the Chargers traded for Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack, who missed the second half of last season after having foot surgery. They also signed Pats’ Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson, who just underwent a surgery of his own. When you play for the Chargers, you’re not ready to die for them but because of them. Then they handed out fat contract extensions to safety Derwin James (wise idea) and wideout Mike Williams (less so). The end result is an even gaudier collection of talent that will produce the exact same result at the end of this season. In terms of being a paper tiger, this team is basically Titans West. The Chargers’ final game of 2022 will be in Denver. If you don’t think Russell Wilson wins that game in a walk-off and then thanks both Jesus and his good friends at Havenly.com after he walks off the field, you haven’t been paying attention.
Storm Norton is your new starting right tackle. His name is way cooler than his game tape.
What has always sucked: It’s wild to me that the Chargers have stumbled their way into back-to-back Hall of Fame talents at QB and will end up with even fewer titles to show for it than even the Packers do. Perhaps that’s their punishment for being owned by Dean Spanos, a man who almost certainly has awful taste in news outlets. This past offseason, Spanos’s own relatives tried to wrest control away from him and force a sale. Guess what happened? They fucking blew it.
The sister of Chargers controlling owner Dean Spanos appears to have backed off her push to force her brother to sell the team.
His sister’s name? Dea. That kills me. I’ll never get over it. Anyway, it’s painfully on-brand for even aspiring Chargers owners to openly fail for both God and all of America to see. So what chance is there that anything changes about this organization long-term? It’ll be another year of employing one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and still failing to rise above CBS’ third-string announcing crew. Another year of equally hapless franchises redeeming themselves at the Chargers’ expense. And another year playing home games in front of a crowd of 50 people who all won their tickets at a local PTA raffle. Nothing changes. The Chargers used to be preferred team of all sunburnt troop-humpers down in their original hometown of San Diego. Now they’re stuck as unwanted losers in Los Angeles for eternity, and all of their players die younger than River Phoenix did.
The interior of the front seven is still a problem, and I don’t mean “a problem” in the NBA Twitter way.
Ratto says: The Spanos family is fighting over the team, the surest sign that the Chargers will be sold to a member of the Walton family any day now as the NFL continues its new WalMartization business model. Justin Herbert is many things, but he cannot hide a franchise that has been marching slowly down the gurgler in all areas save the passing game. They had the third best offense and second worst defense in team history, meaning that their average score was 28-27, and their 933 combined points scored and allowed was the fifth highest in league history. This makes them fun. This does not make them good.
What might not suck: When I wrote this preview, I thought to myself, “Man, Keenan Allen must be pretty old by now.” Turns out he’s only 30. Still kinda old though. Rashawn Slater is a fucking beast.
HEAR IT FROM CHARGERS FANS!
They’re like a Range Rover in that it’s a beautiful machine that you know could traverse the Sahara, but when you own it always ends up broken down in a Trader Joe’s parking lot or parked in the driveway of your wife’s boyfriend.
Losing to them in a close game was so shocking that it sent Andy Reid to the hospital.
Dean Spanos eats white boy tacos.
Herbert is the Mike Trout of Football. We’re watching the next big thing in football but he’ll never sniff the playoffs.
Justin Herbert is one more dominant playoff-missing season away from getting his own Tungsten Arm O’Doyle tweet, and he plays in a stadium that mixes the ambiance of the Beverly Center with the clientele of the Beverly Connection.
We are the football version of the Sacramento Kings, but somehow worse at injury management.
LAC still always looks like it’s for the Clippers instead of the Chargers.
I am a Chargers fan and an Oregon Ducks fan. At least the Ducks are gracious enough to get you to the championship game before falling flat on their ass. The Chargers will just make it to the Wild Card round and lose by a field goal to the Jets.
People don’t really understand what it means that the Chargers left San Diego and moved to Los Angeles. It would literally be as if the Boston Red Sox moved to New York City. That’s how much people here hate LA.
I look forward to Dean Spanos losing the lawsuit his sister is filing against him and being forced to sell the team to Elon Musk, who will promptly move them to London.
With the playoffs on the line, Staley’s defense got their shit stomped by a 45-year-old Rex Burkhead.
We don’t deserve Justin Herbert.
They’re going to fuck it up. They’re going to fuck it ALL up. A strong, good, deep team led by one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, an all-world defense led by Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack (!!!). Offense for days. Defense for days. But they’re going to fuck it up. The ghost of Marty Schottenheimer is sure to pop up come playoff time to ruin our fun. Somehow the long-retired Nate Kaeding will find a way to miss an OT chip shot. Marmalard’s 27 kids will gang-tackle Austin Ekeler at the one-yard line. We all know there’s a litany of soul-crushing defeats on the horizon that some people will laugh at, but most people won’t care because it’s the Chargers and no one cares about the Chargers, not even Chargers fans. I don’t even feel pain anymore.
During Ryan Leaf’s last season in San Diego, my dad was at a Bar Association silent auction, where some jokers had donated a signed Ryan Leaf jersey and ball. My dad, being an optimist, put in a bid for something like 100 bucks (it was going to charity, after all) Of course, no one else bid on the item and he became the proud owner of these valuable items. His thought Leaf might stage a miracle turnaround and that the value of the jersey and the ball would go up. Worst case, he’d be remembered as one of the worst Chargers QBs of all time, and the jersey and ball might be worth something down the road as a result of the notoriety of Leaf being so thoroughly shitty, both on the field and off. So he sealed the ball and jersey up in some plastic bags, popped it in a plastic storage box, and put them up in the attic to await an uncertain future.
Cut to 2009ish, I was in college, home for the summer. The Ryan Leaf memorabilia sat forgotten in the attic, and the Phillip Rivers era was in full swing. One night, I heard something scratching around in the attic, and went up the next morning to investigate. A rat had found its way into the attic through a hole in a vent screen and had decided to set up shop in, you guessed it, the box that held the treasured Ryan Leaf collectibles. Both the ball and jersey had been shredded by the rat to make its nest, with the remaining pieces scattered around the attic. There was no evidence of rats chewing on any other box up there. Not my childhood artwork or my parents’ old stuff. The rat had been laser-focused on the destruction of the Leaf jersey and ball. I found this to be a fitting metaphor for my cursed life of being a Chargers fan. Fuck Ryan Leaf, fuck the Spanos Family, and fuck LA.
I hope that Raiders game took as many years off Spanos’ life as they added back to mine.
I decided it would be a good idea to go to the Chargers/Raiders game in Vegas, Week 18 last year. My best friend called and told me that he had tickets in the end zone club at the Raiders stadium if I wanted to join. This is how I ended up watching Justin Herbert put on one of the greatest four minutes of football I’ve ever seen, from the best seat I’ve ever had at a sporting event, just to get the perfect view when we couldn’t stop a fucking run up the middle on third down with our season on the line. At least I DEFINITELY know where I got COVID.
My father left my mother before I was born, and as a result of this I never had any sports teams passed down to me. I had to choose them on my own. I chose to be a Chargers fan because I was given a 1990 NFL sticker book and liked their uniforms. For that completely idiotic reason I’ve decided to stick with this miserable franchise, despite botched fourth downs, doctors going to jail, and even a relocation to another city where more people care about the MLS soccer than the Chargers themselves.
In a month I’m expecting the birth of my first son. You’d better believe I’m steering him as far away from this trash heap of a sports franchise as humanly possible. The Chargers are literal proof of the damage that broken homes cause.
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