The Chargers And A History Of Underperforming: What’s Different This Year?

When discussing the NFL and the LA Chargers are brought up, this consensus is always reached: Each year, on paper, the Chargers have a team that could and should be fighting for a Super Bowl. However, anyone familiar with Charger’s history, knows that they haven’t reached the big game in nearly 30 years.

Chargers From The Beginning

Since their inception, the Chargers have been a force to be reckoned with, under the ownership of Barron Hilton and Hall of Fame Coach Don Coryell. Throughout their history, the Chargers have enjoyed the talents of Hall of Fame players, such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, and Dan Fouts, amongst others. Furthermore, the Chargers have even revolutionized the way the game is played with the implementation of the “Air Coryell” offense, which opened the passing game to what it is today.

Brandon Staley’s take on the Fangio defense now sweeping the league, ironically addresses the deep passing game.

So why have the Chargers not been able to meet expectations consistently? The answer is simple: Culture.

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams
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Fostering A Winning Culture

All the historically winningest teams in the NFL have one thing in common. The culture fostered in those teams is a winning culture. Culture starts from ownership, with owners such as Jeffrey Lurie for the Philadelphia Eagles or Robert Kraft for the New England Patriots showing the difference good ownership makes. Competent owners know just how much to mingle in their team’s affairs, hire good General Managers, and therefore create a good reputation for themselves and therefore their team. Unfortunately, Dean Spanos has not filled this role to the level that is needed over the years.

Tom Telesco as General Manager has been able to get exceptional players throughout his 10-year tenure, such as Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Derwin James, and Joey Bosa. However, the rosters he has created have only been able to reach the playoffs twice. It would be wise to consider making a change in this position if the Chargers are to make a deep playoff run once again this season.

The Telesco Test

All that being said, Telesco has made good offseason moves for this upcoming season. Retaining Austin Ekeler surely is one of the most important. Furthermore, Telesco has been able to create a solid offensive line, (something he has struggled with in the past, and one that is integral to winning).

However, the one move that may be the difference in getting the Chargers over the underwhelming hump and into a winning culture is new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore. Moore has been able to create one of the top 5 best offenses in the NFL in the last years on the Cowboys, and now having him on the Chargers with weapons such as Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and rookie Quentin Johnston will surely be a sight to be seen.

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers
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Head Coach Conundrum

The last question that will need answering will be Head Coach Brandon Staley. Staley has created a reputation for being needlessly reckless in his decision-making. Simply, Brandon Staley has established a new identity and culture in the organization, but is it a winning one?

Nick Sirianni was hired by the Eagles the same season and even has similar (to a certain extent) coaching styles, yet it is clear the culture Sirianni has created in his team is vastly more palpable than the one Staley has created in the Chargers. Another example would be Dan Campbell with the Detroit Lions. Every year, the Lions have improved under his coaching and the culture in that team is once again palpable. It will need to be seen whether Staley has learned from his shortcomings in this new season to establish a winning mentality.

If Staley were to still be making the same mistakes he has been doing since his hiring, his future tenure with the team should be questioned. No matter how good a football roster is, it will only go as far as the Head Coach lets them go. Here again, the new Offensive and Defensive Coordinators can be the key piece to unlocking the Charger’s potential. Just like Kellen Moore, Derrick Ansley will take the reigns of Defensive Coordinator this year after being promoted from Secondary Coach. Ansley is an important piece in establishing an improved defensive unit.

Culture Is A Team Effort

The key for this Chargers team to break the curse of underperforming is that everyone has something to prove. Telesco has to prove he can create winning teams, Staley has to prove he can coach a winning team, Moore has to prove his coaching tenure with the Cowboys wasn’t a spoof, and Ansley has to prove he was the correct hire/promotion to create a dominant defense. Furthermore, Herbert will want to prove he is a Franchise Quarterback who can win playoff games. All of these components create a team that is hungry to win, and that is what creates a winning culture.