The San Diego Chargers had a great 2009 season but it ended a few games earlier than expected. After stumbling out of the gates with a 2-3 record, the Chargers put an incredible winning streak together and won eleven games in a row and they did it with great defense and offense. With the injury-prone LaDainian Tomlinson lacking the productivity they became accustomed to and with Philip Rivers emerging as a franchise quarterback with multiple offensive weapons, the Chargers saw a transition from a smash-mouth style of offense to a more pass-friendly offense. Rivers has been producing some huge numbers the past few seasons so the Chargers front office packaged up a long-term deal that will keep him the face of the Chargers for what will most likely be the rest of his career. This off-season, there has been a whirlwind of players leaving the organization via free agency, but Rivers still has some firepower on the offensive side of the ball. In particular, Vincent Jackson will be back for another season with the Bolts before they have to pay him a lot of money next year. Free agency is something that teams have to deal with on regular basis so this isn’t going to be a huge adjustment for the Chargers next year. Whether they win their division or get into the playoffs as a Wild Card, I am not sure but you can go ahead and pencil them in as making the playoffs.
Philip Rivers joined XX Sports Radio in San Diego to talk about what he thinks of the Chargers off-season so far, whether the change will be felt in the locker room or on the field, and whether the team has changed its philosophy from a tough-gritted team to more of a finesse team.
What he thinks of the Chargers off-season so far:
“Well I think here more than any place players are around this time of year and I am sure it is in some places. I am popping in and out of the weight room every now and then. There is other players that are coming in and out that are getting treatment or some rehab for some off-season surgeries or injuries. So guys and players are around so I think we are closer to all of the action than maybe we were off on vacation or out of town. It has been crazy. I think it is kind of inevitable at some point. As intact as we have kept this core group of guys for so long, we have been impressive and you hope you never lose anybody. It’s been more guys lost this year than other off-seasons. You never want to lose them but you hope guys will step in. We have had them every year. We have been known for each and every year for guys to step up and play well and have a significant role and more guys will be asked to do that again this year. We have, we have lost some keys players, some captains on this team, but we will get it going and get mini-camps and the draft, OTA’s and by training camp comes around we will have everything situated and make a run at it.”
Whether the change will be felt in the locker room or on the field:
“Well that is a tough one to answer because I don’t want to minimize the players on the field because we lost some good football players. I think in the locker room. I don’t, and again, the locker room is different every single year. You never have the same group, one through sixty-two or whatever it is through the practice squad guys, you never have the same group. The locker room is always different, but I think there has been some guys that have been staples in that locker room for a long time. So I think that is where it will be, I don’t like to use the word ‘lost’ or it will be a negative, but I think that is what’ll be the most noticeable because it would be kind of weird that LT is not in that corner that he is always in. Jamal is not right there in his spot, Kassim is not there blaring his music. Those are things that you kind of get used to and think that is never going to change but they do. I think I am starting to realize now, it sneaks up on you. Now I am going into year seven. There I was talking to Cooper year eight, Gates eight. It sneaks up on you, but now you are one of those guys. You are one of those guys that were there that we always talked about, ‘Oh he is a better player. Oh he is this and that.’ Now we are one of those guys. Fortunately when you have a core group and have a bunch of players that have been in one place for a long time you get to go through the haul of transitions and change and you realize it doesn’t stay the same. I think that is another thing that is a reminder that adds to the urgency that there is not always next year. You keep going, ‘We better get it and get it this year.’ And obviously the mindset is that each and every year. It makes you realize even more that this thing doesn’t last forever.”
Whether there is anything different mentally about this year having to be the leader in the locker room:
“There won’t be at all. There really isn’t and I completely understand what I call, the media term and whose team it is and all of that and that is fine. I think in a lot of sense it is a correct way to out it from the outside. I think from the inside of the locker room we all understand what it is. It is our team and there is a bunch of leaders and guys that have to step up and make this things go. There won’t be anything different from me other than you are a year better, you have a year more experience under your belt, and as things continue to go you realize what a rookie and a second year player need because you know what you were and, like I said, you are the guy in the seventh year that is the quarterback and has those responsibilities and I take a great deal of pride in them. There won’t be anything different, but I think as every year comes you want to learn how you can lead better and be a better leader and a better player and a lot of us will do all that this off-season and evaluate that and be ready to go again.”
Whether the team has changed its philosophy from a tough-gritted team to more of a finesse team:
“You know I don’t think so and again everybody has their spin and their take on who we are and what we should do and shouldn’t do. It all has an affect and probably for reasons that affect them as individuals too. I think we all have a different reason why we think this and why we should do that. I don’t see that is the case. I think the stats may show that it what we have done and had to do to be successful the past few years. We won eleven games in a row last year. If we were trying to be the other way and pound it, I don’t think we would have won eleven in a row. I think we looked at what we needed to do to win football games and that may appear to be a philosophical change but that is not the case. If you look at Dallas and what we had to do to win, we had to run the football at the end and hold the football for eight minutes and be that so-called physical team that we weren’t but we were in that game and that situation we needed to be and I think they are the same guys. A lot of the same guys and we have had some success running and we have had some success throwing it and we have got guys out there and a tight end that allows… We have scored twenty points in however many games until that last one, unfortunately. So I think whether it is change or not or whether there is different ways that we found to get into the end zone they worked and we want to run it better. We’ll run it better this year. We’ll try like crazy to be a better running team and there has always been this emphasis last year to get better at it and we didn’t do it. We found a way to win eleven in a row and put ourselves into position to have a chance to win. The team that played in the Super Bowl was just behind us, dead-last in rushing. They were playing in the Super Bowl and really didn’t lose a football game last year except the two that they didn’t try to win in the regular season. We are trying to win the game period and if we can run it fifty-five and smash mouth it and if not we are going to throw it around and try to win it that way. I think everybody in that locker room has the mindset to take whatever it is to win…”