New year, same story for the Los Angeles Chargers.
The calendar has turned since their humiliating first season back in LA, yet on Sunday we saw nothing has changed for the NFL’s most irrelevant franchise. After hearing months of spin from the Spanos family about how great things were going up in Los Angeles, the truth was plain to see in Week 1 at the StubHub Center.
It’s impossible to ignore, deny or dress this mess up. No amount of lipstick (or tarps) can make this pig look any better. It is inarguable at this point: the Chargers are nothing short of an embarrassment for the NFL and continue to fail spectacularly in Los Angeles.
All summer the Chargers were hyped as the favorites in the AFC West and had emerged a sexy Super Bowl pick. It’s easy to understand why. The Bolts have a roster loaded with talent, genuine stars in Philip Rivers, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and a young stud defender in first-round pick Derwin James. So how on Earth did they look so bad on Sunday in a 38-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs?
The answer is, of course, obvious: the team’s ownership and management are among the worst in sports.
Everything Dean Spanos and his son put together has no thought attached to it. Without smart coaching, it doesn’t matter how much talent a team has. You can draft and sign as many Pro Bowl-caliber players as you want and it won’t matter. There’s no proof Anthony Lynn could lead a Pop Warner squad to glory. In fact, after the mind-boggling decisions we’ve repeatedly seen from him, I’m fairly convinced he couldn’t.
But this is typical stuff from the Spanos family. Remember, that genius group fired Marty Schottenheimer coming off a 14-2 season and replaced him with Norv Turner. Norv freaking Turner, a guy they then employed for six excruciating years.
These are the same guys who thought moving from San Diego to Los Angeles would increase the size of their fan base. They figured they’d keep all their San Diego fans, add more in Los Angeles and somehow be at least as popular as the Los Angeles Rams and rake in money in the process.
Precisely none of that has happened, as San Diego has abandoned the team, Los Angeles has seen the Chargers as nothing more than a minor annoyance and the Rams have soared. This was such an asinine plan it truly boggles the mind how the NFL allowed Spanos to move his team.
The Chargers have rarely had a problem with talent. No, their problem exists at the top. When was the last time a franchise run by feckless, bumbling idiots won a Super Bowl? I’ll wait…
The Chiefs dominated the Chargers in all three phases on Sunday. It was hard not to feel awful for Rivers as he helplessly lobbed perfect pass after perfect pass in and out of his receivers’ dodgy hands. A woeful Chiefs defense allowed 541 yards but managed to give up just 28 points because the Chargers couldn’t finish drives. Ask San Diegans if they’ve seen that before.
There were even the patented Chargers special teams mishaps as they allowed a 91-yard punt return, fumbled their own punt return and new kicker Caleb Sturgis badly shanked a 48-yard field goal in a key spot. Sound familiar?
But forget the on-field screw-ups. Those could be at least excused as Week 1 mishaps that can be cleaned up. No, the true embarrassment on Sunday came in the stands, which were utterly packed with Chiefs fans.
On television the crowd looked to be 80 percent red and empty seats were visible. The Chargers announced a sellout of 25,351 but only a fool would believe that many people actually showed up. The photos and crowd shots were hilarious.
The Chargers now play in the nation’s second biggest market and they can’t find 25,531 of their own fans to pack a soccer stadium. Los Angeles County has a population of more than 10 million and Orange County’s population is more than three million, and somehow in that sea of people there aren’t 25,000 willing to wear Chargers jerseys on Sundays. It’s insane and is truly worse than any of us could have imagined.
I know some will reply to this (as they always do) that the stands were always packed with opposing fans when the team was in San Diego. While that did happen a few times, in each instance the Chargers were in the midst of a terrible season. When the team was competing, Qualcomm/Jack Murphy Stadium was always packed. And if a team as hyped as the current Chargers were in San Diego, that stadium would be sold out and would be 80/20 Chargers fans at the very least.
The bottom line is, the Chargers expected to retain their San Diego fans while automatically getting a ton of new fans just by moving to Los Angeles. The move has spectacularly backfired. Rather than “Fighting For LA” the Spanos family is “Failing in LA.”
Somehow the Chargers ownership group was too dumb to realize the team’s actual fans in San Diego would turn their backs on the franchise for ripping the team away. The Spanos clan is still puzzled as to why America’s Finest City hates them. They just don’t get it and likely never will. Their half-hearted attempts at reaching out to their former home have been soundly rebuffed each time.
As for Los Angeles, the city never asked for the Chargers, doesn’t want them and never will. Even if they win big they’ll always be seen as San Diego’s team. The Chargers are an unwanted invader in a market that has never cared about them. That’s as plain as day.
Just in case you think this is the rantings of a bitter San Diegan, trust me when I say everyone thinks the Chargers are an embarrassment. I’ll leave you with all the national voices who chimed in and ripped the franchise on Sunday. Enjoy:
The CBS national broadcast even got in on the fun during the first quarter: