In the weeks and months leading up to the NFL season - heady days when Chargers flags flew from every car window and LaDainian Tomlinson was the first selection in every fantasy football draft - the word around San Diego was that we had the best team in the league, and that anything less than a Super Bowl trip would be a disappointment.
This week, in the aftermath of a 38-14 drubbing at the hands of the New England Patriots, that tune has changed. Sportwriters and posters on Chargers message boards say the season is doomed, mainly because the Chargers made a mistake in handing the team over from Marty Schottenheimer to Norv Turner.
In both their pre-season optimism and their current state of despair, Chargers fans are in serious need of an NFL reality check.
Any longtime NFL fan should have known that the pre-season “Super-Bowl-or-Bust” bluster from our local fanbase was lunacy. With the loaded schedule the Chargers will face this year, including matchups with both of last year’s Super Bowl teams, the Chargers’ first goal should have been to make the playoffs - they will have to play very well this year just to do that.
Perhaps the team’s sudden ascension in 2004 from the bottom of the AFC West to the top echelon of the league has distorted San Diegans’ concept of NFL success. It’s not easy to win the Super Bowl - far from it. In fact, any season in which an NFL team makes the playoffs should be considered a successful season. Any season in which an NFL team wins a game in the playoffs is an outstanding season.
So it says here that Norv Turner still has a chance to have an outstanding first season with the Chargers. Sunday night’s game was humbling to be sure, but let’s take a step back from the situation. The Chargers have played two of the best teams in the NFL, and they are 1-1. In the last two weeks they have faced the most dominating defense in recent NFL history and a team that has won three Super Bowls this decade, and they are 1-1.
Even the great Marty Schottenheimer might have looked upon this schedule when it was released, saw the Bears and the Patriots in the first two weeks, and thought to himself that a 1-1 start would be satisfactory.
The NFL season is a marathon. The next leg is at Lambeau Field, where the Chargers will face a Green Bay Packers team that looked great in its first two games. We can only hope that fans can maintain their grip on reality after the Chargers hand the Packers their first loss in convincing fashion.
One week at a time, folks. Let’s make the playoffs, then worry about winning the Super Bowl.