Acee: Norv? A.J.? Philip? O-line deserves plenty of blame
By Kevin Acee
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
You can say you miss Marty Schottenheimer and want Jon Gruden.
Maybe you should miss Kris Dielman and want wholesale changes on the
offensive line even more.
Letís take a few minutes off from the Norval bashing and look deeper at
the reasons for the Chargersí failure.
Thatís what the teamís brass is doing, because unlike much of the rest
of the American football speaking world, the guy who owns the Chargers
has not made up his mind how much of the blame falls on Norv Turner and
how much falls on A.J. Smith and who is getting canned.
Itís safe to say Dean Spanos, whose opinion is the only one that
matters, still feels much as he did after last season ó that itís part
personnel (meaning Smith, the general manager) and part coaching.
I donít expect a decision soon on how much of either is responsible or
what to do about it.
That last sentence caused a good number of people ó those interested
only in Turner and/or Smith being terminated forthwith ó to stop
reading. But there has to be more to this problem and its solution.
In no way are the six guys who have played the snaps on the offensive
line the Chargersí only problem, but theyíre near the top of the list.
Youíve likely made up your mind about Turner and what an awful coach he
is, deciding the only thing he could motivate another human to do is
fall asleep. So this isnít an attempt to deflect blame.
And, hey, Philip Rivers is the one who got spooked by the Buccaneers
showing a blitz that never came, and it was he who after rolling right
while running away from that phantom rush threw the ball directly to
Bucsí cornerback Leonard Johnson.
Rivers has to stop being so error prone.
But the man has needed way too much bleach to clean the grass stains off
his uniform this season.
This offensive line might not be made of paper, but it is no better than
cellophane. That is entirely unacceptable considering the investment it
is protecting ó a QB pulling down an average of $15.3 million who
everyone in the league knows is the vane by which the Chargersí fortune
The Chargers are one of just four teams to rank in the top 10 in both
sacks and quarterback hurries allowed. The other three teams who are
allowing their QB to be pulverized have sub-.500 records too.
Among tackles on either side who have played at least 25 percent of
their teamís snaps, Pro Football Focus ranks the Chargersí two left
tackles among the leagueís 11 worst this season in pass blocking efficiency.
Mike Harris, in fact, is ranked last among the 69 tackles PFF grades.
Gaither ranks 59th. Right tackle Jeromey Clary is the star of the group,
Guards donít deal with as much space or speed as tackles, but the
Chargersí two inside guys are stellar when put up against their tackle
teammates. Right guard Louis Vasquez ranks 22nd among all guards who
have played at least 50 percent of their teamís snaps. Left guard
Tyronne Green ranks 33rd.
Green has allowed 14 quarterback pressures in 327 snaps. Dielman played
238 snaps before his season (and career) was ended in 2011. He allowed
Nick Hardwick ó for so long the man, the captain ó ranks as the NFLís
The left side of the line retiring suddenly is no oneís fault. Dielman
and Marcus McNeill had been to six Pro Bowls between them and would be
still playing if not for wise choices to preserve their brain and neck,
Defending the signing of left tackle Jared Gaither is easily done.
Gaither played superbly, even perfectly, if there could be such a thing
in football, for the five games he was a Charger in í11. He was by far
the top free agent at the position. He had to be signed.
But the results of the line as a whole canít be argued.
As far as coaching, neither Turner nor offensive line guru Hal Hunter
and his assistant Mike Sullivan forgot how to teach pass blocking.
I doubt Turner is here in 2013. If Spanos decides the offensive line
(not to mention Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal) are unforgivable gaffes,
Smith will be gone, too.
But whoever is running things better figure out what to do with at least
three of the spots on the line, or they wonít be here long either.