It was not that long ago that the San Diego Chargers were an NFL staple in terms of the playoffs.
Unfortunately, for Chargers fans, staples can be removed.
After winning the AFC West four straight seasons from 2006-09, the last three of those titles under the guidance of head coach Norv Turner, the Bolts have finished 9-7, 8-8 and 7-9, respectively, in each of the last three years and have failed to get back to the postseason.
See a pattern?
Now it's former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to the rescue in terms of the head coaching job. And the task of turning around this team may or may not easy.
Still, the San Diego Chargers will reach the playoffs for the first time since 2009…
If: Quarterback Philip Rivers gets back to looking like the player we knew prior to the last two seasons. Although the former Pro Bowler has thrown a combined 53 touchdown passes over his last 32 games, the Chargers' signal-caller has committed 47 of the club's 54 turnovers over that span. That includes the disappointing 2012 season, when Rivers was guilty of 22 of the team's 26 miscues. All told, the Bolts have turned over the football at least twice in 18 of their last 32 contests.
And: The San Diego defense becomes a force. In 2010, the Bolts gave up the fewest total yards in the league, ranking fourth in the league in rushing defense and first against the pass. One year later, those numbers dipped to 16th overall and a disappointing 20th vs. the run. But 2012 proved to be a rebound season as only five teams gave up fewer rushing yards than the Chargers. Combine that with 38 sacks and the team's 28 takeaways and, for the most part, John Pagano's defense did its best despite the offense's shortcomings.
But: Have the Denver Broncos put too much distance between them, the Chargers and the rest of the division? In 2011, the Broncos, Bolts and Raiders all finished 8-8 and the Chiefs were 7-9. A season ago, Denver won 13 games, as many as San Diego (7), Oakland (4) and Kansas City (2) combined. And consider that Rivers and the Bolts have now lost three straight to the Broncos, a team they had defeated in nine of the previous 11 meetings dating back to 2006.
So what do you think? There's a new regime in San Diego and this is still a team with some talented pieces. But it's also a club that's been on a downward spiral as of late and it will be interesting to see how long it will take the Bolts to recapture that winning spirit. Is it time for a comeback, or will the Chargers' recent slide simply continue?
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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