Mathews said in an NFL Network interview the team grew "complacent" last season. Former head coach Norv Turner's ability -- or inability -- to motivate players was a common criticism in his six years at the helm in San Diego.
The Chargers struggled mightily in various facets throughout 2012, and few quite like the run game. San Diego ranked No. 27 in the National Football League with just 91.3 yards per game. Mathews gained 707 yards and scored only one touchdown.
Perhaps complacency impacted some Bolts more than others, but a priority in the organization's offseason of change must be removing any complacent attitudes from the locker room.
San Diego's season derailed over a three-game stretch that included blown fourth quarter leads against the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos, and a 7-6 debacle against the lowly Cleveland Browns.
The exasperating fashion in which the Chargers limped through its season-defining run effectively eliminated them from playoff contention, and helped seal Turner's fate. Perhaps complacency had not infiltrated San Diego's locker room in its losing streak, but a perception persisted. And as the saying goes, perception is reality.
Mathews' comments only add to the perception. Indeed, the franchise's new regime alluded to that very concept as well, when Mike McCoy was introduced as Turner's replacement in January.
"We're looking for a leader of men...and a coach who can motivate his players to play their best at the most critical times," new general manager Tom Telesco said at McCoy's introductory press conference.
Without specifying, Telesco made a clear statement addressing those "most critical times."
Closing leads in the fourth quarter proved problematic for the 2012 Chargers. In the aforementioned loss at New Orleans, San Diego was outscored 10-0 in the final period. But the next week's divisional defeat to Denver was a critical turning point for both.
If complacency was indeed a problem, the Oct. 15 game was the quintessential example. San Diego gave up a 24-0 halftime lead over the course of the second half, including a 21-0 fourth quarter.
McCoy was on the opposite sideline for the Chargers' Monday night meltdown. The Broncos rode that win to 10 more in succession and the playoffs, while San Diego's collective knees buckled.
Reversing the Chargers' fortune in McCoy's first season should hinge on reversing any complacency in the organization -- or at the very least, erasing the perception of complacency.
Kyle Kensing is a freelance sports journalist and blogger. He covers the University of Arizona for the Rivals.com network site GoAZCATS.com, and is the founder/managing editor of the college football site SaturdayBlitz.com. Follow Kyle on Twitter @kensing45.
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- San Diego Chargers
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- Ryan Mathews
- Norv Turner