For me, the NFL offseason is one of the most fascinating yet annoyingly terrible parts of the year. Sure, Draft talk and free agency rumors can be interesting and exciting, but there are two things which completely ruin the months of February and March for me.
The first of those two things is groupthink. As soon as someone mocks a guy to a team, suggests a potential free agency agency signing or makes a claim about an impending free agent, Twitter and comment sections around the world seem to go into a frenzy. Most of the time, the first bold declaration made about an individual (by a member of a certain team’s fanbase) is the one that lasts, regardless of how the rest of the world, so to speak, feels about that guy.
I don’t know if there’s a specific name for Factor 2, but here’s what I’ll say. The second thing that really grinds my gears occurs when members of a fanbase consciously or unconsciously skew their perceptions of a player depending on whether or not they think he’ll re-sign with the team or leave in free agency. I’ll get into this idea more later on, but keep that in mind.
1. Melvin Ingram isn’t worth the money he’ll be paid
First of all, there’s really no telling how much Ingram will be paid. That being said, I understand the notion of Ingram being a guy who will probably sign a contract worth more than he’s actually worth. But here’s where I think people are wrong when it comes to Ingram’s value.
If we’re using Olivier Vernon’s contract as a template for paying Ingram, I really don’t see why the Chargers wouldn’t offer him what the Giants were willing to pay for their defensive end. Skeptics question Ingram’s ability to finish and call him one-dimensional, and while I originally wrote I think it’s fair to criticize him for those things, I’m just going to be honest and say I think it’s wild people have been so critical of the Chargers’ star edge defender.
Ingram has generated 18.5 sacks, 24 tackles for loss, 12 run stuffs, 11 passes defensed and seven forced fumbles over the past two seasons alone. Vernon, in comparison, generated 16 sacks, 27 tackles for loss, 16 run stuffs, zero passes defensed and five forced fumbles over that same time span.
While those stats are fairly similar in comparison, there are a few things I believe have gotten lost in translation. First of all, Ingram is not a one-dimensional player — those numbers over the past two seasons are a pretty fair indicator. Ingram can rush the passer, he can stop the run and he can even hold his own in coverage. 11 passes defensed aren’t something that should just be glanced over — in his two most recent 16-game seasons, J.J. Watt (otherwise nicknamed J.J. Swatt, for his ability to bat down passes) tallied 18 passes defensed. In other words, Ingram’s abilities in coverage have been severely undervalued. His numbers on the box score, and in advanced metrics, back that up.
Final thoughts: Ingram’s perceived inability to finish should be good news for Charger fans. On one hand, he’s a very consistent player. The linebacker recorded at least one sack in seven different games throughout the 2016 season. In 2015, he had eight games with one or more sacks. Ingram isn’t a guy who’s going to have that Khalil Mack against the Broncos game, tallying five sacks and setting the internet on fire with his performance. Rather, Ingram is a guy who gets production week in and week out, one step at a time. On the other hand, Ingram still hasn’t hit his ceiling. Should he learn to finish under Los Angeles’ new coaching regime, the Chargers could boast a ferocious pass rush and what would easily become one of the NFL’s best defenses.
2. The Chargers have a staff that [fill in the blank].
There’s really not a lot to know about Los Angeles’ staff at this point. The Chargers top coaches — head coach Anthony Lynn and his two coordinators — have given fans some insight into how things are going to be run next season, but what they’ve said is still pretty vague. Right now, we know Ken Whisenhunt will run the same offensive scheme as he did last year, and we know Gus Bradley’s defense will be similar to those run in Seattle, Atlanta and Jacksonville, where single-high coverages have been prevalent.
It’s too early to make assumptions about this coaching staff. Some have assumed that the team’s new coaches “aren’t capable of coaching up weaknesses,” that Lynn’s in-your-face coaching style will be better for his team than that of his predecessor, Mike McCoy, and/or that a change in training staff will have a noticeable impact on the team’s health in the upcoming season. In all reality, all there is to know at this current moment is that, like the coaching philosophies mentioned earlier, some things will be similar in the upcoming season, and some things will be different.
3. The Chargers won’t sell out StubHub Center.
In an incredibly unexciting season, the average attendance in the Chargers’ final season at Qualcomm Stadium was over 57,000. The StubHub Center seats just about half of that. Sure, ticket prices might go up before the season, but if things go south, so will ticket prices. Tickets to Rams home games could be had last year for about $25.
(It would take an impressive feat of incompetence for the Chargers not to sell out every game next season.)
4. San Diego doesn’t have it that bad.
I now realize I’m getting further away from football, but I really don’t care. After the Chargers left San Diego and the Falcons lost in the Super Bowl, NFL pundits began talking about how Atlanta fans have gotten the short end of the stick. San Diego hasn’t ever won a title in any professional sport, and the city’s most successful team just bolted for greener pastures.
The fact that San Diego doesn’t even get mentioned as one of the most tortured cities in sports is asinine — America’s Finest City is the most tortured city in sports.
San Diego is one of the United States’ 10 most populous cities, and it now has one professional sports team (sorry, Gulls — minor league hockey doesn’t count). And even that team, the Padres (no offense) is miserable. Atlanta has five pro sports teams and got to see the Falcons participate in the Super Bowl this year. Get out of here with that “San Diego doesn’t have it that bad” talk.
5. The Chargers are in “rebuild mode.”
Every fanbase (maybe minus those of the Browns and Bills, plus a select few) believes its team has legitimate Super Bowl aspirations on a year-to-year basis.
San Diego Los Angeles fans should be no different. With a franchise quarterback, talent on both sides of the ball and a coaching staff which, at the very least, hasn’t proven incompetent yet, this team should have its eyes on the playoffs. It’s cliché to talk about how losing teams were in so many close games, because blowing close games is what makes losing teams losing teams, but I don’t care. This is a team that, without multiple top players, stuck in almost every game last season and even managed to upset a couple of quality teams. With a great position in the Draft and solid results from the early rounds of recent Drafts, the Chargers only feel a couple of moves away from playing football in late January.