One of our favorite times of the week is when we get to virtually sit down with the blogger of our opponent, and pick their brain to get some insight for the upcoming game. John Gennaro of Bolts From the Blue was gracious enough to drop some knowledge on the WCG readership, and we really appreciate his time. They will be posting their version of 5Qs later on.
1- When I think about the Chargers front office, the first name that comes to mind is obviously General Manager AJ Smith. Smith has made a ton of headlines throughout the years, and not always for good reasons. The you've got owner Alex Spanos and his son/ team President Dean Spanos, who surprisingly fired head coach Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season in 2006. Can you tell us about the fanbase's opinion of the Chargers front office, and the direction they are taking the team?
John: Nobody is real high on the front office right now, not even the front office. A few bad drafts and trades has left this team in the shape it's in, untalented and low on depth, and they're aware of that. Fans are split, but more and more are becoming disgruntled as the memory of those 2004-2006 drafts starts to fade. If AJ is here for the 2012 draft, he'll need a good one to keep his spot here.
Also, as far as the Marty firing...nobody ever mentions that Marty basically got himself fired. AJ wanted to hire Ted Cottrell as the DC and Marty wanted to hire his brother (Kurt Schottenheimer, who is currently Marty's Special Teams coach in the UFL). AJ and the Spanos' saw the move for what it was, Marty choosing blood over talent and experience, and tried to convince Schotty to calm down. He didn't and forced their hand.
2- The Chargers started out the season winning four of their first five games. After the Bye week, they've lost four in a row, but have been competitive in each of their losses. Do you see the Chargers as being closer to that 4-1 team, or are they more realistically that 0-4 team?
John: They're more realistically the 0-4 team, but a big reason is injuries. Kris Dielman and Shaun Phillips missing the last 3 games (and they'll miss the Bears game as well) takes away arguably the most important player on both sides of the ball for San Diego. They just don't have enough talent to compete with any team that's not a bottom-feeder right now.
3- What are the biggest areas of concern for the Chargers this year, and how could the Bears take advantage?
John: The defense has been awful. There's no pass-rush (which makes the secondary look pretty poor) and the tackling is atrocious (making the run defense almost nonexistent). Forte will have big plays and Cutler will have all day to find open receivers downfield. They've also allowed lots of rushing yards to QBs, as their pass-rushers have no moves except to try and speed-rush around the outside, leaving big holes in the middle of the defense for athletic QBs to pick up big yards.
4- The Chargers have some very well-known players on their roster, but who are some guys that make significant impacts that fly under the radar?
John: Vincent Brown has played well in place of Malcom Floyd and could have another big day at WR against Chicago. Dielman and Phillips, as previously mentioned, are incredibly important. Eric Weddle (who got some recognition after getting big money in the offseason) is a fantastic defensive player, and Donald Butler (playing his first season after losing his rookie season to a torn Achilles) has played very well at ILB when Takeo Spikes is next to him.
5- Last year, San Diego had a pretty tough experience in the Special Teams department, to say the least. Why were you guys so bad last season, and how have things shaped up so far in 2011?
John: The lack of depth on the team really started to show in the Special Teams last season, but a lot of it was also that long-time Special Teams Coach Steve Crosby was being somewhat tuned out by the players he was coaching. He became the scapegoat and was fired at the end of the season, replaced by Rich Bisaccia from Tampa Bay (largely regarded as one of, if not the, best ST coaches in the game) and his fiery demeanor. If you look at the Chargers draft, it was focused heavily on getting guys that can help ST now and can be molded into every-down players in the future. Special Teams is slightly more talented than it was last season.
Outside of the initial goof, a kick return TD on the first play of the first game by Percy Harvin, Special Teams has been fantastic. Mike Scifres is the best punter in football, and Nick Novak (filling in for Nate Kaeding, who was injured on the Harvin return) has been one of the best kickers in football. Coverage has been above-average and seems to get better each week. There's some question as to whether Bisaccia has the guts to punt to Devin Hester, but if he does it won't be the shoot 'em up that Hester could've faced in 2010.
Bonus Question: What are your thoughts about the NFL possibly going back to Los Angeles?
It needs to happen and there's a ton of reasons that the Chargers make sense as the team to move. However, as a fan, I hope that one of the other teams in question move there instead. San Diego at least gets more support for their team than the Jacksonville Jaguars most of the time, and having a southern-california rivalry would be a lot of fun.
John, great insight... We really appreciate your time!