Though not the most exciting, relevant, elite or meaningful matchup on the Week 7 menu, the 4:05 p.m. game between the 2-4 Chargers and the 2-4 Titans is a snapshot of two teams that experienced sudden, unexpected and oddly sad falls from grace.
Let’s start with the appetizer–the Tennessee Titans. They drafted the man who they thought was their quarterback of the future in Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft. They made the trendy move to a young coach, giving Mike Vrabel and his mustache their first shot at the head honcho gig in 2018 and a chance to build on the previous season’s divisional-round appearance (one that would not have occurred if not for an epic collapse by the Chiefs).
Instead, the Titans punted a Week 17 win-and-you’re-in game against the Colts, missed the playoffs and finished a third season in a row at 9-7 (making Jeff Fisher very proud). Now, Ryan Tannehill is the starter, Mariota’s expiring contract seems unlikely to be renewed at the end of the season, and the Titans will once again begin the search for the consistent option at quarterback they haven’t had since the late Steve McNair.
In 2018, the Chargers appeared primed to give Phillip Rivers one last shot at the big one after a scorching 12-4 regular season in a tough division and a tidy wild-card win against the Ravens. But once again, Rivers ran into Tom Brady (who is 3-0 against Rivers in the postseason) and watched him trample the Chargers’ defense to the tune of 41 points. With little offseason turnover or drama aside from the now-concluded Melvin Gordon holdout, the lifeless 2-4 start to 2019 makes little sense from a personnel standpoint. Injuries have sidelined some key pieces, sure, but shouldn’t this team be better?
It appears the weight of circumstance may finally be crushing the Chargers. A messy departure from San Diego moved the franchise back to Los Angeles in 2017 despite immense pushback from fans and some passionate grandstanding from Boltman. Their new digs turned out to be the StubHub Center, a soccer stadium that now serves as a vacation destination for fans of opposing teams. Hopes that fan attendance would improve were dashed this season, and that brutal fact was broadcast all over last week’s Monday Night Football game as Steelers fans forced Rivers to use a silent snap count AT HOME.
Rivers, now 37, is in his final years. Gordon is back but has said this will be his last season as a Charger. Top wideout Keenan Allen is in his prime but perpetually hobbled by injury. Fans aren’t showing up to the soccer pitch and don’t seem to care that home games no longer exist for their team. The window on the Rivers-led Chargers may have closed last January in Foxborough, and players and fans alike seem to know it. The loser of Sunday’s game will drop to 2-5, likely prompting a series of decisions that will end one of two “eras.”
Farewell, Dearest Brock
As all of you are acutely aware, we lost one of the brightest NFL stars of the last five years on Wednesday afternoon. Montana’s finest son Brock Osweiler announced his retirement from the NFL, marking the end of a distinguished seven-year NFL career highlighted by nursing the 2015 Broncos to a 5-2 record while Peyton Manning fused his body back together for one last Super Bowl run.
The Brocketship, who later touched down in Houston and Miami after being drafted by Denver in 2012, finished his career with a 15-15 record as a starter. He put up 7,418 passing yards, 37 touchdowns, 31 picks and a 78.0 quarterback rating. He finessed a $72 million contract out of the Texans and bolted after a disappointing year with $21 million in his pocket. The Browns threw Brockstar a $15 million contract the following year and promptly cut him before the season started (don’t worry, he collected every cent). He returned to Denver and went 0-4 before floating down to Miami the following year and filling the ever-important backup role behind Ryan Tannehill for a season before bowing out of the NFL $41 million richer.
What Brock-n-Roll lacked in longevity he made up for in memorability. He kept the Broncos afloat long enough for them to charge through the 2015 playoffs and curb-stomp the Panthers, even outdueling Tom Brady along the way. His ridiculous contracts, gorgeous interceptions, excellent nicknames and trouble with American tax codes made him a beloved NFL character in a league that tends to take itself far too seriously. It pains me to say this is our final Brocktober.
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WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Andrew Brandt on the NBA acting like the NFL in its dealings with China. … A disturbing lawsuit surfaces against Trent Brown. … Conor Orr with some buyers and sellers ahead of the NFL trade deadline, which is rapidly approaching.
1. Are Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill the same quarterback?
2. Mason Rudolph has (somehow) cleared the concussion protocol 10 days after being knocked out cold on the football field
3. Speaking of the Chargers, are you a fan of one of the NFL’s five unluckiest teams?
4. First they juiced the baseball. Now in the playoffs the baseballs…are without juice?
5. Apologies for sullying this football newsletter with an basketball article, but here’s a ranking of NBA teams from least to most entertaining
They let the intern make a song rec! Enjoy this lovely little tune and the accompanying visuals from talented Australian songstress Stella Donnelly.
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