Chargers vs. Jets: Victory Is Potentially Damaging to San Diego's Future

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystDecember 24, 2012

Danario Alexander is one of the few bright spots for San Diego.
Danario Alexander is one of the few bright spots for San Diego.Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The best thing for the San Diego Chargers would be to lose and get better draft position, but on Sunday against the hapless New York Jets that was impossible. The two teams combined for only 448 yards of offense. Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs had more rushing yards on Sunday than either team.

San Diego’s offense was typically bad with the usual sprinkling of big plays, but the defense sacked Greg McElroy 11 times. That’s shocking because the Chargers have hardly been sack masters this season—they entered the game 23rd in sacks and 27th in sack percentage.

The Chargers were lucky (or unlucky) enough to play a bad team with a quarterback making his first career start. The Jets have a terrible quarterback situation and McElroy was basically thrown to the wolves on Sunday. The Chargers simply couldn’t help themselves.

It was a sack parade as rookie defensive end Kendall Reyes had three-and-a-half sacks, Shaun Phillps had two-and-a-half sacks, Corey Liuget had two sacks, Larry English had a sack, Donald Butler had a sack, Melvin Ingram and Brandon Taylor each had a half sack.  

Taylor is a rookie and he was making his first start, but he was carted off the field in the third quarter and, according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego, has torn right ACL. Taylor was a third-round draft pick and viewed as the Chargers’ future at strong safety. He’ll now have a lengthy offseason of rehabilitation to try and be ready for the 2013 season.

The injury to Taylor is potentially damaging to San Diego’s future, but so was the meaningless win. The Chargers are now projected to draft 10th in the 2013 NFL Draft. The win dropped the Chargers below the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals.

According to the draft pick trade value chart, San Diego’s win over the Jets was roughly equivalent to the value of a mid to late second-round pick. That’s a lot of value in each round to be lost for meaningless win. Norv Turner could have given the Chargers a parting gift, but instead his team is winning meaningless games and hurting the team’s future.  

The Chargers could improve their draft position with a loss next week to the Raiders, but could significantly hurt their stock with a victory. The Raiders aren’t exactly a good team and the Chargers could very well get their seventh win. It’s not that the first round is significantly top heavy and the Chargers would be missing out on an elite player, it’s that each subsequent pick would also be that much lower.

The players should play hard and try to win and fans should cheer for their team to win, but winning meaningless games is having a damaging effect on the Chargers more than most teams. The coaching staff could at least play as many young players as possible which not only increases the likelihood of losing, but gives a new regime some game tape of their young talent in a game scenario.

The Chargers could use draft picks to put players around Philip Rivers, Danario Alexander and Antonio Gates. Rivers hooked up with Alexander for a 37-yard touchdown and Gates for a 34-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Gates surpassed Lance Alworth for receiving touchdowns in franchise history with the catch and is roughly three seasons away from passing Alworth for the most receiving yards.

Outside of the two big touchdown passes, San Diego’s offense was quiet. Rivers completed nine other passes for 94 yards. Jackie Battle, Ronnie Brown and Curtis Brinkley combined to rush 25 times for 83 yards with a long of just nine yards.

The only other explosive plays on the day came by way of punt return. Micheal Spurlock had a 63-yard punt return touchdown on the fifth play of the game after the Jets went three-and-out. Spurlock added another return of 21 yards in the third quarter and finished with four punt returns for 107 yards and a touchdown.