How miserable was 2012 for the San Diego Chargers?
Well, their loyal fans voiced their displeasure with the direction of the franchise by not selling out two of team's eight regular season home games.
They grew tired of former general manager AJ Smith's bullying tactics in running the organization, as he continually ran quality offensive talent out of town.
Gone were LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner, Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson in successive years without any noticeable slippage in their play.
After missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season, the Spanos family felt a change in the team's direction was necessary.
The Chargers hired an unlikely duo in Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy to try lead them back to prominence; both bring enthusiasm to their new positions. Finally, renewed hope has return to Qualcomm Stadium once again.
Here are six bold predictions for 2013:
Tom Telesco is a Hidden Gem
Tom Telesco knew rebuilding the San Diego Chargers wasn't going to be an easy task after accepting the general manager position, but he welcomed the challenge. His first obstacle was overcoming a lack of cap space needed to add new talent to a depleting roster.
Telesco quickly identified the offensive line as being the team's biggest weakness, but understood that new head coach Mike McCoy's offense didn't need a superior O-line to be successful. He felt a winning season was obtainable with the right mix of veteran and promising young players on the offensive line, but Telesco knew he had to act quickly if this unit was going to improve in 2013.
The free agent market was weak and too many teams ahead of the Chargers in the NFL Draft needed offensive linemen, but somehow, Telesco signed King Dunlap from the Philadelphia Eagles and drafted D.J. Fluker with his first-round selection.
Mike McCoy Will be Lauded as an Offensive Genius
The Spanos family selected Mike McCoy as the Chargers' new head coach largely because he has shown the ability to create an offense around the skills of his quarterback, and this year should be no different.
Philip Rivers is a classic dropback quarterback, yet the majority of his receivers are suited to play in a spread offense. McCoy has implemented a faster-paced offense that emphasizes quicker reads by the quarterback, which will increase his completion rate. Yes, there will be a learning curve, but McCoy understands that his offense must continually evolve all season for it to be successful.
2013 is Philip Rivers' Last Season in San Diego
Quarterback Philip Rivers will be under the microscope in 2013, as his passing statistics must improve or the Chargers may be forced to move him next offseason. His contract takes up too much salary cap space for a team that's looking to rebuild and has too many holes to fill.
Yes, Rivers still has the skills to make the necessary throws in the pocket, but he must better protect the football and cutdown the forced errors. Simply put, if Rivers plays well, then he'll stay in San Diego for the remainder of his career. If Rivers falters this season, then he'll be released or traded before the start of the 2014 season.
Malcom Floyd Will Struggle
Under former head coach Norv Turner, wide receiver Malcom Floyd flourished in the vertical offense that perfectly utilized his size and leaping ability. Unfortunately, this upcoming season will be struggle for him in Mike McCoy's spread offense. Floyd doesn't run precision pass routes, which is essential for any receiver playing in a spread offense. His one saving grace could be that Floyd can use his quickness to create separation off the line of scrimmage.
The Defensive Secondary is the Weakest Unit on the Roster
The defensive coaching staff will have their work cut out for them to overcome the collective inexperience found in the secondary, as this is clearly the weakest unit on the 2013 roster. The Chargers replaced three-quarters of last season's starting lineup, which struggled with man-to-man coverage all year long.
It forced defensive coordinator John Pagano to switch to zone coverage that cleverly masked their deficiencies. New starters Derek Cox and Shareece Wright aren't elite cornerbacks, but they have the speed necessary to play effective man-to-man coverage, and this will allow Pagano to implement more blitz schemes to create havoc in the pocket.
The Chargers Finally Have a Pass Rush
In years past, the Chargers weren't a classic pass-rushing defense that created enough firepower with their front four, as the use of the outside linebacker position was needed to effectively rush the quarterback. This year will be different as the defensive line will easily be the most improved unit on this year's roster.
Defensive end Corey Liuget has quietly blossomed into a four-down player, who has great lateral movement to create havoc from anywhere on the defensive front and his talent level will force opposing teams to use a double-team on him this season.
The key is for Kendall Reyes to show that he's more than a situational pass-rusher. He must quickly read all delay running plays and never leave the outside flat unprotected for large gains. Reyes' skill level is still raw, but he has the speed and strength to get around most NFL offensive tackles.