Wild Card Weekend 2023 has been fantastic. We’ve seen showstopping plays, road teams upsetting higher seeds, and multiple close finishes.
The closest finish had to be the Jaguars pulling out a 31-30 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in Jacksonville on Saturday night. It was the third-largest playoff come-from-behind win in NFL history. At halftime, the Chargers were leading 27-7. Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence had thrown four interceptions in the first half. Everything had aligned for the Chargers to shed their January traumas and move onto a match-up with Kansas City in Arrowhead Stadium.
Unfortunately, the team blew a 20-point lead, and now we’re sitting here wondering what’s next for this franchise. Young hotshot quarterback Justin Herbert has demonstrated prolific statistical success, but fans aren’t sure about the team and its direction. Let’s look at what’s in front of the Chargers on their way out of the playoffs.
Brandon Staley’s Epic Collapse
Head coach Brandon Staley is squarely in view after the epic collapse on Saturday. Fans and football commentators have issues with his management of the team and his playcalling.
The Chargers only got three points from four offensive possessions in the second half. Austin Ekeler only had 13 carries all game. Given the 20-point lead, it was a surprise that the Chargers didn’t run the ball more with such a huge lead.
They also didn’t have starting receiver Mike Williams. He had reaggravated a back injury in the Chargers’ Week 18 game against the Denver Broncos. The Week 18 game against the Broncos had zero playoff implications – the Chargers locked in as the number five seed in the AFC. Staley let one of his starting wide receivers get injured in a regular season game that did not affect playoff seeding.
The rumblings are that Staley MUST go for how he’s handled the team to this point. There are rumors that Sean Payton is interested in the role to coach Justin Herbert in a long, successful career. We’ll wait until it’s official, but I can’t see how you bring Staley back after this exit.
Roster Situation Heading Into Offseason
The team was built to peak this year. The Chargers’ front office has free-agent decisions to make on more than 20 players on the roster. They are currently over the cap by $9.6 million, so they will have to shed players.
The Chargers will have seven draft picks with which to improve the team. Their focus is to build around Herbert, who is a high-volume thrower. If they can give him a couple of big end-zone targets, his high-volume throwing will generate more points than it has over the last couple of seasons.
The Chargers will also need to improve their running defense in the off-season. They had one of the worst yards-per-carry averages in the NFL in 2022.
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