The Los Angeles Chargers and their fans have been waiting for a Lombardi trophy during their entire existence. They did win an AFL Championship back in 1963 and made it to a Super Bowl back in 1994 (only to meet Steve Young). Now, they’ve been playing with arguably the best quarterback in the team’s existence in Philip Rivers and have yet to win the AFC in that time. Many fans probably feel like the team should have gone back in the late 2000’s when they had LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates in his prime, and a play-making defense.
After wasting all that talent, one could be forgiven for thinking that he might not get another chance. But now we’re in the late 2010’s. Now the Chargers are suddenly a top AFC team again, coming off a 12-4 season. The only problem is: this Super Bowl window is likely to be a short one as well. If you include the two seasons where the Chargers were a top AFC team with Drew Brees, their last Super Bowl window lasted from about 2004-2010. This one could be more along the lines of 2018-2020 or 2021.
Los Angeles Chargers Super Bowl Window Open, but Not for Long
An Aging Quarterback
Rivers is still playing at the top of his game. He’s actually coming off one of the best seasons of his career, throwing 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. However, he’s not getting any young either. He is currently 37 and will turn 38 in December. This means he likely has only two or three good years left in him. Given what we’ve seen from Tom Brady at age 41 and what we could see from Brees at age 40, it’s possible the age threshold for quarterbacks is starting to shift a little – so long as they don’t take too many hits like the quarterbacks of old used to. It’s not impossible that Rivers could last longer, given that he’s never missed a game – but that is *not* something the team should count on.
With that in mind, the Chargers definitely need to have a “Super Bowl or bust” mindset over the next couple of years. They seem to know this, but it needs to be stressed anyway. While on one hand, they’ve got a lot of solid young defensive players that could help keep the rebuilding period short after Rivers retires, they may still not have an opportunity as good as this for a while – given that right now, they have a top five quarterback, a top ten running back (Melvin Gordon) and a top ten wide receiver (Keenan Allen).
Could 2019 Be the Year?
As previously noted, the Chargers have established themselves as a top threat in the AFC right now. They finished last year tied for the best record in the AFC at 12-4 with their division rivals the Kansas City Chiefs. Their season ended disappointingly against the New England Patriots when they decided to stubborn play an ill-advised zone defense against that opponent. What could be different this year for the team?
Well, to be fair, not a ton. One of the biggest factors is going to be the return of Hunter Henry, who missed all of last season (save for the Patriots game, where he was still too limited to be a factor). Another factor will be the fact that Derwin James isn’t a rookie anymore – which doesn’t bode well for opposing offenses, given how stellar of a rookie year he had. But between him, Adrian Phillips, and newly drafted Nasir Adderley, they’ve got a pretty deadly safety lineup. They also brought in Thomas Davis; and though he is aging as well, he can hopefully be a point of stability and leadership for the linebacker corps, which had probably been the weakest part of the defense.
This is still quite a strong, well-rounded roster. There’s at least one current or recent Pro Bowler or a potential Pro Bowler in almost every area of the roster. The linebacker corps is really the only area that’s still a little shaky in that regard. There are also questions about who the cornerback opposite Casey Hayward will be. But there’s little reason to not expect this team to have another stellar season. If they face the Patriots again in the playoffs, Gus Bradley will have to create a better defensive game plan.
To answer the question: yes, this could be the year. But the core players need to stay healthy. That means Rivers, Gordon, Allen, Mike Williams, Henry, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, James, Phillips, and Hayward. If this happens, the Chargers would find the route through the playoffs a bit easier.
Last Word on the Chargers Super Bowl Window
The Chargers have as good an opportunity as any over the next two or three years to win the Super Bowl. But then that may be it for a while unless they get lucky with another future top ten quarterback in the mix. As well as Rivers has played for the Chargers during his career, he deserves a Super Bowl ring. So the team as a whole needs to make it happen.
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