Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I No Comprende' English...Ello, Apr. 28th

Every Sunday for the past several Autumns, I have gone to church.

No, not the church that frowns upon gays and lesbians...or pre-marital sex and adultery (when it's convenient)...and not the church where whatever sins you do feel like committing will be forgiven with a kneel and an excuse.

I've never gone to that church and never will.

I've gone to the church where failures simply are not tolerated and sins can never be forgiven. The church of the bottom line -- wins and losses.

The Church of A.J. Smith.

I haven't really gone to pray...or to ask forgiveness because I missed a game while out shopping with the wife...or even to complain. Mostly I've just attended with reverence for the General Manager of the San Diego Chargers -- the master of the draft, the all-knowing definer of football talent, the Messiah of trades and free agent pickups.

Gotta say, though, after what transpired this past weekend, I'm starting to lose faith.

Do you understand why the Chargers would use their first-round draft choice to select a player who plays a position that the team is already loaded at? Because I sure don't.

Before the draft ever began I said that no team in the NFL would improve during this off-season as much as the Chargers would...regardless of who was drafted, traded or signed. That's because the Bolts will be adding the most disruptive defensive player on the planet to their roster for 2009.

Supposedly fully recovered from the knee injury that cost him just about all of last season, Shawne Merriman's presence immediately turns the Chargers into Super Bowl contenders. Lined up with bookend pass rusher Shawn Phillips on the other side of the line, San Diego will be able to bring more heat that a mid-April afternoon in Jamul (see last week's weather report for confirmation).

With the pass rush back in order, the last thing San Diego needed was another pass rusher. But in drafting outside linebacker Larry English out of Northern Illinois, that's exactly what the Chargers got.

Of course, the the world's wimpiest media -- located here in America's Finest City if you weren't sure -- could not contain itself after the first-round selection, practically doing cart-wheels and firing off bottle rockets to salute the Chargers (formerly brilliant) front office.

To me, the selection makes absolutely no sense. In fact, it looks a whole lot like what the (confused) Padres did with their first selection in last summer's Major League Baseball draft. Despite the fact that their best player (Adrian Gonzalez) is a first baseman, and their top prospect (Kyle Blanks) is a first baseman, the Padres drafted -- a first baseman.

What the hell??? I was banging my head into a wall after that pick, and now I've bloodied my forehead again after the Chargers unexplainable decision.

Not that they haven't tried to explain it. Said Director of Player Personnel Jimmy Raye (who?): "You can never have enough good football players, especially trying to put heat on the quarterback."

Oh yeah? Well I guess you could have 11 great players putting pressure on the quarterback if you wanted to...but it's not going to do you much good if there's nobody back there behind them to cover receivers. And frankly -- even with only three guys rushing -- we already know that the Chargers can't cover receivers.

Said Head Coach Norv Turner: "We felt a real urgency to create situations where we can put more pressure on the quarterback and obviously getting Shawne Merriman back will help us greatly there, but adding a rusher we thought would certainly help us."

Genius!! You mean the Chargers felt that getting Merriman back would greatly help them? But that adding (another) rusher would certainly help them?

Who was doing this draft? Matt Millen? "Yes...we felt that if we could stockpile top wide receivers in the draft for about a decade, our passing game would be unstoppable....Offensive linemen? Quarterbacks? Well, yes, but we do have a bunch of great receivers."

Look, perhaps Larry English will turn out to be a great player. I hope he does. But even if he does, this first-round pick still makes no sense.

Of course, some would say that English will make for a great insurance policy if Merriman is not healthy...or if Merriman is let go after his contract runs out next season.

Maybe so. But I say that Merriman will be back, and with him back, Phillips will regain his mojo on the other side. And if that happens, how exactly is English going to contribute this season?

Other teams may feel like they have the luxury to let a first-round pick rot on the bench for a season and learn. But when you're the Chargers, and your window to the Super Bowl is quickly closing, you need to add a player who can help you now.

And I don't think there's much argument that the Chargers have plenty of holes that need repair -- inside linebacker, defensive end, safety, offensive line just to name a few.

Pass-rushing outside linebacker, to me, did not seem to be that desperate of a need. Of course, the Chargers (who think they know everything) think differently.

I guess I just don't understand English.

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