Friday, January 3, 2014

NFL Playoffs: Has Ron Jaworski Replaced Eli Manning as the Guy San Diego Charger Fans Most Love to Hate?

ESPN blowhard Ron "Jaws" Jaworski
Rumor has it that, right about now, an impassioned group of San Diego Charger fans have gathered up their torches and pitchforks and are headed to ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski's New Jersey home for a friendly little confab. Jaworski, the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who now offers loud, long-winded and sometimes painfully off-the-mark takes on the National Football League, has made a proper fool of himself this week in his hyperbolic and disrespectful analysis of the Chargers, who play the Cincinnati Bengals in a first-round playoff game on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

No big surprise, really. Since last summer, Jaworski, whose nickname appropriately is “Jaws” - he never knows when to shut his mouth - has consistently dismissed the Chargers and their five-time Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers. Jaworski said in July that Rivers was the 17th best QB in the league, and this morning he twisted the dagger in the Charger nation's back by saying that Sunday's game will be turnover-prone Cincy quarterback Andy Dalton's "coming out party.”


Philip Rivers (right) and Andy Dalton - AP/Denis Poroy
Jaworski went on to say today that the Chargers-Bengals game would "not be close" and that Cincinnati would win "in a rout." Jaworski, who also absurdly once said that Chargers' legendary Hall of Famer Dan Fouts will never be considered a great quarterback, made no mention today of Rivers in his game preview. Not a word. 


Jaworski didn't acknowledge how wrong he was about the San Diego quarterback last summer, or the fact that what Rivers accomplished this year at the quarterback position was only bettered by the Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning, who had far more weapons, a better offensive line, and a better defense. Rivers is of course having a phenomenal year and is, by any measure, a better player than Dalton, who threw 20 interceptions this year compared to Rivers’ 11. 

It's one thing to predict the game's outcome. But in his one-sided prediction, Jaworski rightly praised the Bengals’ defense but inexplicably said nothing about what the Bolts have done offensively. He ignored not only Rivers' stellar year, but also the fact that Chargers' running back Ryan Mathews has had a dominant season and finished second in the AFC in rushing with 1,254 yards. Only Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs was better.

Jaworski obviously knows he was wrong about Rivers but evidently doesn't have the maturity to admit it on the air. Like a spoiled child who did something stupid but won't own up, he's clearly grown a gnarly chip on his shoulder about San Diego. Which begs the question: Has Jaworski now replaced Eli Manning as the person Charger fans most love to hate?


Ron "Jaws" Jaworski stopping pain cold
Jaworski, a pretty good player in his day and a onetime Pro Bowler (1980) whose career numbers aren't nearly as impressive as Rivers, fails to understand that Rivers played last year and the year before behind arguably the worst pass-blocking offensive line in the NFL -- and still managed to throw 26 TD passes vs. just 15 interceptions. This year he threw 32 TD passes and just 11 pics.

Rivers was pressured every single snap the last two years. He had absolutely no time to work in the pocket. He was rattled. It was tough to watch. And yet former Chargers coach Norv Turner inexplicably kept trying to throw the deep passes. 

Astute football analysts like ESPN's Trent Dilfer know that Rivers has always been better than the 17th best QB in the league. This season, he lost both Danario Alexander and Malcolm Floyd, his two starting wide receivers, at the beginning of the season, but new Chargers Coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Mike Whisenhunt changed the scheme just enough and the O line improved just enough to allow him to do his thing and return to his elite, Pro Bowl form.

Seeing the effort the team was making to upgrade the O line, I predicted this would happen back in July. Here's the thing: You just don’t go from allegedly 17th to second best QB in the NFL in one season after playing in the league this long. Rivers didn’t get that much better in one season, he already was that good. It is a team sport. 

Rivers "improved" because his line is actually blocking for him now and he's working in a smarter offensive scheme that stresses crossing patterns and other quick routes than don’t require as much time to develop. Philip’s accuracy this year is off the charts. He leads the NFL with a nearly 70 percent completion percentage. 

And despite what Jaworski and some other shallow pundits have suggested, Rivers was not that bad last year. Bad QBs don’t throw 26 TD passes and just 15 pics. Yep, he fumbled too many times, thanks to the constant pressure. But he still managed to play pretty well on a what was a pretty bad team.

To compare, look at Eli Manning this year. Eli, a two-time Super Bowl winner, was on a pretty bad Giants team this year and his numbers were far worse than Rivers has ever put up. This year, Eli had 18 TD passes and TWENTY SEVEN interceptions. Are you kidding me? Now THAT is a bad year for a quarterback.

I never said that the Chargers will absolutely win on Sunday. It will be a tough game, probably in the snow. The Bengals have arguably the best wide receiver in the league right now in A.J. Green. And they have a solid defense, perhaps the league’s best. But Jaworski needs to either shut up or pay Rivers and the Chargers the respect they've earned this year.

15 comments:

  1. Jamie:

    First of all, I wish you and the whole Reno clad a very great 2014. You are correct in your assessment that Jaworski is an idiot. Any intelligent fan of the game would never disrespect Rivers and the Chargers. As a hard-core New England Patriots fan, I can tell you that I fear the Chargers more than any playoff team in the AFL, including the Denver Broncos. The Chargers always give the Patriots a very hard time. Personally, I would put Rivers around the 3rd or 4th ranked quarterback in the NFL. Like New England, the Chargers are also beat up this year, yet both teams seem to find a way to win without all the pieces they need. To me, that's the mark of a great quarterback. Even an average quarterback can win if he has a complete, healthy team. The real test is to win when you're busted up. Bottom line is this: I have so much respect for this team that I hope my team can somehow avoid them in the playoffs.

    Regards,

    John Cook

    ReplyDelete
  2. I still have the ESPN magazine from 1998 when the cover story was about the draft and who was going to be the better quarterback, Manning or Leaf. Jaworski argued Leaf had a much better future ahead of him. Maybe he's still mad at the Chargers for making him look like a buffoon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. very good point, ralph. the truth is, jaworski has looked like a buffoon so many times, it's hard to know for sure.

      Delete
  3. I remember the last time Chargers beat New England. A warm September day 2005 in Foxboro. Drew Brees was at the helm and I personally witnessed SD putting up 30+ points and was surprised to see Tomlinson completely run over Richard Seymour. The game was such a blowout, everybody in Gillette yelled to have the Red Sox game aired on the jumbo-tron...by the 4th Quarter everyone was watching the playoff off Sox game against the White Sox. Meanwhile, they gave the garbage runs to Michael Turner and he was punishing people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for that memory, anonymous. I clearly blocked that game out after San Diego lost a couple of years later to the Pats in the AFC Championship game. That begs the question: why do painful memories in football sometimes linger more than the good ones?

      Delete
    2. Scratch that, it was 10/2/2005.

      Delete
    3. Yes, it was an epic win for Marty Schottenheimer's Chargers and Drew Brees. I of course remember it well. But the Chargers unfortunately lost two much more important games to the Patriots. The first came the following year in a divisional playoff game, and the next one was the next year in the AFC Championship game. If San Diego wins on Sunday - and that is a big "if" - another playoff date with new England becomes a real possibility.

      Delete
    4. Beat them 30-10 in 08. That was when they had Cassel though.

      Delete
  4. I Hope Da Chagas win on Sunday Baby!! We got this! If we lose though I won't be that upset because we shouldn't even be in the playoffs imo

    ReplyDelete
  5. completely disagree. the chargers deserve to be there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the playoff win against the bengals proved that.

      Delete
  6. if you get a miracle like that to get into the playoffs with less than a 1% chance and a missed field goal, you are meant to be in the playoffs. GO CHARGERS!!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jamie:

    Congratulations. The talking heads have no idea what they're talking about when they talk about the Chargers. A very well played game. The defense stepped up when they had to and that's the whole idea of being a team. This is why I don't want them playing my Patriots, even in the Patriots' house. After all, they took the Bengals apart in the Bengals house. There was no miracle today, just good, hard football. Hey, this is why we play the game.

    john

    ReplyDelete
  8. As bad as Jaws is, Eli is still the one I love to hate.

    ReplyDelete