One of the all-time greatest NFL teams didn’t even make the playoffs | Dorktown


– Welcome back to Dorktown, I am Jon and this is Alex, and we
have come back for a very, very special reason,
and that reason is that Alex told me about a football team that we absolutely have to talk about. Alex, what is that football team? – This is the San Diego Chargers of 2010. – Right. And on paper, these Chargers were likely one of the best NFL
teams of the Super Bowl era, of all time. – Take it back to 1920. NFL history. – And yet this team did
not win the Super Bowl, didn’t make the Super Bowl,
didn’t win a playoff game, didn’t make the playoffs. This team missed the playoffs entirely. Alex, how is this possible? – They were a team. This
is a story that is just absolutely tailor made for dorks like us. (energetic synth music playing) – First, the offense. There
was everything to like about the 2010 Chargers offense. It was led by Philip Rivers,
an absolute goofus-maloofus who has never received all
the credit he’s deserved. In 2010, he finished his
3rd straight full season with a passer rating
above 100, and to this day Rivers, along with Steve
Young and Peyton Manning, are the only three quarterbacks
to ever pull that off. His favorite target was Antonio Gates, once a star basketball player
who had landed on the Chargers without ever playing a single
game of college football. It was fitting that a guy
with such unconventional origins would help to upend
the convents of his position. Along with Tony Gonzalez, Jason
Witten and Shannon Sharpe, Gates established his tight
end position as a very serious scoring and receiving threat. In white, you see all the
tight ends who are still active players today, following the trend Gates helped to establish. By the way, as of the making of this
video, Gates himself still isn’t technically retired. Although Gates led the team
with ten receiving touchdowns, he missed six games due to injuries. In fact, Rivers receiving
targets were constantly getting hurt. Malcom Floyd was hobbled, Vincent Jackson was hobbled,
and suspended and holding out. In any case, missed a lot of the season. But Rivers made due with who he had, and he ended up assembling
the second best passing attack in the NFL, completely out of spare parts. And when balanced with a
respectable ground game, featuring stud rookie Ryan Mathews, and the perfectly spherical Mike Tolbert, this made for the NFLs number one offense. By this, we mean that their
offense gained more yardage than any other offense in the league. More than the Colts,
Saints, Patriots. Anybody. So how does a team with the
best offense in football miss the playoffs? Their defense must’ve
been really bad, right? – [Alex] And especially
after coming off a relatively middling defensive
performance in Ron Rivera’s first full season coordinating the unit. But, led by pro bowl pass
rusher Shaun Philips, and a secondary featuring
quarterbacks Quentin Jammer and first-year starter Antoine Cason, along with safety Eric
Weddle, the 2010 Chargers’ D managed to put it all together. They allowed the fewest passing yards and the 4th fewest rushing
yards in the entire league. Add it all up, and they
had the very top ranked total defense. So with their league-best ability in both racking up yardage and
preventing their opponent from doing so, a massive
chasm forms in the difference between those two figures. Overall, their offense gained
nearly 2,000 more yards than their defense allowed. No one else that season
was even in the same solar system. Generally speaking, and as
we’ll underscore more in a bit, there’s a pretty strong
correlation between this metric and winning ball games. And when that hasn’t
translated, the turnover battle’s nearly always been the culprit. And in that department,
the Chargers were a minus six. Certainly suboptimal,
but nowhere bad enough to reconcile such overall dominance with whiffing on the
post-season all together. After all, the Colts and
Saints were down here too, and they both cruised to the playoffs. (upbeat music) – So, the Chargers had
the number one offense, the Chargers had the number one defense, and there wasn’t anything
as far as turnovers or anything like that, that would explain all this blowing up in their faces. So, what phase of the
game does that leave? – I think that leaves special teams, Jon. – Yeah, my least favorite
part of football. It’s all stupid. It sucks, I hate it. Don’t use a foot for anything. Abolish special teams all
together is what I say. – Especially field goal
kicking. That always seemed so random and arbitrary, compared to the broader
objective of the game. You might as well just
give the offense like, a Rubik’s Cube if they
can’t score a touchdown, and the closer you are,
the more time you get, for three points
– Sure! Anything else you wanted
to get off your chest about special teams? – Doesn’t deserve our time. – No. And this is how it all fell apart. (dramatic music) Here we see all 2,327 plays
that made up the Chargers’ 2010 season. Excluding extra point
and two point attempts. For nearly 45% of the season,
the Bolts got to trot out the best offense on earth. For another 40% or so,
they got to trot out the best defense on earth. That left just 15% for
their special teams unit. How bad can a special
teams unit possibly be? And how much damage could they possibly do in so little time? Let’s go to Alex Rubenstein
for the play by play. – [Alex] The Chargers season
kicked off in Kansas City, the back half of a Monday
night Week 1, doubleheader where a couple Chiefs
playing in their first career game had their way with
the chargers on punt returns in the second quarter. On this one, Antoine
Applewhite and James Holt parted like the Red Sea for
Javier Arenas to run through. Then Mike Tolbert failed
to bring him down, with only punter Mike
Scifres saving the touchdown. Four minutes later, gunner
Donald Strickland dove at air, long snapper David Binn
sort of just fell down in Arenas’ general vicinity,
and linebacker Brandon Siler wasn’t much more than an
inconvenience en route to another lengthy return. Then near halftime, the
dam completely burst when Dexter McCluster
wanted in on the fun. San Diego overpursued, let
McCluster bounce it outside, and from there, his speed
was simply too much for any Charger to interrupt
his journey to the end zone. The Chargers lost by a touchdown. After crushing the Jags
to even up their record at 1-1, the Chargers
traveled up to Seattle. Despite more than doubling
Seattle’s yardage output, they just couldn’t tread
water on special teams. To kick off the second half, C.J. Spillman and Strickland took shoddy
attempts at bringing down Seahawks return man Leon
Washington, who then shook San Diego’s terrified kicker
Nate Kaeding to complete his hundred-and-one yard romp to paydirt. But behind Rivers and
their league-best offense, the Chargers rallied late,
with Gates scoring a TD in the waning minutes and
followed by a two pointer that tied the game at 20. Great shape, as long as they don’t allow a second touchdown off a kickoff return. Washington hauls it in at his own one, and after Holt and Jacob
Hester take large grasps at nothingness, gets momentarily stood up
amid a gaggle of Chargers, only for none to bring him down. Then we can pinpoint the exact moment Kaeding is considering a career change. The Chargers lost by a touchdown. They’d cruise the next
week against the Cardinals, then came a Week 5 showdown in Oakland. Despite dominating the
offensive and defensive portion of the proceedings, they couldn’t quite overcome the early 12-point hole
they dug themselves, thanks to not one, but two blocked punts in the game’s first five minutes. The Raiders got nine points from those plays. The Chargers lost by eight. – [Jon] Sorry, I’d like to
butt in for just a second, to talk about punt blocks. Punt blocks almost never happen. There were only 12 across
the entire 2010 NFL season. Naturally, four of these were
suffered by the Chargers, but what’s most incredible is
that these two punt blocks, occurred on back to back drives. The odds of this happening
twice in a row on paper, roughly 42,000:1. Anyway. – [Alex] After that game, San Diego was leading the
league in total offense, with no one else particularly close. Coupled with an excellent defense, their total yardage
differential of +1,078, wasn’t just far and away
the best in the league, but to this day is a modern NFL record through five games. Since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970, only the ’09 Giants have
so much as come within 150 yards of the 2010
Chargers’ gargantuan figure. And these Bolts had a losing
record to show for it. In terms of special teams performance, at least they knew this
had to be rock bottom. Then someone handed them a shovel. (ominous music) A few minutes into their
Week 6 game in St. Louis, Danny Amendola alluded
gunner Richard Goodman, and 42 yards later, he set the Rams up in prime position for a chip shot field goal. In the fourth quarter, Kaeding slipped on his
own field goal attempt, leading to an easy block. The Chargers lost by a field goal. The following week, Hester failed to bring down
Julian Edelman on a punt near the end of the first half. 34 yards later, Edelman had provided Tom
Brady great field position, again leading to a chip shot field goal. The Chargers lost by a field goal. Now, despite outgaining their opponent by over 125 yards in six
of their seven games, the only post merger
team that’s ever done so, they were sitting there
with a 2-5 record. They rebounded down the stretch, and started turning all
these thorough dominations into actual real life wins. Seven of them across their
final nine games, in fact, including four blowouts. But, their bed was already made and
it was too little, too late. – [Jon] I say this as
a lifelong Chiefs fan, it is tragic that Kansas
City took this playoff spot over the Chargers. All in all, they were vastly inferior, and it showed when they
were immediately run off their own field by the
Ravens in the first round. It also showed in Week 14 in San Diego. With quarterback Matt Cassel
out with an appendectomy, backup Brodie Croyle
was shoved out there to start for the Chiefs. So, yes the Chiefs were short handed, and yes the Chargers
were on their home field. They took advantage. They lined up their shot, and then they blew the Chiefs to hell. 31 zip. It was the most lopsided shutout loss
in the NFL that season. The statistical profile of
this game is horrifying. The Chargers held the
Chiefs to zero points, and well under 100 yards. And they didn’t even need
a single turnover to do it. It was matter of fact domination. This is one of only five such
performances in the history of the league. It would be more at home
in the NFL’s Old Testament than the modern era. Even there it has trouble making friends. For one, it allowed fewer yards
than any of the others. For another, the rest of these performances
came during low scoring, hard fought, defensive battles. One ended 13-0, two ended 6-0, and one ended in a scoreless tie. This was a 31-0 pounding. The indignities did not stop there. Croyle never started another NFL game. His final career record
as a starter was 0-10. And he would go down in history as the first quarterback
of the Super Bowl era to start at least 10 games
and never win a single one. This beat down pulled
the Chargers to 1-1 against the Chiefs on the season. This meant San Diego, by virtue of their superior
record within the division, would have held the tie
breaker if only they could have pulled even. They never could. But for one Sunday afternoon, they took my poor football team, and they broke them in half. It was their only consolation. When the postseason started, the NFL’s best offense, and best defense, were nowhere to be seen. The NFL has been a 32
team league since 2002. To even rank in the top three in both offense and
defense in the same year is an incredible accomplishment. In fact, these are all the teams in this
era to rank in the top three in either offense or defense. You can see how far
most of these teams sag, from one end to the other. Some teams with top offenses
also had good defenses, but more often than not, their defenses were awful. The opposite is true as well. Teams with stellar defenses
tend to have weak offenses. Now in red you can see the
teams that missed the playoffs despite ranking in the top
three in either category. All the red down here
makes a lot of sense. A bad defense can and will totally scuttle a great offense. I’m sure Saints fans can
tell you all about that. Naturally, we see a lot more green up here. Teams that paired a great defense with, even a decent offense
were almost guaranteed to make the playoffs. But only one of these teams
ever put it all together. Look at all that daylight
between the 2010 Chargers and the rest of the field. No one ever really came
close to accomplishing what they did. – [Alex] Remember how I talked about how for the season the 2010 Chargers offense gained nearly 2000 more yards than their defense allowed? Well, in that same post-merger timeframe, there were only two other
instances of a team outgaining their opposition by that much. And their seasons each
ended in a Super Bowl, not even the 16-0 Patriots of 2007 soared as high as these Chargers. As for teams that wound
up missing the playoffs, no one but the ’74 Cowboys all the way down here has even cracked a yardage differential of 1400. On a per snap basis, their offense generated
nearly a yard and a half more each play than their defense allowed. That remarkable discrepancy, also is in its own stratosphere, with the Steelers barely
cracking the one yard barrier that season, and no one else reaching even 0.8 yards. But thanks to their special teams, none of it mattered. Especially spearheaded by
a punt unit that opponents feasted on for nearly 19 yards per return, they shot themselves in the foot like no other team ever. If they’d have won just one of those five maddening
losses that they dominated throughout, they’d have necessarily
been AFC West champs. The most depressing aspect of this all, might be surrounding Kassim Osgood, who for years, wasn’t
just their special team’s leader and captain, but also excelled enough to
be the AFC’s special teams Pro Bowl representative three
of the prior four years. Then ahead of this 2010 season, they let him get away in free agency, and subsequently authored
what can only be considered, the single worst season of special teams, in the 99 year history of the NFL. – [Jon] Who was in charge? Was there anyone in
charge of special teams that year for the Chargers? – [Alex] So their special
teams coach, Steve Crosby, long time coaching veteran, spent over 30 years coaching in the NFL. That was highlighted by
becoming Bill Belichick’s offensive coordinator during the Browns’ final couple of seasons in Cleveland. – [Jon] So like a good coach.
He was totally a good coach! – [Alex] Totally a good coach. And then he took a team
that was one of the greatest regular season teams ever, and his unit single handedly sunk them. – There’s something I want to show you. So I dug up some official team photos of Steve Crosby, right? And look at how he changes over the years. Which is to say, not at all. – (laughs) Those may have
been taken on the same day. – Those were taken five years apart. – Or he’s just the
greatest ager of all time. – You know, you know what it is? Is, look at this. 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, all of a sudden, barely cracks a smile, done, out of the NFL. See, you can’t smile if you’re a coach. You can’t be happy, you can’t
have things that you like. You can’t enjoy yourself. At the end of this I feel
bad for a lot of people, I feel especially bad for Philip Rivers. And, this is why. So, Alex, I put together a chart, that includes every quarterback
of the Super Bowl era who started at least 50 games, right? This is all of them. Every dot is one of them, on the X axis you see how
many games they started. On the vertical axis you see what their career passer rating was. And, in green you see the guys who went to the Super Bowl, and won it. That’s a lot of quarterbacks. The more the better once you get higher in passer rating, and then, in red you see the guys
who missed entirely. In yellow you see the
guys who made a Super Bowl and didn’t win it. That big red star up
there on the upper right, with almost no friends around him, is Philip Rivers. I mean, he’s probably the best quarterback never to win one besides maybe, Dan Marino. And has to be the best quarterback to never even go to the Super Bowl, right? – [Alex] Not only is that true, but he had a great shot
to make the Super Bowl the season before this.
13 and 3 Chargers team. And in their first playoff game, what doomed them was two
missed chip shot field goals, by Nate Kaeding. And a three point loss. – [Jon] So Philip Rivers
is far from done, right? And he’s still got a few
years left before, ya know, age catches up to him I’m sure. The Chargers went 12-4 last season, they figure to contend again this year, so I would say there’d
be a pretty good chance for a fairy tale ending
for these Chargers. Except we have Mahomes now on the Chiefs, so nevermind, sorry suckers. (upbeat music) Hey ya’ll. Thank you
for watching Dorktown. If you liked this video,
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