Chargers end the 2023 football season with a loss to the Chiefs
January 11, 2024
The late, great Hall of Fame football Coach John Madden once said about losing, "I've always said winning's the great deodorant, and conversely, when you have a bad record, everything stinks, and everything starts to unravel, and everything falls apart." For the Los Angeles Chargers season, that is exactly what the 2023 football season felt like.
The Chargers started the season losing their first two games and ended the season on a five-game losing streak. The Chargers fell last Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, 13-12, on a Harrison Butker 41-yard field goal with just 49 seconds remaining in the game. The game was played at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
The Chargers ended the season losing eight of their final nine games and finished with a 5-12 record for the season. They ended up 2-7 at home, 0-7 in games decided by three points or less, and 0-8 in games against teams with winning records. They finished with the fifth worst record in the NFL.
The Chargers were coming off a 10-7 record in 2022 season and a playoff appearance. The expectations for the 2023 season were for another playoff appearance, at a minimum. But things fell apart, and a combination of injuries and subpar performances eventually led to the firing of both head coach Brandon Staley and General Manager Tom Telesco after a 63-21 loss in Week 15 to their rivals, the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Chiefs finished the season with an 11-6 record and won their eighth consecutive AFC West division title. The Chiefs rested many of their top players for the games against the Chargers, including quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce. The Chiefs start the playoffs at home next Saturday Night, January 13th, against the Miami Dolphins.
The only touchdown of the game occurred in the first quarter of the when safety Mike Edwards returned a fumble 97 yards for a touchdown, giving the Chiefs an early 7-0 lead. The Chargers scoring offense consisted of four Cameron Dicker field goals. The last 33 points the Chargers scored this season came on Dicker field goals. They did not score a touchdown over the last ten quarters of the season.
The Chargers defense did play well over the last three games without Staley and along with Dicker's kicking kept the last three games competitive. Interim head coach Giff Smith seemed to do a good job keeping the team focused and playing hard.
"I told the team after the game that we made a pact - after the Raiders game, where we were put in this situation - that we were going to fight and we were going to compete, we were going to make this organization proud, and I do think they did that," Smith said at the press conference after the game last Sunday. "We didn't get the wins like we wanted to, but as far as what we were trying to accomplish, coming off of a difficult loss in Las Vegas, the character of these guys, I really think they rallied together and really fought for three games, I really do."
Smith must have impressed the Chargers leadership, because two days after the final game they did confirm an interview with Smith for the permanent position of head coach of the Chargers. Smith has been with the Chargers organization since 2016 as an assistant coach.
The Chargers also confirmed an interview for the head coaching job with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who has six years of coaching experience in the NFL and also played in the NFL for six years. Moore was a backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. No other head coaching interviews have been confirmed at this point by the Chargers.
The Chargers head coaching job is attractive because of franchise quarterback Justin Herbert, left tackle Rashawn Slater, wide receiver Keen Allen, safety Derwin James, and edge rushers Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa. The Chargers will have the No. 5 pick in the first round due to their fifth worst record in the NFL.
Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, a three-time first-team All-SEC selection, and three-time All-American selection is a generational talent that should be available to the Chargers at No. 5. Bowers played his high school football in Napa, California and would be a perfect fit with Herbert.
JoJo Wooden, the current interim General Manager, has interviewed for the permanent GM position and it would seem that he has a good shot at landing the job permanently. Wooden has been the Chargers Director of Player Personnel since 2013. Wooden has interviewed in the past for an open GM position with at least three other NFL teams.
The Chargers will have a lot of personnel decisions to make in the offseason, starting with the team salary cap. They are currently an estimated $34.5 million over the NFL salary cap, according to Spotrac.com. They will need to cut some key players and restructure some contracts to get far enough under the salary cap to make room for the signing of free agents, their own players and players from other teams.
The Chargers have twenty players that are unrestricted free agents and another seven players that are restricted free agents. An unrestricted free agent can sign with anyone, while a restricted free agent's offer from another team can be matched by the Chargers.
Among the key unrestricted players are running back Austin Ekeler, safety Alohi Gilman, linebacker Kenneth Murray, Jr., center Will Clapp, nose tackle Austin Johnson, defensive end Nick Williams, and running back Joshua Kelly. The key restricted free agent is Dicker, who made 31 of 33 field goal attempts this season and all 35 of his extra point attempts.