On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs face the Los Angeles Chargers. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Los Angeles is favored to win. We welcome Michael Peterson of Bolts From The Blue — our sister SBNation site covering the Chargers — for Five Questions with the Enemy.
1) The Chargers are connected to some big names for their coaching search. Do they make a splashy hire or go with another coordinator?
As far as what I’ve heard around the wate rcooler, Jim Harbaugh is the Chargers’ top target — and rightfully so. Reportedly, the two sides have met multiple times. The conversations actually started much earlier in the season when the Chargers’ season started to go sideways.
I think this is a “final straw” scenario for Dean Spanos and ownership. They’re tired of the lackluster results. They’re tired of the way they’re viewed by their own fan base and the rest of the NFL. It should truly be “Jim Harbaugh or bust.” But as we’ve all come to know in this league, nothing is for certain — and Harbaugh could very well head back to Michigan to make a boatload of money. But if he’s tired of the red tape surrounding college football, the Chargers are the best place for him.
If I had to take a swing at a coach they’d target strongly should Harbaugh not work out, part of me thinks Dan Quinn could be a serious candidate. His resume is strong, and I know players love to play for him. Frank Smith would be an awesome pick as well. He was the team’s offensive line coach in 2021 (when they were at their best) and the unit’s performance severely dropped after he left. I think that’d be a heck of a reunion that the fan base could get behind.
2) Among Chiefs’ fans, there was a lot of draft buzz about Quentin Johnston — but after a disappointing rookie year, has he shown that he can take on a bigger role in 2024? Is there any reason to buy low on Johnston in dynasty leagues?
The pick of Johnston was definitely a bummer in the moment. With all those top receivers available at the time of the pick, Johnston wasn’t anyone’s top pick over the likes of Zay Flowers or Jordan Addison. The Chargers needed a certain type of dynamic playmaker to help round out the offense and both the latter receivers fit that mold. They needed YAC, and despite Johnston’s college stats showing he was a YAC machine, the WAY he recorded YAC was not as translatable as Flowers, for example. Johnston was just bigger and faster than Big 12 defensive backs. Flowers could make you miss in a phone booth.
Even with an increase in opportunities — with Allen, Williams, and Joshua Palmer all missing time this season — Johnston has done little to give the fan base faith that he’s the player former general manager Tom Telesco wanted him to be. He doesn’t look like a natural route runner and there aren’t many instances where his nuance of the game shines through. He has one deep pass hauled in this season (57 yards) — but overall, his yards and touchdown totals are far from his peers drafted around him in the first round. In the end, I’d say he’s worth a dart throw for fantasy football late in drafts, but that’s likely it.
3) Joey Bosa was ruled out on the final injury report. With the Chargers’ cap issues looming (and new management arriving), how likely is it we have seen his last season with the team?
I’d say that’s one of the more likely players the Chargers will move on from after this season. Everyone loves Bosa — and he rightfully has respect and admiration from many across the league. However, availability will always be the best ability — and that’s what Bosa has been missing for much of his career. He missed 12 games in 2022 and will have missed eight more games this season. Missing 20 games across a two-year span after becoming one of the highest-paid edge rushers in league history is a really unfortunate look. He is still productive, but his best games this season came when he played in a situational role off the bench.
With him, Mack, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams’ cap hits in 2024 all exceeding $30 million, I just can’t see how the Chargers move around the money well enough to retain all four of them. If I had to guess, two of those four are gone in 2024 and my picks for the two staying are Keenan Allen and Khalil Mack. Allen has earned the right to retire with the team on his own terms and Mack has just shown he’s got plenty left in the tank despite his age.
4) Who are some Chargers that Kansas City fans should be watching — and will inevitably be listed as reasons why the Chargers are a Super Bowl contender for 2024?
You mentioned Johnston above which deserves another highlight but how he progresses from Year 1 to Year 2 will tells us all we need to know if he’s destined to be a player in this league.
Rookie edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu is not far from taking over the pass rush of the Chargers from veterans Bosa and Khalil Mack. He has 4.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss in 10 starts while Bosa has been out with various injuries.
Wideout Derius Davis, who mainly returns kicks and punts, will also certainly be a name to remember. He was a ticky-tack holding call away from being the only player with multiple punt returns for touchdowns in the NFL this season — on top of being a flashy gadget player occasionally on offense.
5) DraftKings Sportsbook has the Chargers (-3.5) as the favorites over a Chiefs team starting Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. How do you see this one playing out?
In true Chargers fashion, they’ll mess around and actually win this game — which will bump them down from a perfect draft selection and potentially affect the future rebuild they’re expected to go through with a new staff. If they lose on Sunday, they’ll likely end up with the sixth overall pick. That’s an excellent spot to land a blue-chip player or trade back to gather more picks. If they win, they probably drop a couple slots and get into the murkier range where value drops just enough to feel like you’re just out of reach of some top talent.
I think if the Chargers are to win this game, Easton Stick will have a multi-touchdown performance while the defense plays yet another respectable game. Gabbert still has plenty more experience than Stick, so here’s to hoping he plays like it and continues to send the Chargers into the top six draft picks.
Be sure to check out the answers I gave to their questions by clicking here.