If only there was a jolly St. Nick.
“Yo, Santa,’’ Chargers coach Mike McCoy would whisper into the big guy’s ear, “anyway you can plop lumps of coal in the socks of the Dolphins and Ravens?’’
Santa would check his list, reminding McCoy his boys were naughty — seven losses — as much as they were nice — seven wins.
Holiday cheer at Chargers Park is easily found, as the afterglow of bucking the Broncos resonates.
Then again, the holiday blues are evident, too, with the Chargers knowing two more wins — against the Raiders and Chiefs — won’t punch their playoff ticket.
For the Chargers to be working in January, they need a pair of victories and the pair ahead of them, the Dolphins and Ravens, to lose their final two games.
The chances? Even if believing a chubby dude slides down the chimney, it’s farfetched.
“We’re worried about the Oakland Raiders and that’s all we’re going to focus on right now,” McCoy said, and we wonder if he got a picture on Santa’s lap?
That’s great, but too bad he didn’t stress that on Oct. 6. It was in the Black Hole that the Chargers got into this playoff hole by losing to Oakland.
Win there, and there’s a vibe on Sunday when facing the Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. We won’t remind McCoy that woeful Oakland won just three other games while playing as if wearing two eye patches.
But what we see in the Chargers’ big picture is easy on the pupils.
It’s clear the Chargers’ season will have a familiar look — it’ll mark four straight years of not drinking from the postseason punch bowl. But it’s just as obvious the culture has changed at Chargers Park.
No longer are losses met with a shrug. Instead McCoy lets it be known when the body of work isn’t acceptable, and that includes some curious play-calling.
There’s hacking up a big lead to visiting Houston, getting too conservative at Tennessee and that first-and-goal in Washington, where the Chargers failed to score the go-ahead touchdown.
Plop those three atop the Oakland face plant, and you know why the Chargers’ feet will be up this time next month — as they kick themselves.
“There’s nothing we can do to change them, but yes,’’ quarterback Philip Rivers admitted, proving his bolo tie isn’t too tight. “I think that is just natural for you to look back on games you didn’t finish or let get away. It caused us to be in the bind we are.’’
It’s a pickle, all right.
But to be fair, among the notches on the Chargers’ belt are wins at Philadelphia, Kansas City and Denver. Those three venues aren’t for the timid, and to stand tall there says much about the team’s growth.
That spurt, though, is stunted if the Chargers stumble toward the tape. Especially if committing the Cardinal sin in their fans’ eyes by being swept by the Raiders.
“We want to finish winning four in a row and five of the last six,’’ Rivers said. “You can still look back and be sick about some things that happened earlier in the season, but it will say a lot about our team if we can finish it the right way. To get these last two would be a heck of a finish.”
It’s been a heck of year, with newbies like McCoy, and general manager Tom Telesco, getting their feet damp.
Has it been perfect? Hardly, and we present the baffling losses mentioned above and Telesco’s signing of free-agent bust Derek Cox.
But it hasn’t been a disaster, and when two key members of an organization are rookies, one never knows what’s ahead.
Similar to the Chargers: win the ones you aren’t expected to; lose the ones you aren’t expected to.
What to expect next season? There’s no fortune cookie for that, but this year was awfully fun.
That it ends with the month is a bummer. Unless, of course, you still believe in Santa Claus.
“I think what is most important for our team is to just focus on trying to win another division game and see if we can get to 8-7,’’ Rivers said. “I think worrying about anything more than that doesn’t help you at all…that would be silly, because we can only control our end.’’
The end is near. Or is the beginning of something special?
Jay Paris can be heard talking Chargers football on 1090 AM on Monday and Friday mornings. He’s also the Wednesday morning co-host of “Hacksaw and Company.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports