Once again the San Diego Chargers are flattering to deceive this season. Big victories over the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs, created the perception that this talented, but maddeningly inconsistent team is finally ready to dominate the AFC this season.
However, in typical Chargers fashion, they have failed badly in their two big tests against NFC opposition. They suffered a heavy defeat at home to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3 and Week 5 saw them leave New Orleans on the wrong end of a seven-point deficit to the Saints.
Ordinarily losing by a singe touchdown on the road against the Saints, would be no reason to feel shame. But Drew Brees and company entered the game 0-4. Chargers fans have to be left wondering will the squad led by head coach Norv Turner and prolific quaterback Philip Rivers ever produce a Super Bowl?
All of the NFL's elite teams have been defined by the success of their quarterback-coach combination. The Green Bay Packers go only as far as Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers taken them. The Saints finally experienced Super Bowl glory thanks to the efforts of Brees and Sean Payton, while Bill Belichick and Tom Brady helped turn the New England Patriots into a dynasty.
Turner and Rivers remain the nearly men, yet they haven't really been that close for a while. It almost defies belief that a team like the Chargers could have missed the playoffs the last two seasons. Turner has a roster featuring productive talents on both sides of the ball.
In Rivers, the coach has the ideal gunslinger for his vertical, Coryell-style passing attack. Rivers certainly has put up big numbers under Turner's tutelage. He has surpassed the 4,000 yards mark in each of the last four seasons and has 119 touchdown passes to his credit during that span.
There should be a championship somwhere to go with numbers like those. Yet the Rivers-Turner combination has consistently failed to deliver one. This is despite a supporting cast that has featured offensive greats like Antonio Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson and Vincent Jackson and a defense that has usually been more than just solid.
But despite the talent and potential, there is a self-destruct button somewhere in the Chargers' structure, that one of Turner or Rivers always seems to have a finger over. While some teams struggle to manufacture impact plays in decisive moments to win games, the Chargers can't avoid making costly mistakes to lose them.
It's usually a turnover from Rivers that draws the curtain on a performance, that like the team, promises much, but ultimately delivers nothing. Those kind of bad habits seem to be woven deeply into the fabric of the Turner-Rivers Chargers.
There's just no other way to explain how a team with quality personnel and excellent scheming consistently manages to stumble short of true accomplishment. It is a flaw transmitted from the two men at the top.
Turner's tenure as head coach of the Washington Redskins in the mid-nineties, was marked by the same failings. There were notable season collapses from promising positions in both 1996 and 1997.
His star protege has fallen victim to the same curse, faltering in the playoffs in 2007, 2008 and 2009. That innate winning mentality, so difficult to define, but the easiest thing in the world to recognise, is missing from the Turner-Rivers combination and means the pair will likely never make the grade in San Diego.