We've reached the penultimate Mailbag of the regular season and the final one of the 2023 calendar year.
Kudos to Ed for bringing up a timely topic as we'll dive into the Chargers Top 3 New Year's Resolutions for 2024.
1. Make the right hires
This one is simple enough.
We've got less than two weeks remaining in the 2023 regular season with games against Denver and Kansas City.
After that? All eyes turn toward the Chargers search for a new general manager and head coach.
There will be plenty of time to dissect who eventually gets the job, what they bring to their roles and the impact they can make on the organization.
But from a big-picture perspective, nailing these two hires will do wonders for the Bolts.
There is work to do with the roster and the salary cap in 2024, sure, but with a new practice facility combined with steadfast support from ownership and a strong nucleus of players to build around, the Chargers could very well have the most desirable jobs open this offseason.
And, if the Chargers can find the right people to lead their football team, they could be back in the mix of AFC playoff contenders sooner than you think.
2. Keep Herbert healthy
That nucleus of players I just mentioned?
Justin Herbert is the face of that group. Heck, he's the face of the entire franchise.
And I'll state it here that Herbert is more than capable of leading the Bolts to a Super Bowl in his career.
But he's got to stay on the field in order for that to happen.
That's not me calling Herbert an injury-prone player but more so me wishing for better injury luck in 2024.
The Bolts quarterback dealt with fractured rib cartilage and a shoulder issue in 2022 before a pair of fluky broken fingers — one on each hand — put a damper on his 2023 season.
Better overall protection from the Bolts offensive line would help, too, and that group would be the first to say so.
When he's healthy, Herbert is among the NFL' best quarterbacks. Let's hope we can see him full-go for an entire season in 2024.
3. Find a spark on defense
On paper, the Chargers should have one of the league's top defenses.
There are stars and ascending players throughout the lineup and plenty of reasons why this group should be among the league's better units.
But, aside from flashes here and there, this group hasn't lived up to expectations the past few seasons.
Finding a spark on defense in 2024 would do wonders for the Bolts on-field results. Besides simply having a better defense, it would also take some pressure off Herbert to be Superman each game.
Depending on what happens this offseason (and who is making roster decisions), there's a chance the Chargers defense looks a bit different in 2024 than it did this year.
Whatever the combination of players and scheme end up being, the results need to be better than what we've seen of late.
A pair of great questions here on the Bolts GM and HC search.
We'll start with the timeline first because we have a bit more concrete info on that one.
John Spanos, the Chargers President of Football Operations, spoke to reporters on Dec. 18 and shed some light on what the process could look like.
"Some of the new guidelines lends itself to a much slower process for the league," Spanos said. "Even if that wasn't the case, this is something we would be very thoughtful and diligent, we wouldn't hurry into.
"So yeah, in a way, we will be taking our time. I think these three weeks will be advantageous for us to kind of … strategize and make sure we're ready," Spanos added.
Furthermore, the NFL also has a rule that teams with an open head coach position cannot hold in-person interviews with candidates employed by another team until after the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
That means if the Chargers want to interview any coach from another team, and they most definitely will hold at least one of those, we're looking at a late January timeline.
Finally, if the Bolts happen to focus in on an NFL coach whose team makes a Super Bowl run, that potential person obviously won't leave until the playoffs are done.
Put another way: don't be holding your breath that we'll get any answers immediately after the Bolts season is over.
Moving onto what the procedure could look like, that's where the mystery remains.
We simply don't know what direction the Chargers ownership will go with this.
The traditional route is to hire a GM first and then have that person have some input on the HC. (That's the way it worked with the Vikings when I covered a GM and HC search two years ago).
But teams have also evolved in that approach at times, too. It simply depends on the potential candidates, their experience and what the front office hierarchy will look like for the Chargers.
For example, if there is a head coaching candidate who wants a bit more say on the personnel side, perhaps the coach gets hired first and then a GM is next.
Maybe we see a package deal where both a hired at the same time?
Right now, it's all an unknown. But that will get sorted out in the weeks ahead.
Big fan of this question from Tyler.
Even though the Bolts season has been a disappointment, there are still great people in the locker room.
Dicker is at the top of the list in terms of key players to build around on and off the field going forward.
On the field, the man might be an All-Pro. He has simply been money this year as he's made 24 of 25 field goals and all 35 extra points.
And he doesn't take himself or the game too seriously. I remember talking to him earlier this season and asking if he's taken a step back to realize that he's now an established NFL kicker in his second season.
Dicker responded that he was just happy to be in the NFL and wanted to ride this wave as long as possible. That free mindset has served him well on the field.
Other names that come to mind in terms of positive locker room vibes are the two other specialists — Josh Harris and JK Scott.
And then guys like Eric Kendricks, Morgan Fox and Joshua Kelley are always helping keep the locker room alive when media members are in there.
A valid point and one I've also thought about, too.
But go back to what Spanos and Chargers Interim Head Coach Giff Smith both said after the Bolts made changes to their front office.
"I can tell you what our family's message to Giff was," Spanos said. "Let's go win and compete and try to win these next three games.
"We're not worried about getting a high draft pick. Let's go win these next three games," Spanos added. "That's our hope and our desire."
Smith said: "What I told [the coaching staff] and the players, we're all invested in these three weeks. We have to feel that energy from each other. We're coming together."
Even at 5-10, the Bolts have made it clear they're trying to win to close out the 2024 season.
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