By JOE REEDY
AP Sports Writer
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers started the year with expectations of making the playoffs for the second straight season after signing quarterback Justin Herbert to a $252.5 million extension on the first day of training camp.
The season ended with Herbert on the sideline after season-ending surgery on Dec. 12 to repair his broken right index finger and with the Chargers facing what could be the most transformative offseason in franchise history.
Sunday’s 13-12 loss to Kansas City left Los Angeles (5-12) as one of the league’s most disappointing teams. The Bolts are looking for a new coach and general manager after Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco were fired on Dec. 15.
“It’s never fun when you go through a situation like that, because we fell short for them,” Herbert said Monday as coaches and players went through end-of-season interviews and meetings. “It’s unfortunate. I missed the throws, we missed the catches and we didn’t make the tackles. We didn’t do enough for them. That’s on us this offseason where we have to do things differently.”
This marked the fourth time since 2015 the Chargers finished a season with five or fewer wins. They made the playoffs three times as a wild card in Telesco’s 10-plus seasons as general manager.
Herbert will be playing for his fourth head coach and possibly fourth offensive coordinator in five seasons. He said he is hopeful of resuming throwing by the end of next month.
Herbert said he is hoping to address his thoughts about what he’d like to see in a coach with owner Dean Spanos and the front office sometime over the next couple weeks.
The new coach and general manger will have the fifth overall pick in April’s draft, the fourth time since 2016 the Chargers have had a pick in the top seven. Only the Giants (six), Jets (five) and Jaguars (five) have had more.
The Chargers ended the season on a five-game losing streak, but interim coach Giff Smith was given high marks by players for his approach during his three-game stint.
“These last three games we were more together as a team. And that’s so huge,” running back Joshua Kelley said. “I feel like when you’re together and you’re playing together cohesively, I just feel like that’s when you really can start playing some good ball. I think that’s something to build off of.”
HOW BAD WAS IT?
Only two of the Chargers’ five wins came against a team’s primary starting quarterback. And that happened in back-to-back weeks when they beat Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins in Week 3 and Las Vegas with Aidan O’Connell in Week 4.
Los Angeles was 0-7 in games decided by three points or fewer, tying the 1994 Houston Oilers for the worst mark in that category.
With Easton Stick starting the final four games, the offense closed the season without a touchdown in its last 10 quarters. The Jets ended last season without a touchdown in their final three games.
The Chargers were 18th in total offense in coordinator Kellen Moore’s first season.
Moore was hired to help improve the running game and bring balance to the offense, but the run/pass ratio was still among the worst in the league. Los Angeles’ 39% run rate was the seventh lowest in the league.
RETURN OF THE MACK
One of the few bright spots on defense was linebacker Khalil Mack, who had a career-high 17 sacks. That tied a franchise single-season record and ranked fourth in the league.
Mack set a franchise record with six sacks against Las Vegas on Oct. 1. That was the first of five multi-sack games for the 10-year defensive standout.
Mack remains under contract for one more season.
Center Corey Linsley said he is “99 percent sure” he has played his last snap in the NFL after 10 seasons. Linsley started three games this season before he was sidelined due to a heart issue.
Linsley said specialist he has been seeing recently recommended he stop playing.
“Obviously not how I would want this to end, but, I can’t complain or be sad about 10 years. It’s got to end for everybody at some point,” said Linsley, who signed with the Chargers in 2021 after spending seven seasons in Green Bay. An All-Pro in 2020, he played and started 132 NFL games.
The Chargers will begin requesting interviews with general manager and head coach candidates later this week. University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh remains an intriguing option after he played two seasons for the Bolts late in his career and started his collegiate coaching career at the University of San Diego.
The new front office and coaching staff have a franchise quarterback in place, but are also nearly $35 million over the salary cap.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl