What lies beneath

Vincent Jackson and the San Diego Chargers have had an easy schedule so far in 2011. Denis Poroy/AP Images

This story appears in the Oct. 31 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

TO TRULY UNDERSTAND the 2011 San Diego Chargers, let's go back to the late 1970s in baseball. The Expos had two future Hall of Famers in Andre Dawson and Gary Carter and ripped off five straight winning seasons. The now-defunct Spos may have had the best roster in baseball and were billed as the team of the '80s. Yet they never made it to the World Series. At the time, a young stats guru named Bill James pointed out that some glaring weaknesses, including the game's worst starting second baseman (Doug Flynn, who never had an OBP above .270 as an Expo), served to offset Montreal's strengths.

Now look at the Chargers. For the past five years, San Diego has boasted the NFL's best depth. But every season, gaping holes drag the Chargers down, and they limp home to watch seemingly less talented teams in the playoffs and Super Bowl.

Don't count on this year being any different. The team's 4-1 start was the result of a weak schedule. The tough stretch starts now (future opponents' combined record through five weeks: 31-23). The Chargers are also facing big personnel problems.