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Chargers Wish They Had Kept Holohan in Stock a Bit Longer

You know how it is when you have had something around the garage for a while, and you trip over it now and then or maybe move it from one cabinet to another or occasionally dust it off in case you need it?

Eventually, of course, what happens is that you toss it.

And then what happens?

You know. No sooner is it out the door than you really need it.

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This happened to the Chargers this year.

What they had was a closet full of tight ends. The cupboard may have been bare in heaven knows how many other places, but tight ends were in abundance.

Indeed, on the morning of April 24, 1988, the Chargers had the position populated by three veterans and a promising second-year man who had been a No. 1 draft choice. If anything, the roster was overstocked with tight ends.

The solution was to toss one. You know how impulsive you can get during spring cleaning.

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Peter Joseph Holohan got tossed, in a sense. The Chargers sent him to the Rams for a No. 4 choice in the 1988 draft later that day and used that pick to select defensive lineman Joe Campbell of New Mexico State.

As recent Charger trades have gone, this was far from the worst. I can think of five other guys they have acquired in the last year or so who are, in no particular order, retired, vacationing, benched, injured and at sea. (Note: The guy “vacationing” and the guy “at sea” are different guys.) Joe Campbell has been a dependable defensive backup and could ultimately tip the balance of this trade in the Chargers’ favor.

But for now . . .

What happened with the Chargers was that they “tossed” Pete Holohan just before they were about to need him most.

It seemed a sensible thing to do at the time, but the Chargers could not have foreseen that Kellen Winslow would retire, Eric Sievers would be injured and Rod Bernstine would continue his struggle to cross the line between potential and production.

They could not have foreseen that they would go to Anaheim Stadium on Nov. 20 . . . and Pete Holohan would be the most experienced and dependable tight end on the field.

That’s the way it is.

Holohan, for one, would be the last to second-guess the deal that sent him north.

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“Hey,” he said, “they had four of us. I don’t think anyone could have seen what was going to happen ahead of time.”

Except maybe Holohan. He might have foreseen what was going to happen to him, anyway. He would be reunited with former Don Coryell aide-de-camp Ernie Zampese, whose assignment with the Rams was essentially to modernize the offense and get it off the ground.

“It was nice to be able to come into a system where the mental part wouldn’t be an adjustment,” Holohan said. “I’m playing more, and I’m making a contribution, and that makes me happy.”

Holohan is making a rather steady contribution to the Rams. He is the player he was with the Chargers, not too flashy but effective.

Holohan, in fact, is the Rams’ No. 2 receiver with 37 receptions, getting at least two in every game but never more than four. Don’t bet against at least 30 of those receptions being good for first downs, and that does not include the two that went for touchdowns.

Consistency and reliability were also Holohan’s trademarks with the Chargers. In his 5 years as a regular, his average yardage per catch, by year, was 11.6, 13.1, 10.9, 12.3 and 12.0. What Holohan needed was a statistic no one keeps, at least officially, and that was percentage of catchable balls caught. If he and the ball arrived in the same area code, he usually caught it.

“People say I have good hands, and that’s good to hear,” he said, “because you don’t have to look too far for my shortcomings. I don’t outrun too many people and I’m not a real big guy (6-4, 232) for a tight end. I like to think that when I have a shot at the ball, I’m going to catch it the majority of the time.”

In short, what Holohan is doing for the Rams is what he has always done.

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“What Pete’s done hasn’t surprised us at all,” said Al Saunders, the Chargers’ coach. “Pete fits that possession receiver role in that offense very well.”

Holohan, given his propensity for holding what he touches, may be the ultimate possession receiver. He takes the term very literally.

When the Chargers have the Rams in a jam, like maybe a third and 8 or 9, Holohan will be the guy lurking maybe 10.9 or 11.8 yards downfield. He will be far enough to get what needs to be gotten. He won’t run too far once he has the ball in his hands, but he won’t need to.

What the Chargers will be wishing, of course, is that they still had possession of Pete Holohan.

He is living proof that it does not pay to toss too quickly . . . even from a seemingly overstuffed closet.


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