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Fans’ Wishes Will Likely Be Chargers’ Woe

Fans boo.

It’s their right.

It’s their right because they pay hard-earned bucks to watch football or baseball or opera or whatever. They have paid for the right to express either pleasure or displeasure, depending upon what their eyes behold.

Charger fans were not pleased with one Billy Joe Tolliver. They booed him. It got to the point of being merciless and ugly Friday night in the final exhibition game against the Raiders.

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Stupid Charger fans.

They got what they wanted, which was Billy Joe on the sidelines. They got more than they wanted. They got Billy Joe out of town and onto the Atlanta Falcons’ sidelines.

Not good, boo birds.

You have weakened your own team.

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You chanted for John Friesz, a derisive chant underscoring your displeasure with Tolliver. He responded and did the job against the Raiders. He will open the season at quarterback Sunday in Pittsburgh. He earned the job fair and square.

Billy Joe Tolliver, to his credit, was man enough to concede that.

However, the Chargers really need Tolliver on the sidelines. They need him to be there and be ready. He has at least a bit of experience, he knows the system and he has the respect of his teammates, if not the community. Teammates are more important. They know best.

What’s more, this is not a man who would be a poisonous presence on the bench. This is a mature 25-year-old with a healthy attitude and realistic outlook.

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But he could not stay.

The fans took care of that. It has been years and years since an individual was treated so rudely in this community. Donald Sterling was not even treated this badly, though owners are not positioned to be targeted for abuse quite like a quarterback.

Billy Joe Tolliver had to listen to the boos cascading from the stands every time possession changed and he trotted out to the huddle. He could maintain forever that he did not notice, but you know he had to.

What the Chargers did, trading him to Atlanta, was humane. They traded him to fresh air. They traded him to a fresh start. They traded him to a place where he has an opportunity to be happy and earn respect he could never get here.

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Indeed, it did not help him that the owner and general manager aligned themselves with Friesz. Dan Henning, the coach, was a Tolliver guy. The owner and general manager should now cut Henning some slack, because they have put him into the position of starting over with their guy at the most crucial position on the field.

That’s right, the offense now starts over.

Billy Joe Tolliver was 8-11 in his starts over the past two seasons. Other quarterbacks were 4-9, significantly inferior. In fact, of all young quarterbacks over the last couple of decades, only Dan Marino has gotten off to a better start than Tolliver in terms of winning or losing.

In installing Friesz at quarterback, the Chargers are once again looking at perhaps a two- to three-year period of maturing, adjusting and developing. Tolliver had much of that behind him.

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So John Friesz is the guy.

With all of one National Football League start, a loss, Friesz is flying solo. He’s on a high wire with no net. And so is the entire offense.

You see, no one knows exactly what John Friesz will do as a starting quarterback in the NFL. It is neither reasonable nor realistic to expect him to outperform the Billy Joe Tolliver of 1989 and 1990, and look how Tolliver was treated.

And you can forget Friesz’s performance--17 of 19 for 210 yards--against the Raiders last Friday night. When he takes the field Sunday in Pittsburgh, he will not be playing against a fourth quarter mop-up squad nor against a defense saving its real blitzes and stunts for the regular season. This one counts, baby.

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If Friesz stumbles, there is nowhere to go. Bob Gagliano, the journeyman now cast in the backup role, is certainly no long-range solution.

Even if Friesz is able to enjoy at least modest success, there is also the injury factor. Bad things have been known to happen to NFL quarterbacks. If Friesz should be injured, again there is nowhere to go.

This football team needs Tolliver, the man who could not stay.

This trade was good for Billy Joe Tolliver, but bad for the Chargers. This a not a time to say good riddance to the young man, but rather good luck. It’s too bad he has to be gone to be missed.

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