The NFL Playoffs got underway this past weekend minus the Chargers and the AFC West representation came from the Kansas City Chiefs. After a flameout at home against the Oakland Raiders to finish regular season, many expected the Chiefs to have a renewed vigor when the new season began. Unfortunately, the AFC West champions from this past season looked overmatched from the get-go and never really appeared to be on the same level as their opponents in the Baltimore Ravens.
When it comes to former Bolts in the postseason, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints were unexpectedly ousted from their title defense early as a game Seattle Seahawks team outscored the dynamic Saints on the NFC side of things. There will not be a repeat champion in 2010 and the playoffs were as wacky as ever on Wildcard weekend with three out of four road teams winning to kick things off.
None of that is of any concern to Bolts’ fans however, so let’s get into some topics that could have an affect on the team’s ability to actually make their way back into January football come the 2011 season.
On the Chargers’ team website, team President Dean Spanos answered some questions from the fans recently and several of his answers were quite noteworthy. His response to the justification for retaining Norv Turner as the team’s Head Coach was possibly the most disturbing of all as according to Spanos: “I believe we will win and I believe Norv and his staff are what we need right now to help us win. The players play hard for him. The players respect him. I’m as disappointed and, honestly, as mad as you. But when I step back and look at our team, top to bottom, I believe with the right decisions in the offseason in free agency and the draft, we will get back to where we want to be next season.”
It really seems that he may not be able to see the forest for the trees at this point as the writing is on the wall concerning Turner. This team clearly doesn’t play that hard for him and they have continued to get more and more disorganized over the past two seasons so how could they possibly respect his tactics as the man in charge?
Another topic touched upon by Spanos in addressing some questions from the fans was the slow starts that this team has become accustomed to over the past four years. His response to this inquiry was remarkably candid and totally factual saying: “Our record during the first seven weeks of the past four seasons under Norv is exactly the same (13-15) – exactly the same – as it was the prior four seasons under Marty (Schottenheimer). When you continually have slow starts, it always leaves you no room for error at the end of the season.”
Of course the perfect follow-up question to that would then be since Schottenheimer was fired in 2006 with a similar record to begin seasons, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect a similar consequence for Turner rather than this undying praise and adoration? This becomes even more relevant with the recent reports that defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is on the verge of becoming the Carolina Panthers’ new head coach. This would be a huge blow to the team defensively and could have easily been prevented by promoting Rivera within the organization and turning the page on Turner. Unfortunately it appears the team will be losing a vital piece of their coaching puzzle and will be on a desperate search for a new defensive mind to run the show in 2011.
One more interesting question came from a fan fed up with General Manager A.J. Smith asking for him to be fired. Spanos took a firm stance defending Smith saying: “A.J. is getting a bad rap. He’s a team-first guy. He’s easy to talk to and easy to work with. Remember, he has to make a lot of tough decisions. It’s not always easy for him when he has to deal with million-dollar contracts for all of our favorite players, particularly when, because of the salary cap, we can’t keep all of our players or give them everything they want. A.J.’s no-nonsense and he can be blunt at times, particularly with agents, but in this business you have to be. We can’t let agents withhold players’ services and hold them hostage. But, bottom line, look at what we’ve been able to do since I hired him eight years ago. Think about this: over the last eight years since A.J. took over for John Butler, the Chargers have won 80 games. That’s an average of 10 wins a year. During that time, we won five AFC West Division titles. And we won three playoff games, and got to the AFC Championship Game in 2007. Only three teams – New England, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh – have won more games during his tenure. Unfortunately they are all in our conference. We’re in the middle of the most successful period in team history and I want to keep us together. History has shown that teams with solid, stable front offices and consistent plans give themselves the best chance to have success. I know, this group hasn’t gotten to a Super Bowl, but I believe if we stay the course and have a successful draft and do a good job in free agency, we’ll be back where we want to be next year.”
Each one of these points is very well thought out by Spanos and gives a great insight into just what the team has accomplished during Smith’s tenure as the Bolts’ GM. His pointing to the three best teams in football residing in the AFC and San Diego having the fourth best winning percentage in the last eight years is an impressive fact. Showing that the Bolts strive to be a stable team with firm leadership from the top is something that fans can get behind rather than bemoan as many of the league’s most successful franchises have utilized a similar approach.
Although the sting of the 2010 season is still with all of us, taking a step back and looking at the facts will serve this club much better in the long run than making emotional, hasty decisions. Fans should be encouraged by the majority of Spanos’ comments and really have an optimistic outlook on the years ahead for the team.
Now it’s up to you. Which was more surprising from Wild Card weekend; the way the Chiefs were dismantled or the defending Super Bowl champions losing? Do you agree with Dean Spanos’ comments that the players respect Norv Turner as their coach or do you think the team should have gone in a different direction? If Marty Schottenheimer lost his job with an identical record to Turner in the season’s opening weeks, does this mean the team is admitting they made the wrong choice by firing Marty and now keeping Norv? If Ron Rivera leaves the team to coach the Panthers as expected, what will be the biggest negative impact on the defense? Do you agree with Spanos’ on his assessment of GM A.J. Smith or do you think the Chargers need an overhaul in the front office to ultimately win a championship? Please weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments section below!
Labels: Dean Spanos
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