Ever since the untimely dismissal of Marty Schottenheimer following a 14-2 record in 2006, the heat has been on General Manager A.J. Smith and his hand-picked Head Coach Norv Turner. Despite some less than stellar starts in years past, both Smith and Turner have hung onto their jobs due to impressive self-corrections by the players. After missing the playoffs a year ago and appearing to head down a similar path in 2011, it finally seems time to draw that line in the sand and show both gentlemen the door.
Of course, it is common practice as fans to be occasionally over reactive calling for the jobs of those in authoritative positions unjustly at times, but the track record speaks for itself in the case of Smith and Turner. Let’s take a look at how the arrow has been pointing down for quite a while regarding both of these individuals.
Beginning in 2007, Smith followed his conflict with Schottenheimer and hiring of Turner up in the draft by making one of his all-time worst selections. Drafting Buster Davis in the first round was arguably one of Smith’s worst picks as the GM, but he made up for that by landing safety Eric Weddle shortly thereafter who is the only player from the ’07 draft still on the Chargers. Turner would take Marty’s 14-2 team from the year before to an 11-5 record and two impressive wins in the postseason, but that would be the pinnacle of his time in San Diego.
The following year saw more questionable draft picks by Smith who selected Antoine Cason in the opening round before trading away yet another second round pick (this one in 2009) for the rights to draft Jacob Hester. Those two are the only of the 2008 draft class still on the roster and neither one has been all that spectacular as a Bolt. On the field, Turner digressed even more as well with the team starting out 4-8 before winning four in a row to squeak into the playoffs. The Bolts won yet another playoff game, but that was one less than the season previous and only further forecasts the team’s decline to come.
2009 was an up year by the low standards set in ’08 as Smith drafted four players still with the club in linebacker Larry English, guards Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green, as well as defensive end Vaughn Martin. Turner’s results during the regular season took an upward move as well finishing 13-3, but the playoff win total dwindled once again as the Bolts earned a first round bye only to be dismissed by the New York Jets in the divisional round without any postseason victories.
The jury is still out on Smith’s level of success in the 2010 draft, but trading up 16 slots for Ryan Mathews was widely considered to be a bit overzealous to say the least. The year was also the most disappointing to date with the team again starting off incredibly slowly digging themselves too big of a hole to climb out of. Finishing at 9-7, the Bolts failed to make the playoffs for the first time under Turner’s direction. The year was also marred by special teams gaffs of epic proportions the likes of which the league may never again see. Special teams play is considered to be directly related to coaching and that doesn’t reflect well on Turner either.
Now to the present day where the Bolts sit at 4-7 reeling from the past two months without the taste of victory. The lack of preparation and attention to detail have been evident in every phase of the game this season and the lack of urgency is arguably the most concerning aspect. GM Smith went in a number of different directions in the draft this past offseason and truth be told, some of his picks could become solid pros. First rounder Corey Liuget and third round receiver Vincent Brown have both shown flashes of brilliance already while the team has gotten contributions from nearly every player drafted this time around in their rookie seasons. Still the impact hasn’t been enough to turn the club as a whole around and get the entire locker room pulling in the right direction.
That raises the question of what the course of action should be for ownership moving forward and whether a change should be made. Many believe that money will be a factor in the decision making process with the team still on the hook for two years with Turner at the helm. Winning has taken a backseat for the checkbook long enough in the mind’s of fans however and this club desperately needs and infusion of passion to get them back on track.
Unfortunately that isn’t an option for the remainder of this year, but there is always the hope that ownership changes their philosophy for the benefit of the team sooner rather than later.
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