Is Change On The Horizon In San Diego?

As the Chargers prepared to take the field for their Sunday showdown in the Motor City with the Detroit Lions, good news came via the scoreboard around the league with the Denver Broncos falling decisively to the Buffalo Bills. Unfortunately that positive development failed to be a catalyst in motivating the Bolts when the game got underway at Ford Field.

From the opening kickoff, there seemed to be a real disconnect between the defensive game plan and the results out on the field. Every possible angle of viewing the debacle against the Lions showed the defense taking a huge step backwards in terms of their progression with openings all over the secondary for Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Perhaps the most concerning part of the defense’s struggles on Sunday was the way they were torched by a well-known playmaker in Calvin Johnson. Chances are that if you asked any defensive coordinator heading into a game against the Lions this season, covering Megatron would be one of the first things to out of his mouth. San Diego appeared helpless in many cases to stick with Johnson as both he and the entire receiving corps for Detroit had little to no trouble getting open against the porous Bolts’ pass defense.

San Diego’s secondary has seen its share of ups and downs during the year, but there is little dispute over just how down this particular game was on that rollercoaster ride. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky put a game plan in place that clearly didn’t fit what the team needed to win and the lack of pressure generated on the opposing quarterback throughout the course of the season has been the main issue with the defense. Several sources have said that the team views his hiring now in hindsight as a mistake and will likely look in a different direction at season’s end.

Obviously the offense cannot go without its fair share of the blame either as they scored just ten measly points and really never threatened the Lions vertically during the entire sixty-minute contest. The statistics were so frighteningly one-sided that fans probably wanted to just turn their heads away in collective disgust, but falling behind so quickly in the game led the Bolts to attempt 53 passes versus just 16 rushing plays. This more than 3:1 ratio is symbolic of just how off balance this club has become throughout the 2011 season and could lead to some big changes in the near term.

What fans really have to be cheering for at this point is not wins and losses, but rather Chargers’ ownership which needs to make a swift decision by taking a stand and cleaning house organizationally. The Norv Turner experiment has been declining since his first year with the team and that steady downward motion has made fans nauseous. On a team with as much talent on both sides of the ball as the Bolts maintained for a number of years, a lower winning percentage year after year just doesn’t make sense.

As for the man in charge of assembling the talent out on the field, General Manager A.J. Smith’s future is still somewhat cloudy with the team as well. Many have pointed to his less than stellar draft choices in recent years and wondered why the team hasn’t made a change in the front office already, but it is Smith’s track record that keeps him employed.

It is still all just talk at this point, but rumor has it that Turner will be let go at the year’s conclusion while Smith still has a chance to stick around. Many reports say that if the Spanos’ were to get rid of Smith and go in another direction, the St. Louis Rams would snatch him up in a heartbeat and pair the enigmatic personnel guru with the always entertaining Jon Gruden as their new head coach. Most believe that this will be the offseason for Gruden to leave the commentary booth and reclaim one of the 32 NFL head coaching jobs and putting him with A.J. Smith would create quite a dynamic GM/HC combination. The two have shared a friendship since the 1990s and would be a dream duo for any ownership across the league.

While Smith was the man that hand-selected Turner to be the team’s successor to Marty Schottenheimer, it seems that both of them are very near the end of their respective times with the Bolts. Smith’s undying allegiance to Turner has been somewhat irrational given his lack of success as the Chargers’ leader, yet he has said recently that five years is a good test for finding out in what direction a coach can take a team.

The guillotine appears poised to dismiss both Manusky and Turner for certain, yet Smith’s status remains in limbo. What do you think the team will eventually do with their current make-up in the chain of command? Do you think Turner should be back? Should Smith be retained? Please leave your thoughts on the current Chargers’ turmoil in the comments section below!

December 28, 2011

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