In what could only be characterized as a sickening twist of fate on Sunday, the San Diego Chargers 2011 season came to an end with a win against the inter-division rivals from Oakland. The Bolts downed the Raiders by a 38-26 margin and kept the Silver and Black from making the postseason with the victory. Unfortunately the win did little in the way of positives for the Chargers themselves as the Bolts finished with a mediocre 8-8 record for the year and plenty of question marks as a result.
With three other clubs from the AFC West posting the same .500 record as the Chargers while the Kansas City Chiefs weren’t far behind at 7-9 for the year, the real problems still remain for the club moving forward. Given the division’s clear ineptitude with not one team out of four achieving a record better than 8-8, the front office has to wonder why this team has taken yet another step backward after last year’s 9-7 playoff-less endeavor.
Several fingers have been pointed at Head Coach Norv Turner and General Manager A.J. Smith for the bulk of the year as those to blame for the team’s struggles, but it seems as if those in charge are beginning to have second thoughts. According to reports in the San Diego Union-Tribune, owner Dean Spanos may not be inclined to terminate neither Turner nor Smith even after this year’s disappointment.
In typical Smith fashion, the Chargers GM presented his nonchalant ambivalence toward the idea of being fired in his comments with the paper. Smith said: “I’ve been around this league too many years to be anxious. We all know the deal when we get into the business. This is a results business, period. We have no Super Bowl trophy under my watch. I’m a Charger 24/7 until I’m not. I have a long list of things I’m responsible for under Dean’s organizational policy. The general manager’s status isn’t one of them.”
As always, no punches were pulled by the team’s enigmatic personnel guru in that quotation and in his own blunt manner, Smith really just told things as they are. He isn’t the man responsible for deciding whether his own position will be preserved and he understands that he has come up short in terms of the ultimate goals for this football team. His scouting has come under fire in recent years with relatively mediocre drafting performances to put it mildly, but his selections during his first few years with the team clearly show that he has the ability to find Pro Bowl level talent in even the least expected places.
When it comes to Norv Turner, it seems the most ringing endorsement possible came following Sunday’s finale in the locker room when quarterback Philip Rivers told SignOnSanDiego: “I really believe in him (Turner). I can’t speak for every guy, but the guys who have been here that know what this league is about, they all believe in him, too, and they all want him here. What we went through this year injuries-wise, bad quarterback play, some of that he can’t control. It’s disappointing to know that 9-7 would have got you in, because any of those games during that six-game stretch would have got us in. But it didn’t happen. It’s unfortunate the way the year has gone, but I believe Norv is the guy. He’s always had a false perception on the outside. He didn’t have a chance when he walked in the door. He’s a great man, a great guy. I’m disappointed I didn’t make more plays because we’d be in the playoffs and wouldn’t be talking about it.”
Of course one player among 53 liking Turner (the man) doesn’t change the fact that Turner (the coach) has been steadily declining since taking the job in San Diego. This was supposed to be a make or break year for the Bolts HC, but given the misfortune of injuries that afflicted this team so heavily, could it be possible that ownership sees his 8-8 record as an accomplishment?
One thing which remains clear is the Bolts not being short on talent as veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes explained in an interview following the conclusion of his first year spent in San Diego. Of the Chargers, Spikes said: “You can’t go through the lows we went through and be a part of the postseason. There is a cesspool of talent here. It reminds me so much of what we had in San Francisco. Hopefully, there isn’t a change, but if there is, (hopefully) the next guy who comes in (and) sees that.”
If that analysis is at all valid, perhaps a coaching change is just what the team needs to reinvigorate everyone in the locker room. Spikes’ team from 2010 in the 49ers changed very little aside from the man coaching their club in 2011 and they turned their team completely around going 13-3 and earning a first-round bye in the NFC Playoffs. It may not be that easy, but the majority of Chargers’ fans are certainly hoping that Spanos listens to Spikes’ advice rather than Rivers’ when it comes to the fate of the current coach.
Do you think Rivers' support of Turner is enough to save his job or will ownership finally wake up and move in a different direction? Will A.J. Smith's history as a solid talent evaluator make-up for his lackluster draft choices in recent years or will he too be shown the door? What kind of drama do you see in store for the coming week with the Bolts? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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