Following the 2011 season in which the Chargers missed the postseason again for the second consecutive year, many believed that both Head Coach Norv Turner and General Manager A.J. Smith would be given the axe. On the contrary actually as neither one was let go and the team actually reiterated its support for both individuals to put an end to any speculation.
Still, all isn’t settled for the Bolts looking ahead to the 2012 season as both remain on the hot seat to make the playoffs and make an impact once they get there. After all, Marty Schottenheimer was a perennial contestant in the postseason, but he was ultimately fired for not getting along with GM Smith. Err, ahem, never winning the big game.
Now no one is going to pine for the return of Marty and his conservative play calling to the Chargers sidelines, but it wouldn’t hurt Norv to take a page out of the old Marty ball playbook in the season ahead. While the Schottenheimer style was a bit, shall we say, stuck in the 1950s, the Bolts could use more balance on offense these days and grinding games out on the ground would definitely help the team come playoff time.
It seems like much of the scrutiny on the organization during the season falls on Turner while the majority of the protest in the offseason lands on Smith. In reality, both are at fault for the team’s struggles in recent years, but in totally different capacities.
The calls for Smith’s job are justified due to his lackluster draft classes over the last three to four years, but this is the make or break year for his Ryan Mathews deal and with a promising class of rookies, A.J. could soon earn back his genius label. After showing the willingness to adapt and go after more free agents this offseason, Smith showed that he does feel the pressure to secure his employment even if he is under contract through 2014.
Making a GM the scapegoat for a team’s poor play isn’t really the way to go anyway if an owner wants to inspire confidence in the fan base. Even if the team cannot right the ship and misses the playoffs again for a third straight year, don’t expect to see Smith be the one leaving the office for good. If the unthinkable happens and the Bolts have another abysmal campaign in 2012, most expect Smith to be kept and allowed to hire a replacement for Turner.
While Turner has been well-documented as Smith’s hand-picked successor to Schottenheimer after their ordeal, if it comes down to firing Turner or losing his own job, expect Smith to fill out the pink slip himself. Since we have already ventured into hypothetical land, let’s make some educated guesses as to who the next chosen one would be.
A Schottenheimer disciple himself, Cowher is probably a longshot to land with the Bolts if Smith is still the GM. As one of the biggest fish in the unemployed coaches pond however, he has to get at least a mention. While his old-school, grind it out style would be quite a contrast to the current coach in Turner, it could be just what the team needs with Mathews developing as a feature back.
This is the other big candidate for the job that most believe would top the list should this all play itself out. Gruden and Smith are known to be good friends and as an analyst during the draft telecast in April, Gruden applauded the Bolts’ draft giving plenty of kudos to his buddy. Just the idea of having an accomplished coach such as him in San Diego is an outrageously exciting proposition. Add in the connections to the Oakland Raiders and getting a good dig in on them and I’m sold.
So in short, if you thought the fate of both Turner and Smith were tied to the results of the Chargers upcoming season, think again. There is a real possibility that even another poor performance by this team wouldn’t cost Smith the GM spot. And if you are like me, that’s a good thing.
Now it’s your turn to weigh-in! Do you think Turner can re-think his offense and gear things more towards the run in 2012? Would you be in favor of firing Turner and keeping Smith should this year not turn out the way we all hope? Which of the dream coaches available would you want the Chargers to go after if the season goes awry? Fill up the comments section below with your thoughts on this hot button topic!
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