It’s over. It’s so close to being so over.
One of the worst quarterback-coach relationships will finally end when the 2012 NFL regular season concludes with a move that’s been expected for about two years, yet somehow Chargers head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith have held on. But their employment will end in 25 days, according to a report from Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Acee’s sources tell him that team owner Dean Spanos made the decision to fire Turner and Smith about a month ago, but he’s choosing to wait until the regular season concludes, with both receiving their terminations on Black Monday.
Spanos, sources said, has more recently resigned himself to the fact that Smith can’t be kept in the current environment of plummeting performance and fan unrest.
And unlike last year, when Spanos found enough reason for clemency in a strong finish and past accomplishments, those with knowledge of plans that are already in motion said it seems certain there will be no last-minute change of heart this time.
Spanos is waiting until after the season, more because that is his preferred time to make such moves than due to any faith in the Chargers’ microscopic playoff chances.
It’s pretty easy to summarize why Norv Turner is who he is, and why he’s become the standard for the replacement-level head coach. Yet like most coaching discussions, it’s hard to quantify. Every position on the field has a vast minefield of stats we can poke and prod to make comparisons and use as the root of evaluations. Head coaches have one metric: wins.
And when we use that metric, we see a football mind who’s the offensive version of Wade Phillips. Turner fits fine — no, better than fine — as an offensive coordinator, and has a firm understanding of what a successful and thriving NFL offense looks like. Yet just as we’ve seen in the past with Phillips (he was merely adequate and mostly a mess as a head coach in Dallas and Buffalo, yet he’s led the turnaround of Houston’s defense as a coordinator), Turner is much more suited to a role where he can focus solely on the X’s, and their eternal battle against the O’s. Once he’s tasked with managing a game and being a leader of men and his energy is diverted, disastrous results follow.
That’s happened during the Chargers’ repeated second half collapses, both in individual games, and most infamously during years when woeful mid-season stretches have destroyed early hope, leading to Januarys sitting in silence. This year has been a more consistent mess with the Chargers at 4-8, but there was still a microcosm of the old Chargers we know and hate. September ended in promise at 3-1, and the Chargers have now won just three games since. Last year was similar, with San Diego winning four of its first five before dropping six straight.
This is a head coach who’s been the leader of teams with an abundance of talent, yet over the past three years they’ve consistently underachieved. In fairness, though, Turner doesn’t throw the ball. He only coaches the guy who throws the ball, leaving him standing helpless on the sideline far too often when Philip Rivers heaves another wobbling duck that lands in the hands of a player wearing the wrong colored jersey. Rivers has thrown 35 interceptions over his last 28 games.
When the firing day comes, Turner will find a home somewhere as an offensive coordinator, and we can begin focusing on the next brand name Spanos will bring in to re-focus his quarterback who’s quickly enrolling in the Donovan McNabb school of veteran regression. Say, Andy Reid will be available soon…