Yawn. We’ve known about this for a month.
No, that’s a lie. We’ve known about this for, oh, two years, yet now Chargers owner Dean Spanos has finally displayed some grasp of logic, ending the employment of both his head coach and general manager.
Norv Turner and A.J. Smith are gone, and an era of mismanagement in all phases of the Chargers’ football operations is over.
Their fates in San Diego will always be tied, as both the front office decisions and on-field tomfoolery played equal parts in the absence of playoff football for the Chargers over the past three years. For Turner, an offensive-minded coach has the decline of Philip Rivers now on his résumé, though perhaps that was part coaching negiligence, and simple regression from a veteran quarterback who’s beginning to resemble, say, Carson Palmer. Deep balls mean so very little when they’re consistently thrown after awful, rookie-level bad decisions.
But in-game collapses throughout the past few seasons have now became numerous and legendary. One such collapse is a fluke, but several mistakes that become the difference between watching and playing in January begin to reflect back on the head coach, and his inability to be a leader of men.
Nothing about that skill can be quantified, except in the form of wins and losses. A year ago the Chargers started their season with only one loss over their first five games. Then when mid-October hit and pressure began to mount, the wilting started. They lost six straight games, and four of those games were decided by a touchdown or less. That legacy continued this year, with the Chargers entering October with a 3-1 record, and then losing seven of their next eight games.
Smith’s role was one of neglect, and disregarding core needs. We can continue ranting about Rivers’ regression or Turner’s inability to maintain composure in his team throughout an entire season. But key personnel pieces were missing, and what’s most discouraging is that they were allowed to walk.
Darren Sproles has 2,224 total yards over the past two seasons with 17 touchdowns in New Orleans after leaving San Diego as a free agent. Had Sproles been retained, those numbers would have provided some mighty fine support for Ryan Mathews. And more importantly, depth when Mathews inevitably breaks.
Then there’s Vincent Jackson. He was allowed to walk after his relationship with Smith soured in 2010 during his bitter contract standoff that resulted in a rare regular-season holdout, and 11 missed games. Jackson left for Tampa last summer, and all he did there was finish this season with a career high 1,384 receiving yards. What was Rivers left with? The failed Robert Meachem experiment, and an aging and decaying Antonio Gates. Yes, Danario Alexander eventually arrived at mid season, but his splash was delayed due to well known injury problems.
As much as Turner has failed as the central figure of a coaching staff, he still has a brilliant offensive mind, and given the growing list of openings he’ll have no problem finding gainful employment as a coordinator in the very near future. But Smith is and will remain a cancerous castoff.