Norv Turner still hasn’t been fired by Chargers — just shake your head and laugh

Posted: 12/14/2011 in football
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The rainy morning of Feb. 20, 2007 still feels a bit surreal to me.

I wrote an online story proclaiming that the San Diego Chargers had hired Norv Turner as head coach and was trying to get on the freeway and head south for the official announcement.

My phone was blowing up like it seldom has before or since — local and national radio show producers calling to inquire whether I could come on the air and talk about the hiring, co-workers checking in about the day’s coverage plan, and friends and other acquaintances calling to express their utter shock over what the Chargers had done.

When I finally had a few minutes of peace and sanity during the bumper-to-bumper drive, I just shook my head. Team president Dean Spanos had termed the organization as “dysfunctional” just one week earlier and he thinks Norv Turner is the cure?

I still recall laughing out loud – and thinking how ridiculous it was to hire Turner to coach what at the time was the most-talented roster in the NFL.

When you are trying to reach a Super Bowl, you don’t typically hire someone who had already failed twice as a head coach.

But that’s what the Chargers did and the only thing crazier is that Turner is still employed as coach as I pound the keys on my laptop.

The Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West last season when the Chargers didn’t even make the playoffs and the Chiefs fired coach Todd Haley on Monday.

The Miami Dolphins fired Tony Sparano the same day and Jacksonville fired Jack Del Rio two weeks ago.

A lot of San Diegans are wondering why Turner hasn’t gotten his pink slip and it has nothing to do with the franchise perhaps making another a dramatic season-saving playoff run.

It has to do with general manager A.J. Smith.

No chance Smith pulls the plug on Turner with the season still going. All that does is shift the heat from Turner to Smith.

Turner is the guy who has to face media scrutiny on a daily basis and get called names from fans as he leaves the field.

Smith is receiving his share of heat but he’s also able to hide from the masses on game day and avoid the media at the team facility in the bunker known as his second-floor office.

Fire Norval now and Smith’s seat gets hotter than the Arizona desert during the summer.

Smith isn’t that dumb – even if many of his blown draft picks and questionable personnel decisions are part of the reason for why the Chargers are no longer an elite squad.

Smith joined himself at the hip with Turner when he made that crazy hire nearly five years ago. Rex Ryan’s bluntness worried him, Ron Rivera’s ouster as Chicago defensive coordinator made him a fall-back candidate and the rest of the candidate pool was underwhelming due to the late firing of Marty Schottenheimer.

Smith was blasted at the time for his inability to get along with Schottenheimer – coaches who go 14-2 don’t typically get fired – and has spent most of the past few years acting like the hiring of Turner was a terrific move.

Of course – most people see it in a different way. While it’s true the Chargers went to the AFC Championship Game in Turner’s first year, it was because the Schottenheimer toughness was still stamped on the squad.

You may recall that the Chargers were bumbling along at 5-5 when Shawne Merriman blistered his teammates after a loss to Jacksonville. LaDainian Tomlinson held a players-only meeting a few days later that pretty much displayed the players on the roster knew it was up to them to overcome the leadership void that comes along with having Turner as head coach.

San Diego won one playoff game in 2008, lost in the first round in 2009 and didn’t even make the playoffs last year. Now this year is about to become like last year.

The Chargers are 6-7 and once again on life support with Tim Tebow having transformed the Denver Broncos from being last-place fodder to division leaders. The Chargers will be eliminated from the AFC West race if they lose to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night and the Broncos defeat the New England Patriots earlier that day.

Turner will surely be gone once the season is over but Chargers’ fans will always wonder what might of happened if Smith had hired somebody different back on Feb. 20, 2007.

Turner got the job because he was the guy who would never challenge Smith and would forever be grateful that he got one final chance to be a head coach.

Now the period of the Chargers being a powerhouse squad has passed and all San Diego got was three playoffs wins with all that talent that came through the locker room.

Perhaps if a coach with a successful track record had been hired, there would have been several more wins – and maybe even a Super Bowl appearance.

The experiment of handing a supremely talented team to a coach with a losing track record didn’t work.

All I can do now is the same thing I did on that rainy day on the freeway – shake my head and laugh.

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Comments
  1. las artes says:

    Turner is one of those coaches that doesn’t want people to dislike him. He has gotten by on some terrific football smarts and a good-guy personality. It’s worth noting that Turner is now in his 14th season as a head coach. In all that time, he has made one conference championship game.

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