Posts Tagged ‘A.J. Smith’

The NFL draft begins Thursday and I am noticing I’m not really looking forward to it.

That’s an odd feeling in that I covered the draft as a professional more than a dozen times at either the professional or college level. And always made sure my Saturdays were clear to watch it prior to that well before this decade’s dumb three-day format.

Analyzing things, I can see why I’m not all that interested in the 2017 NFL draft.

That’s because this is the first draft in my lifetime in which my hometown doesn’t have an NFL team.

Not the least bit interested in who the Los Angeles Chargers pick. Geez, it is hard writing that city’s name before Chargers.

The Chargers belong to San Diego, not the smog clowns and silicone fakes of Los Angeles. The draft is really the first time a big NFL event happens in which the Chargers aren’t referred to as “San Diego Chargers.”

When Roger Goodell reads that phrase off the cue card as the Chargers make their first-round pick, it is a loud reminder to the football world that San Diego is no longer an NFL town.

Dean Spanos had ample opportunities to make it work in San Diego and didn’t have the big-boy leadership abilities to make it happen. Good riddance to him and his poorly run organization.

That is where we will miss the draft — mocking the Chargers for their sad first-round picks.

The lousy picks roll off the tongue easily — receiver Walker Gillette in 1970, running back Leon Burns in 1971, fullback Bo Matthews in 1974, cornerback Mossy Cade in 1984 (Google him to see what a total reject he is) and the biggest draft bust of all-time in quarterback Ryan Leaf in 1998.

There are many other busts — one of my favorites being receiver Craig “Buster” Davis in 2007. I called up Davis’ receivers coach at LSU while writing a profile story and got greeted with all kinds of criticisms of Davis’ desire, toughness and inability to stay healthy.

Guess what Davis was known for during his 26 total games over four seasons with the Chargers? Yep, low desire, no toughness, always injured.

During Davis’ second season, I already wrote song lyrics about him called “Wasted Draft Pick,” to the tune of Rod Stewart’s “Infatuation.”

Great pick, A.J. Smith! Might want to talk a player’s position coach before you select him.

Of course, there were superb first-round picks over the years too — defensive tackle Gary “Big Hands” Johnson in 1975, tight end Kellen Winslow in 1979, defensive end Leslie O’Neal in 1986, linebacker Junior Seau in 1990, running back LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001 and the great quarterback maneuver of 2004 when Eli Manning refused to play for the Chargers but Smith drafted him anyway before working out a trade with the New York Giants for Philip Rivers.

General manager Tom Telesco has fared well in the first round of the last three drafts with cornerback Jason Verrett, running back Melvin Gordon and defensive end Joey Bosa.

The Chargers select seventh this time around so they are positioned well to land another good talent.

But there will be a different feeling when Telesco makes his pick.

You see, these aren’t the San Diego Chargers anymore. So it no longer is a big deal if the team scores with its pick or lands another bust.

Perhaps that is why the draft’s appeal isn’t there for me this year. My hometown doesn’t have a team and the fun is gone.

You see, I could care less if a team from Los Angeles messes up its draft.


   Been asked several times since last night about how I feel about the Chargers’ move from San Diego to Los Angeles.

   My answer has been pretty consistent — the actions of the team having been pointing toward this development for 18 months and it is like the day has finally arrived.

   Anger? Nope, not from me. I put on the journalistic objectivity cap a long time ago. I also covered that team so I am also quite aware from the inside perspective of what a poorly run organization it is.

   Sadness? For others. For all the fans that loyally supported the franchise since 1961. For all the younger folks who may not have a team to watch and support for future decades.

   Good riddance? Sure. Dean Spanos is a horrible leader and he will be an even bigger failure in Los Angeles, where the stakes are higher. San Diegans want to keep their team but they despise the ownership. So yep, get your sad-sack meek self out of town, Dean.

   And stay out!

   Dean Spanos is the son of a very wealthy man named Alex Spanos. Dean didn’t EARN his way to being a pro sports owner. He got there by being born into the right family. He has always been in way over his head when it comes to running a football team.

   Heck, his leadership skills were horrible when the Chargers posted a franchise-best 14-2 record in 2006. General manager A.J. Smith wouldn’t acknowledge coach Marty Schottenheimer and little Deano was too afraid to make the two grown-ups sit in a room and work out their differences.

   And remember, the same situation occurred in 1996 when Bobby Ross had to exit as coach because he and general manager Bobby Beathard could no longer co-exist.

   So it happens again a decade later and Spineless Spanos still can’t figure out how to handle it.

   Schottenheimer was fired and a few days later, a few of us reporters got an audience with Dean on the second floor of the facility.

   There was nothing more surreal than seeing his flustered face as he began telling us that the organization was dysfunctional.

   This after a 14-2 season!

   Imagine how dysfunctional things were when they went 1-15 in 2000.

   Things were dysfunctional because Dean Spanos doesn’t function properly.

   He made it clear he was done with San Diego in the fall of 2015 as he worked overtime on getting the Carson project approved. What a hit to the ego it had to be that other NFL owners trusted Stan Kroenke the Donkey with the Los Angles market more than Dumbbell Dean.

   So he came back to San Diego with his tail between his legs and began talking this big game about how he was going to get the stadium thing solved. I just chuckled at that stuff.

   Dean Spanos was unable to get it done the previous dozen years. Why would he suddenly become this stadium magician?

   The ballot measure in November never had a chance and the fact that even 43 percent voted yes tells me there were a lot people who voted for it that felt desperate to keep their football team.

   That’s exactly what it was — San Diegans wanting to keep their team. Nobody was voting to keep Dean Spanos or his two sons, who now have major roles (Again, two kids born into the right family, no EARNING things when you are filthy rich).

   The best thing is the Chargers have taken the plunge to Los Angeles and nobody in that smoggy city cares that they are coming.

   USC football will always be 20 times more popular than the Chargers … heck, the football pecking order goes like this:

   USC, Rams, UCLA, Chargers … Spanos should be happy Long Beach State no longer has a program.

   Oh, so reflective? Certainly.

   I attended dozens of Chargers’ games as a kid. The cost was $1.50 the first time I went. There probably isn’t anything in the stadium that you can get for $1.50 now.

   I waited overnight to get playoff tickets — in the Don Coryell era, playoffs were a yearly thing — and I later covered the team for seven seasons as a professional. Spent a lot of time in that complex in Murphy Canyon, both during the era the Chargers let reporters in the building and again in a later era when they threw the reporters in a stinky trailer that probably couldn’t pass code.

   That also means I spent a lot of time at Qualcomm Stadium. It was a good place when I first started covering games there — including two Super Bowls — but it certainly had declined over time.

   One time they were doing the Sky Show fireworks after a San Diego State football game and I went into a back room in the press box to write. And with every loud boom, I was surprised the stadium didn’t collapse to the ground.

   During my last season covering games, I was on board with everybody that said it needed to be replaced. It was officially a dump.

   But Dean Spanos never got his stadium. The San Diego voters said no to the infinitely rich guy who could have built his own stadium a decade earlier. Part of why they voted no is that San Diegans don’t respect Dean Spanos or his cronies.

   San Diego loves its football team. It just despises the guy who moved it.


   It sure has been a fun time on Twitter since news of the move broke Wednesday night. Here are some of my contributions:

Good-bye #Chargers … don’t forget to pack all your #SuperBowl trophies … oh, none of those? … Hmmm, pack all your losing seasons.

Marlon McCree is telling people tonight he’d still run with that interception he fumbled to set up #Patriots rally. #SpanosEraChargersFail

A.J. Smith still bragging to people that getting third-round compensation pick for Drew Brees was an outstanding move #SpanosEraChargersFail

That time #Chargers took bust Craig “Buster” Davis in first round & his college WR coach slammed him in my feature. #SpanosEraChargersFail

If the eggs were off the mark or fell incomplete, they were thrown by Craig Whelihan. #ChargersSpanosEraFail

Can we slide in the Galaxy at No. 11 and drop the #Chargers to 12? Heck, slide in the WNBA team too. No. 13 it is.

Two words: Ryan Leaf. #ChargersSpanosEraFail

This might be as fun as day the fan at training camp serenaded Ryan Leaf with “Lonesome Loser” and Leaf tried to fight him. #SpanosEraFail

1-15 in 2000 with 11 straight loses to start season & coach Mike Riley led team in “Hip, Hip Hooray” after lone win. #ChargersSpanosEraFail

350-pound Chris Mims drunk at downtown Del Taco, urinates outside, beats 150-pounder with belt, steals his four tacos #ChargersSpanosEraFail

Not sure what this 4 thing is … perhaps #Chargers will play in Los Angeles high school section 4A level during time at tiny StubHub.

That #Chargers logo with the 4 … got to be the Spanos way of celebrating all those fourth-place finishes in the AFC West. #SpanosEraFail

The time Dean Spanos looked at me & said the #Chargers were a dysfunctional organization. After going 14-2. Look at them now. #SpanosEraFail

The night in Boston when Dean Spanos looked me in eye & said Philip Rivers didn’t have torn ACL. Two days later: Rivers torn ACL #SpanosFail

LA Galaxy still assured of being highest-scoring team playing in #StubHubCenter with arrival of #Chargers this fall. #ChargersSpanosEraFail

Things change fast around the NFL and the release of longtime San Diego Chargers punter Mike Scifres once again reminded me of that fact.

There are now only two players left in the organization that I covered: Quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates.

Repeat, two.

Just a few months ago, there were still five players remaining who had received the thrill of getting interviewed by me. (Hope you recognize sarcasm when you see it).

But receiver Malcom Floyd retired, safety Eric Weddle was allowed to depart as a free agent and now this weekend’s release of the 35-year-old Scifres, who averaged 45 or more yards per punt in eight different seasons.

Hey, I still have Rivers’ number in my cell phone. Bet it has been changed four or five times since I last called him.

NFL careers don’t last long — the average tenure is a little more than three years — so turnover isn’t surprising. It just jumps out at you when you have a succinct measuring point like I do.

In fact, I covered the Chargers for five years in the late 1990s too before I moved over to run the San Diego State beat. When I returned to cover the Chargers in early 2007, I scanned the roster closely.

Yep, there were only two players remaining from my first term of covering the team: Defensive tackle Jamal Williams and long snapper David Binn.

Even good-guy general manager Bobby Beathard was gone and the general manager was A.J. Smith, who had a reputation of being hard to deal with. Smith wouldn’t talk to two different beat writers — it was easy to tell why he wouldn’t talk to the one guy; but the other guy he wouldn’t speak with was the nicest and most easy-going sports writer in San Diego history.

If you’re wondering, I never had any issues getting along with Smith. I think it was because he respects sports writers who are direct and honest with him — guys who just flat-out ask the tough questions as opposed to writers who are chronically petty or excel at being a wise guy.

Basically, the type of people who last for long stretches in an NFL organization are guys who don’t put on the uniforms. They are the kind of people fans and the public at large don’t care about it.

But the players? They come and go fast.

Really fast.

The release of the best punter in Chargers’ history attests to that fact.


Joey Bosa you ask?

I have an open mind about the Chargers selection of Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa with the third overall pick in the draft.

He was one of the best college players in the country in 2014 when he had 13.5 sacks among 21.5 tackles for losses. But he didn’t come close to following up that campaign last season when he began the season with a mysterious suspension and ended up with just five sacks.

But his stock didn’t drop at all and he was the first defensive player off the board. The Chargers badly needed to upgrade at the position and only time will tell if Bosa develops into a double-digit sack artist in the NFL.

Even if the Chargers were tempted to take an offensive lineman with their pick, the shenanigans involving Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil should have scared them off. The tweet of Tunsil smoking dope while wearing a gas mask is just the latest of many character flaws in his background.

I think the Chargers did right by going with Bosa.

The Spanos family plane sits on the runway in San Diego on Wednesday.

The Spanos family plane sits on the runway in San Diego on Wednesday. Photo credit – Secret airport source.


So for one last time the “San Diego Chargers” will take the field.

Probably never to be referred to in that way again on a football field.

Sunday’s road game against the Denver Broncos will likely mark a sad end for a franchise that was adored by San Diegans for most of the past five-plus decades. And the only reason why enthusiasm dimmed this season was due to the club’s actions.

The stage was set when owner Dean Spanos made it clear he wanted to move the team. Proposals by the city of San Diego were scoffed at by Spanos and team spin doctor Mark Fabiani.

Instead of looking at a way to make things happen, Spanos and Fabiani repeatedly pointed out why the city’s proposals for a new stadium wouldn’t work.

Regardless, the City of San Diego submitted its proposal to build a $1.1 billion stadium for the team to the NFL on Wednesday. It’s a last-ditch effort by the city to keep the team but Spanos isn’t listening.

He is ready to apply for relocation as soon as Monday and is hoping to gain approval to move the team on either Jan. 12 or 13 when the league’s owners meet in Houston.

All along, Spanos has been working his fellow owners behind the scenes in hopes of approval to move the franchise.

Spanos envisions playing at a stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson. The greed of an NFL owner knows no limits and once the St. Louis Rams began looking at moving to Los Angeles, Spanos couldn’t help himself.

His greedy hands kept picturing the possibility of adding billions of dollars to his family’s net worth.

And now he is just a couple of weeks away from having his wish granted.

Once approval occurs, a team that began playing in San Diego in 1961 will flat-out vanish.

Too bad Spanos couldn’t just vanish and leave the team alone.

Good on-field play certainly disappeared this season as poor Philip Rivers has tried to carry a team with little talent. The squad carries a 4-11 record into the season finale as coach Mike McCoy continues to make poor decisions and display that he should be an offensive coordinator and not an NFL head coach.

The Chargers aren’t part of the playoff field for the fifth time in six seasons and this year’s record is the franchise’s worst since 2004.

Of course, winning has never been a Spanos specialty. The Chargers have made the playoffs only nine times in 32 seasons under the family’s ownership.

They were the owners for the team’s lone Super Bowl appearance when San Diego was smashed by the San Francisco 49ers following the 1994 season.

But coach Bobby Ross and general manager Bobby Beathard couldn’t get along and Spanos showed Ross the door after the 1996 season.

And they certainly were in position to reach the Super Bowl in the middle of last decade but again the lack of top-flight leadership by Spanos curtailed the possibility.

San Diego recorded a franchise-best 14-2 mark in 2006 but was ousted in the opening round of the playoffs by the New England Patriots. Once again, the coach and general manager didn’t know how to communicate and Spanos kept hard-nosed GM A.J. Smith and sent coach Marty Schottenheimer packing.

Spanos termed the situation as “dysfunctional” and apparently wasn’t smart enough to figure out his lack of a spine over the previous two seasons was a major factor. What leader would allow two of the most crucial people in the organization to go that long without talking?

Making the whole situation sadder is that the Chargers then hired Norv Turner as coach. Handing a team built to win a championship to a mediocre coach and leader assured the Chargers would miss their championship window – and they did.

Spanos will arrive in Los Angeles with a lousy football team and that isn’t going to help matters.

Know this: USC is the preferred football team in Los Angeles and there is no chance of the Chargers ever surpassing the Trojans when it comes to popularity.

Spanos also has to fire McCoy. You can’t arrive in Los Angeles with that kind of guy as your coach. He also needs a different public relations staff as having a staff in which the top two guys are lifetime wimposauras is going to be a detriment to doing PR properly in the multi-dimensional Los Angeles market.

Taking the history to Los Angeles will be awkward. You just can’t have Lance Alworth, Dan Fouts or LaDainian Tomlinson show up to wave to the crowd of a city that never watched them play.

Not to mention honoring the “Air Coryell” era or Junior Seau’s tremendous tenure or the franchise’s 1963 AFL title. Kellen Winslow’s performance in the epic playoff game in Miami on Jan. 2, 1982 certainly will never feel like a “Los Angeles” thing.

Added up, it’s just an all-around uncomfortable feel. A greedy owner didn’t get his way in San Diego so he is going to pick up his football team and move it 100-plus miles up the road.

The team will be missed for sure. The ownership won’t be.

And with his two overmatched sons lined up to run the team, the long-standing tradition of Spanos-led teams losing will surely continue.

Good luck, Los Angeles. And brace yourself for decades of buffoonery.

First of all, NFL preseason games mean very little – except to the greedy NFL owners who pocket millions of dollars charging full prices for a meaningless exhibition game.

But other than the first offensive drive of San Diego’s opening exhibition game, there really wasn’t much to be impressed by in terms of the play of the Chargers, who suffered a 31-10 loss to the visiting Seattle Seahawks on Thursday.

And even that one strong drive by Philip Rivers and the first-team offense didn’t result in a touchdown as the 13-play excursion that took up half of the first quarter ended with Nick Novak’s 28-yard field goal.

This was Mike McCoy’s initial contest as an NFL head coach – yes, we will say the same phrase when the Chargers line it up for real – and the best thing you can say about seeing him on the field is this: Norv Turner really is gone as San Diego’s head coach.

Also gone is most of the talent that the Chargers possessed in the second half of last decade. It figures to be a long season in San Diego that ends without a postseason appearance for the fourth straight year.

That playoff window has been slammed shut for a few years now – even if the franchise didn’t want to admit to it until sacking Turner and general A.J. Smith after last year’s dismal 7-9 campaign – and it isn’t about to be pried open this season.

After Thursday’s rocky performance, you can expect the Chargers will bring out the excuses about how this was McCoy’s first game as coach and that it will take time for new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s offensive philosophies to be integrated and fully understood by the players.

OK, fine.

But what about the Seahawks? It was Dan Quinn’s first game as Seattle’s defensive coordinator and the Chargers had three measly points entering the final quarter.

Backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst tossed two second-quarter interceptions to help the Seahawks move into the lead and the Seattle players fighting for the final rosters spots were significantly better than the Chargers who are in a similar position.

The second-half dominance by the Seahawks was so prevalent that San Diego general manager Tom Telesco might want to consider picking up some of Seattle’s final cuts to build up his depth-challenged roster.

On that front, San Diego certainly suffered a blow earlier this week when receiver Danario Alexander suffered a season-ending knee surgery. Alexander’s loss means the Chargers may have to rely more on Robert Meachem, a huge disappointment last season.

I’d rather count on Charlie Joiner finding Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth and suiting up before expecting Meachem to earn any of that ridiculous contract the Chargers awarded him. Remember, the franchise let Vincent Jackson get away before desperately signing this stiff and another underachieving wideout in Eddie Royal.

Even though exhibition results don’t matter, there really wasn’t all that much to feel good about in terms of this first game. Rubbing it in is that the stadium was so empty in the fourth quarter you would’ve thought it was a San Diego State game.

It goes without saying that there is plenty of time for improvement. The important thing is that the Chargers don’t look this bad in the first week of the regular season.

Unfortunately, in today’s social media world, the Chargers were taking a pounding for the poor performance. One guy even declared that rookie linebacker Manti Te’o is a bust – after the first quarter of his first preseason game.

Now that is ridiculous.

That’s even more absurd than Dean Spanos pocketing your hard-earned money to watch a meaningless game.

Norv Turner did two things after being fired as San Diego Chargers coach on Monday that didn’t surprise me in the least.

Turner wore one of his Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl rings to his final press conference. Turner has been living off his run as Dallas’ offensive coordinator for two decades now and I am pretty sure he stares at the ring every single night before hitting the sack.

Call it calculated timing for that ring to be on Norval’s finger Monday as he desperately wants to be running an NFL offense next season – a role he will once again excel at when it is the only thing he needs to worry about.

The second thing Turner did was take not-so-thinly veiled shots at general manager A.J. Smith, who was also fired on Monday. I’ve been expecting this to happen as Turner is one of those head coaches who seldom takes any responsibility for his own failures.

I sat down with Turner in his office shortly after he was hired as Chargers coach in 2007 and the guy was just loaded with excuses for why his stints with the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders ended in failure.

There wasn’t a single thing that was his fault. He pointed fingers at quarterbacks, at general managers, at owners and, yes, even at players.

He had to deal with continual quarterback turnover with the Redskins. … The Raiders’ defense only intercepted five passes in his final season. … The Washington long snapper botched the possible game-winning field-goal snap in a playoff game. … Veterans in Oakland – are you listening, Jerry Rice and Warren Sapp? – didn’t buy in. … The Redskins’ owner (Jack Kent Cooke) died and the new owner (Daniel Snyder) didn’t understand the situation or football in general.

On and on and on it went. There was no responsibility taken – even when it came to No. 3 overall pick Heath Shuler bombing out as one of the worst quarterback draft busts in NFL history.

Turner certainly was overly helpful to get some of his boys – Troy Aikman, Dan Fouts, John Robinson to name three – in touch with me so they could crow about how Turner is one of the best coaches in the history of football.

With that backdrop in mind, I was expecting Turner’s fingers to be pointing in all directions upon being fired by the Chargers and good ol’ Norval met those expectations.

“Somebody wrote three weeks ago that this team is not that far away from being a playoff team,” Turner was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “I would disagree. I know the things that have to get done for that to happen.”

Turner alluded to how powerful the Chargers were when his six-year tenure started. He made it clear that wasn’t the case over the final half of his stint.

“For the first three years I was here, I think we were the most talented team in the division,” Turner said. “The last three years, I don’t think we’ve been that.

“We’ve had too many changes. We’ve lost too many people.”

So what happened those first three years when the Chargers were loaded with Pro Bowl talent? How come Norval doesn’t have a Chargers’ Super Bowl ring on his finger?

The Chargers went 13-3 in the 2009 regular season under Turner and guess what happened? An epic one-and-done playoff collapse that was just as brutal as the one in 2006 that ultimately cost Marty Schottenheimer his job.

San Diego came within one victory of the Super Bowl after the 2007 season due to the fact the Schottenheimer toughness was still a powerful component throughout the roster. By the middle of 2008, Turner softness had permeated the roster and only a late-season sprint to win a very weak AFC West with an 8-8 mark got that squad into the postseason.

After that, the Chargers played one measly playoff game in Turner’s final four seasons. The general manager was certainly a problem with the decline – Drew Brees, Michael Turner, Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson leaving for merely compensatory draft picks sounds like something only an absentee fantasy football GM would allow – but the head coach definitely wasn’t a difference-maker himself.

The funny thing about Turner taking shots at Smith is that A.J. was the only NFL executive dumb enough to give Turner a third chance to be an NFL head coach.

But that’s Norv Turner in a nutshell. You can expect him to wear his Cowboys’ Super Bowl ring to his upcoming interviews. He’ll also have his list of excuses updated, too.

But you will never hear him take responsibility for anything. Turner has lost 122 regular-season games as a head coach and you don’t even need a second hand to count the times he’s placed the blame on himself.

Norv is not a winner, he’s not a leader and he’s not somebody who takes responsibility. But at least he won’t get a fourth chance to be an NFL coach.

And perhaps someone like Indianapolis Colts interim coach Bruce Arians will get a first head-coaching job. Will  be interesting to see the direction Chargers president Dean Spanos chooses in a new leader.

Sunday’s latest embarrassing collapse should be viewed as an extremely significant development by fans of the San Diego Chargers.

Blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and allowing the Baltimore Ravens to convert a fourth-and-29 play – fourth-and-29! – and escape town with a 16-13 victory is infinitely better for your future football enjoyment than if the Chargers had actually tackled Ray Rice and recorded a victory.

At 4-7 and with losses in six of seven games, the Chargers are in full retreat mode and fans can feel really good about the new rally cry:

Fourth-and-29 equates into firing time.

Norv Turner was hanging by a string entering Sunday’s game only because president Dean Spanos isn’t a masterful executive. Most NFL teams would’ve kicked Turner out with the old Stickum supply after last season’s dreadful coaching performance.

But the Chargers let one of the worst head coaches in NFL history return and the organization deserves every ounce of criticism they are receiving. You figured having 13 days to prepare for the Cleveland Browns and failing to score a single offensive touchdown would represent the low point of the season, didn’t you?

Fourth-and-29 trumps anything else because I’ve seen quarterbacks take the field for the Chargers – Todd Philcox, Casey Weldon, Craig Whelihan and Ryan Leaf to rattle off a definitely not fearsome foursome – who likely couldn’t convert a fourth-and-29 against a team made up of Pop Warner players.

Doesn’t get any more pathetic than needing to make one stop to win a game – on fourth-and-29 – and your defense is unable to stop an all-but-giving-up check-down pass and allows Rice to get the first down to set up the field goal that forces overtime.

Good thing Baltimore’s Justin Tucker booted the winning kick in overtime because the Chargers didn’t deserve to escape with a victory. If they had, you would be hearing all that nonsense about the team being in the playoff race and how Turner gets his teams to play their best ball late in the season.

Hope the Chargers public relations chief kept some of his “chill pills” available because he’s going to need a full supply – for himself.

The heat is only going to increase down the stretch as San Diegans ratchet up their hatred of Turner to even higher levels. He has become more despised than either Harland Svare and Dan Henning – the two most-hated head coaches in franchise history.

The good thing for San Diego fans is spineless Spanos – somebody ought to trademark the term “Spineless Spanos” – has no choice but to let Turner go. Good ol’ Dean can’t put in his head back in the ostrich hole like he did at the end of last season.

Three straight years of missing the playoffs pretty much assures that. In addition, the failings of general manager A.J. Smith pretty much mean it will be tough for the team to win in 2013 as well.

Smith ought to be shown the door at the same moment as Turner. A once talent-laden squad is now a middling collection of players with some major underachievers thrown in.

I pointed out prior to the season how silly it was for Smith to think signing free agents Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal would adequately replace standout receiver Vincent Jackson. And those two guys have been even more inept than anyone could have thought possible.

In fact, Jackson had more yards in ONE GAME (216) this season than either Meachem (207) and Royal (134) have all season. Wonder if those players let their paychecks slip through their hands like they do with footballs.

The club announced prior to Sunday’s game that Royal would be inactive. My question: How can you tell? He’s inactive even when suited up.

Gosh, I can’t wait until Sunday for the Chargers to get back on the field. They host the Cincinnati Bengals and now there’s only one thing a loyal fan should root for – that the wheels come completely off.

That way, there’s no chance Turner – infamously known as the coach of the team that can’t defend a short pass on fourth-and-29 – can somehow save his job.

Last week, it was Drew Brees rallying the New Orleans Saints past the collapsing San Diego Chargers. This time, it was Peyton Manning’s turn.

The franchise that has long lacked a killer instinct showed the entire nation it can collapse quicker than a deck of cards in a hurricane with an infamous meltdown during Monday’s 35-24 home loss to the Denver Broncos.

The Chargers had the least dominating 24-0 halftime lead in NFL history as two Denver special teams’ gaffes led to 10 points and Quentin Jammer’s interception return for touchdown made for a misleading advantage.

No problem for the Broncos because San Diego was in a really giving mood and committed six turnovers. Manning completed his first 13 pass attempts of the second half and threw three touchdowns while engineering a comeback that ties for the largest ever by a road team in NFL annals.

Philip Rivers played an atrocious second half and was personally responsible for all six turnovers on a career-worst four interceptions and two lost fumbles. Two of his turnovers were returned for touchdowns by Tony Carter (fumble return) and Chris Harris (interception).

With the Chargers (3-3) now heading into the bye week, there isn’t a single fan of the team who wants to see the face of coach Norv Turner on the sidelines again.

But general manager A.J. Smith is personally attached to Turner and club president Dean Spanos doesn’t have the backbone to go against Smith’s wishes and fire the person who is easily the most disliked person in San Diego County since quarterbrat Ryan Leaf was employed by the Chargers.

Turner did his usual play-dumb act when a reporter pointed out the bye week was coming up and fans of the team would prefer there be a different coach.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Turner said.

After the reporter explained the reasoning, Norval stammered and hemmed and hawed and blurted out a comment in his typical meek manner.

“I don’t think I’m going to respond to that,” Turner said.

Turner was more interested in dodging responsibility – a longstanding tact in which he has mastered – and talking about what it will take for the Chargers to get back on track.

“We’ve got to go play a complete game,” Turner said. “We’ve shown through periods of half a game and three quarters of a game that we are capable of doing it.”

That’s the problem, Norval. NFL games take 60 minutes and require teams to protect double-digit leads. Losing a 24-point lead is embarrassing and helps expose the leadership flaws of a head coach.

You can expect Turner to be on the sidelines the rest of the season because that’s how the Chargers do business. The leadership issues don’t end at the head-coaching level. They are present all the way to the highest level of the organization.

And that fact is partly why the Chargers never made it to the Super Bowl during the current seven-year period in which they have had as much talent as any team in the NFL.

And guess what – this team isn’t going to be breaking that drought, either. Not with Rivers digressing – he’s already thrown nine interceptions after tossing a career-worst 20 in 2011 – and certainly not with Norv Turner at the helm.

“There are a lot of people who are going to count us out,” Turner said.

Right you are, Norv. Count me as one who is doing just that.

Here is what it has come down to for Shawne Merriman and his derailed NFL career that keeps heading in a downward direction.

I saw that he was the fifth most popular “trending now” topic on Yahoo! on Monday night and this is what immediately came to mind:

“He has either been arrested or released. Or both.”

I only went 1-for-2 on my thoughts as Merriman wasn’t arrested. But he was released by the traditionally sad-sack Buffalo Bills, who haven’t made the NFL playoffs since 1999.

You might recall Merriman was once a star outside linebacker for the San Diego Chargers. He recorded double digits in sacks in each of his first three NFL seasons and earned the nickname “Lights Out” for his punishing hits.

But his second season – in which he had 17 sacks – was interrupted by a four-game suspension after testing positive for steroids.

Merriman tried that old athlete refrain that he had taken a tainted supplement but nobody believed it. He ranted about filing a lawsuit but didn’t follow through, which is a pretty strong indicator that spin control was the main intention of the tainted blabber.

Merriman’s career started heading downhill in 2008 when he learned he would need major knee surgery – yours truly broke that story on both a local and national level. His swiftest actions of the 2008 season occurred a couple days after the opening game when Merriman – a huge self-promoter – used his Silver Mercedes SUV to avoid speaking to six measly members of the media (

Merriman never regained his form after surgery and the Chargers finally got tired of his act in 2010, releasing him without even asking for a light bulb in return. The Bills claimed him off waivers and his production was meek with one measly sack over a year-and-a-half as he was only healthy enough to play in just five games.

Now his career is on the rocks at age 28, just five years after he was one of the top pass rushers in the game. I suppose a team might take a flier on him if the club’s management is willing to overlook this fact:

Merriman has just five sacks over the last four seasons after racking up 39.5 over his first three seasons.

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith wasn’t a big fan of how Merriman goes about his business when he was productive. So the baggage Merriman brings certainly isn’t worth the trouble if he can’t produce.

So as I dim the lights in my own dwelling right now, one other thought comes to mind:

Is this “Lights Out” on Merriman’s career?

There are few things more meaningless than a preseason opener in the NFL.

But there are things that occur in those games that mean something – and typically they are bad developments.

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has developed a soft reputation over his first two NFL seasons and breaking his collarbone on his first carry of the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers isn’t going to help matters.

The initial forecast calls for Mathews to miss four to six weeks but his established level of toughness doesn’t make being healthy for the regular-season opener against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 10 seem reasonable.

This is the season in which Mathews is supposed to break out and provide the Chargers with their best rushing attack since future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson began declining. There has been chatter – a bunch of it by San Diego coach Norv Turner – about getting Mathews 300-plus touches and seeing him finally become a workhorse.

The club’s optimism stemmed from Mathews’ late-season surge in 2011. He put together three consecutive 100-yard games late in the season to finish with 1,091 yards.

The Chargers let Mike Tolbert leave via free agency and were hoping injury prone veteran Ronnie Brown could spell Mathews. Now the 30-year-old Brown is the top healthy back on a roster that includes names like Curtis Brinkley, Jackie Battle and Michael Hayes as tailback options.

You can count on Chargers general manager A.J. Smith bringing in a veteran back in upcoming days to shore up the situation.

As for Mathews, he will have surgery Friday and missing two or three games to start the season doesn’t mean he can’t recover and have a solid season. The problem is the trend of ailments that the 25-year-old Mathews continues to suffer raises questions about his reliability and durability.

You can’t become a bona fide workhorse back while standing on the sidelines in street clothes.

The Chargers defeated the Packers 21-13 in the game that doesn’t matter but did become part of NFL trivia history due to Shannon Eastin serving as line judge. Eastin is the first female to officiate an NFL game.