Playbook Confidential: The End of Norv

(Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

In what was most likely the second-to-last game for Norv Turner as the Head Coach of the Chargers, he sure didn't seem to put up much of a fight when the Chargers traveled to Detroit. I'll start here with a quotation from our good friend Dan Dierdorf at the end of the game:

It just doesn't seem possible that a San Diego team we saw Sunday night take apart the Baltimore Ravens, the next week would lay an egg like this.

Clearly Dan hasn't been watching the Chargers a whole lot this season. That statement epitomizes both the Chargers and the playcalling of Norv this season. At times they can be dominant, and times they can look like a team that belongs with a top 5 draft pick. It should be clear, though, that the fact that the Chargers had a mathematical chance at a playoff spot with 2 games to go does not mean that they are a playoff caliber team.

After the jump we will jump into the personnel details from the Detroit game.

The role reversal between this week and last week is quite eery. The Lions did to the Chargers exactly what the Chargers did to the Ravens last week. They scored early and often with the intent of taking the running game away from their opponent then sit back and create turnovers in the passing game.

On to the numbers:

First Half

Personnel Run Pass
00
01
02
10
11 1 9
12 1 5
13
20
21 4 1
22 1
23

Second Half

Personnel Run Pass
00
01
02
10
11 5 20
12 2 15
13
20
21 2
22 2 1
23 1

Game Total

Personnel Run Pass
00 0 0
01 0 0
02 0 0
10 0 0
11 6 29
12 3 20
13 0 0
20 0 0
21 4 3
22 3 1
23 1 0

Talk about imbalanced...this may very well be the most imbalanced game this season. Those numbers add up to a 24% Run-76% Pass ratio. Take away the 4 straight runs that the Chargers used to run out the clock to end the game and the first half and it results in an even more lopsided 18% Run-82% Pass ratio. That's ugly. Detroit took away the run game completely, and as a result the play-action pass game went away with it as well. The sad thing is, the Detroit defense didn't take away the running game, the Detroit offense did by scoring so quickly.

You may also notice that with the exception of the attempted Halfback throwback play, the offense on Saturday was a very vanilla offense. At the start of the game Norv called his first play with a very timely screen pass to Mathews that looked to be a huge gain until one of the blockers whiffed on his assignment and the LB made the tackle on Mathews. After that play it seemed that Norv crawled back into his shell and didn't really call anything out of the ordinary for him.

There were no out of the ordinary personnel groupings, no creative offensive formations, just the same things that we were seeing during the 6 game losing streak. We also didn't see nearly enough of the 11 personnel running game until Norv was running out the clock to end the game.

3rd down RB

I've been calling for the end of Tolbert as the 3rd down RB for a while now. Tolbert took 12 snaps on third down to Mathews' 2 snaps. in my opinion, Tolbert is suffering from a personnel crisis: he's not sure if he's a fullback or a halfback. Sometimes he is content to run over and through defenders, while others he tries to be too elusive which isn't his strength. I know what you are saying, "but Tolbert is a much better blocker than Mathews." While you may be right, I counted only 2 times out of the 12 snaps that Tolbert took that he stayed in to help block the pass rush. The 10 other times Tolbert was in the game, he was out running a route as an outlet for Philip. Which brings me to my next question, who would you rather have catching passes from Philip, Tolbert or Mathews?

Tolbert seems to have forgotten how to catch. He doesn't always get the most accurate passes from Rivers, but he had 3 drops yesterday, which all occurred in either the redzone or on a third down. Mathews is now the better receiver and more explosive of the two RB's, so if the 3rd down RB isn't staying in to block, why isn't Mathews the 3rd down back?

Along those same lines, why isn't Mathews the RB in the game in the hurry up offense? The offense has more options when Mathews is in the game, and the defense has more speed to worry about with Mathews.

Drops

We all know that Rivers' accuracy hasn't been all there this season, but his receivers didn't help him out a whole lot in Detroit. I counted seven drops on catchable balls: Tolbert - 3, Jackson - 2, Crayton - 1, Floyd - 1. We have already talked about Tolbert's drops, let's talk about Vincent Jackson for a second.

Vincent Jackson is a great player and this offense is clearly better with him, but VJax is NOT an elite receiver. I'll say it again, Vincent Jackson is not an elite wide receiver. I know that he was hurt yesterday, and has been for much of the season. I also know that elite receivers do not trap the ball against their chest when catching it, which is what resulted in 2 drops when he let the ball hit him in the chest to try to catch it. Elite receivers catch the ball with their hands, which Jackson does well on high passes, but he gets lazy when the ball is on the numbers and he doesn't attack the ball to catch it with his hands, he lets it hit him in the body and often results in a drop or the pass being broken up by a defender. I'll cut Jackson some slack yesterday since he was playing injured, but on the season as a whole he hasn't shown to be an elite receiver on several occasions when he hasn't fought for a jump ball, he hasn't finished a route, or he hasn't been able to get open. Elite receivers don't disappear.

Now, I'm not advocating the team getting rid of Jackson, I think the team should keep him, but not pay him as an elite receiver. Instead I will blame Jackson's underachieving on something else...

Coaching

A lot of the mistakes that we talk about every week come about from a lack of focus: penalties, drops, fumbles, blown coverages, wrong routes, etc. There have been a LOT of mental errors committed by the Chargers and that reflects the coaching more than anything.

This team is inconsistent and you never know what team is going to show up, which also reflects on the coaching. I can't blame all of the players' mistakes this season on Norv Turner, but when there is a trend of constant mental mistakes in crucial times, that indicates to me that there is an overall lack of focus and accountability in the organization.

I am worried about what the offense will look like without Norv Turner around, but I know it is time for a change. I don't know if there is an option out there that is definitely better than Norv, but a change in the coaching staff will send a message to the players that people in this organization will be held accountable for their mistakes. Regardless of if the new head coach is better or worse than Norv, this team needs a change if they are ever going to take the next step.

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