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Norv Turner and A.J. Smith: Don't Call It A Comeback

The conversation I had repeatedly this season, when talking to the rest of the BFTB staff about the San Diego Chargers' impending situation at Head Coach and General Manager, went a little something like this.

Me: It's such a odd place to be in. You're trying to determine who has been good and who hasn't. Is it the Head Coach's fault that he regularly loses half of his stars to injury? That would seemingly be on the General Manager, who picks the players, or the training staff. But which one is it? It seems like a total crapshoot to fire just Norv. What if Norv wasn't the problem at all? What if neither Norv or AJ is the problem and that drunk doctor that the team uses and everyone hates is really a terrible doctor? What if AJ is still drafting great players, but we just never get to see them play because they're always hurt? What if Jeff Hurd, beloved by all, isn't a very good strength and conditioning coach? I mean, if the players are getting hurt early in the season and coming back strong at the end of the season, you'd have to think there's something wrong with the offseason workout plan, right? The option everyone wants to take is to eliminate the risk of choosing wrong and just fire everybody, but how well is that going for Steve Spagnoulo? There's probably a 90% chance we end up with a worse coach or GM or both and maybe a worse training staff too. The percentage chance that they could fix everything by getting a new training staff has to be better than that, right? Anyway, to answer your question, I'm doing pretty good.

Random BFTB Staff Member: You're nuts. Money, please?

Me: NO!

So, as you can see, I've been torn all along. Which, me being an optimist and a Chargers fan, I was probably going to find the silver lining in whatever decision was made that didn't involve Jon Gruden. After the jump, I'll give you my take on Norv and AJ unpacking their boxes and rehanging their family photos on the walls of their offices at Chargers Park.

I don't have much of an issue with those guys staying. The blame needed to be pointed at one of three things: Norv Turner, A.J. Smith or "injuries". Dean Spanos chose to go with the last one, and it's hard to argue him on that. The team, when healthy, looked like one of the most talented teams in the league (credit to A.J. Smith) and the play-calling was brilliant (credit Norv Turner, mastermind of a top-flight offense ever since he took over). That doesn't mean their flaws don't exist, but it does mean they at least each have a feather in their cap that can't be ignored when making this decision.

The healthiest periods of the season for San Diego also coincided with a 4-1 record to start the season and a 4-1 record to end the season. When the team was in shambles, struggling to field an offensive line, the team went 0-6. If you looked at those two sentences in a nutshell, you would think that the team is not far off from being good if they can figure out how to stay healthy throughout the course of a season.

That's what Dean Spanos is banking on, but he has to be aggressive in this decision. If he's not firing Norv and AJ, the entire training staff and coaches need to be fired. They need to be replaced with a creative group that uses different techniques and has different ideologies from the last group. It is the only way that the injuries stand a chance to get better, and it would be some good PR as well (David Chao should've been gone long ago and after the Kris Dielman incident many players are openly questioning how little the trainers care about their health).

Changes are coming on the defensive side of the ball as well. Most of the defensive coaching staff was brought in by Ron Rivera and were with him in Chicago as well, including Steve Wilks and Don Johnson. Rivera wanted to take these guys to Carolina with him, but they were all under contract through 2011 and the Chargers wouldn't let them go. Now that they're all essentially "free agents", it wouldn't surprise me to see most (if not all) of those guys go to the Panthers to work with their old mentor.

If that happens, that just leaves Greg Manusky (who has an unimpressive first year in San Diego after an unimpressive stint with the 49ers) and John Pagano (who has supposedly been offered by Jim Mora Jr. the Defensive Coordinator position at UCLA). Pagano is unproven and probably wouldn't offer anything too different from what we've seen the last few years on defense. Manusky is likely the scapegoat, but will be fired more because there should be a few upgrades out there and the Chargers need to play better defense quickly.

Mike Nolan is a name that I threw out there on Twitter yesterday. It looks like the Dolphins are doing what many Chargers fans want, firing their entire coaching staff and then wining and dining the biggest free agent coaches in hopes to bring them to South Beach. Due to that, Nolan's time as their Defensive Coordinator seems like it could be coming to it's end, and I can't think of a better landing spot for him than San Diego. A coaching staff of him, Norv and Bisaccia is almost a "dream team", and it would put him towards the top of the list of Head Coach candidates if his defense played well and the team still found a way to not make the playoffs in 2012.

Okay, got a little off-track there. To summarize my feelings about the non-move, I'm okay with it. It's not exciting, which is why people are threatening to get rid of their tickets. In a way, it's a toughest decision Dean Spanos could've made, but he didn't make it without reason. Based on what I've seen when the team is healthy, I'm okay with giving these guys one more year to see if they can find a problem other than themselves. However, the guys that are being blamed as the problem need to be shown the door and replaced with some fresh, creative blood. I hope they can pull it off.