The first three seasons under Turner were moderately successful as the Chargers made the playoffs, but the seasons ended with fan disappointment because the team fell short of the Super Bowl.
It's hard to find much fault with Turner for getting his team to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons and winning 67 percent of their games, despite an eight-win effort in 2008.
Unfortunately for Turner, the Chargers had to go through the New England Patriots in 2007. Turner coached his team to playoff victories over the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts before falling to the undefeated Patriots. The Patriots would go on to lose to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl and fall a game short of a perfection.
In 2008, the Chargers won their last four games of the regular season by a margin of 149-73 and defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round. The eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers would beat the Chargers in the divisional round.
After two disappointing playoff exits, the pressure was on the Chargers during the 2009 season and they went 13-3 en route to a first-round bye. The New York Jets would eventually prevail by a field goal in the divisional round in a game where Philip Rivers threw two interceptions.
Who is to blame for the Chargers inability to win the Super Bowl?
You could make a case the 2009 playoff loss to the Jets was the most damaging to Turner. Until that point his teams had been defeated in the playoffs only by the 2007 Patriots and 2008 Steelers. In 2009 though, the 13-3 Chargers couldn't beat Mark Sanchez and his 100 passing yards.
During his five years in San Diego, Turner's offenses have not been worse than 5th in points scored. The offense has been nothing but consistent throughout Turner's tenure. Turner is widely regarded as a great offensive mind, so that's hardly a surprise.
It has been the defense that has let Turner down. Is the defense playing poorly a reflection on Turner's abilities? Probably not, Turner can only be so involved on the defensive side of the ball.
The Chargers had to find a new defensive coordinator when Ron Rivera took the head-coaching job in Carolina, and Greg Manusky was hired to lead the defense. The Chargers defense took a significant dive under Manusky last season and finished 22nd in the league in scoring defense. Rivera's defenses ranked 5th, 15th, 11th and 10th which is not outstanding but in the top half of the league.
The Chargers changed defensive coordinators again and hired John Pagano, brother of Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano who hired Manusky a month after he was fired by the Chargers.
Perhaps Turner's time in San Diego is the best evidence yet for the old saying "defense wins championships." The Chargers have routinely been able to win with great offenses, but even an average defense hasn't made a difference.
The reality is, the Chargers were really good from 2007 to 2009, but not the best team in football.
Turner hasn't wasted talent on offense, but his defenses have been average to below average. The problem is not that the defenses are under performing, it's that those defenses aren't over performing.
Turner is far from a bad coach, but he's not a great coach that is going to elevate the play on both sides of the ball. That leaves general manager A.J. Smith in a near impossible situation of having to maintain an explosive offense and find players that will help the defense.
An average head coach is a bad head coach and the Chargers had an opportunity to win and didn't have the guy leading that could get the coaches, the offense and the defense to rise to an occasion.
Norv Turner is great offensive mind, but in football, and in life, people get promoted to a level of incompetency. A.J. Smith's worst move as general manager has been hitching his wagon to Turner and it's likely to cost both of them their jobs.