In 2006, the San Diego Chargers had a record of 14-2. They were the best team in the NFL under coach Marty Schottenheimer and could compete against anyone. After a first-round bye, San Diego faced the New England Patriots and lost their third game of the season.
A.J. Smith, who never had a good relationship with Schottenheimer, fired him at season's end. A team that had the league's best record at 14-2, the league MVP in LaDainian Tomlinson and a fiery defense was now searching for a new coach.
A.J. Smith was in charge and felt that he had made the right decision. He also felt that the decision in hiring Norv Turner to take over the Chargers was right. Turner coached the Redskins and Raiders before being hired by San Diego. His record over his two years in Oakland was a horrid 9-23, yet A.J. Smith, somehow, saw this team as a perfect fit.
In his first season as coach, Turner led the Chargers to the AFC Championship after two playoff wins. The next season, Turner led San Diego to one playoff win. After a third consecutive AFC West title in 2009, San Diego did not win a playoff game.
The following season was a shot to the face of fans. For the first year in quite some time, the San Diego Chargers did not make the playoffs. Behind a very impressive year by Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers, special teams woes kept the Chargers from a division title or a wild-card spot. We all know what happened last season, as San Diego let Tim Tebow run away with the AFC West.
After this year, the Chargers will have missed three consecutive playoffs.
Does anyone see a gradual decline? This is what San Diego's seasons have looked like since Turner took over, in order.
First Season: Two playoff wins.
Second Season: One playoff win.
Third Season: No playoff wins.
Fourth Season: Missed playoffs.
Fifth Season: Missed playoffs.
This season: Currently 4-6 and will miss playoffs (Not to mention the embarrassment that this team is).
While everyone is blaming Turner—which I agree with—San Diego fans need to look higher up. Turner will gone at season's end, but the job status of A.J. Smith is unknown.
Who is to blame the most?
It is A.J.'s fault, completely.
What was the biggest area of concern last season? The offensive line. What did A.J. do this offseason? Completely ignore the issue. Look where we are now. A.J.'s inability to make the decision to fire Turner may ultimately end his tenure in San Diego.
If Turner had been fired four weeks ago, the Chargers may be leading the AFC West at this point, but we'll never know.
This season is all but over, and everyone knows it.