Norv Turner’s teams have had a habit of surging late in the year and missing the playoffs. Even if the Chargers were way out of the race, it seemed possible that it would happen again. Sunday’s no-show at home proved that this is the end of the road for Turner.
The Chargers stunk on Sunday, and a below-average Carolina Panthers team rolled over them 31-7. If the Chargers had anyone on the staff who could call plays, Turner probably would have been out of a job weeks ago.
Now it’s clear that the players have lost focus and have mentally started to look forward to the offseason. It’s a somewhat natural thing that happens, and head coaches are usually able to fight against those forces. Turner’s lame-duck status really hurts his ability to continue to win games, and maybe that’s why Dean Spanos let him last this long.
Primary Talking Points for Week 16
With the Chargers officially eliminated for postseason play, the talk shifts to the firing of the current regime and the search for a new head coach. High-profile names like Andy Reid, Jon Gruden and Chip Kelly will be thrown around.
What’s more likely to happen is that the Chargers bring in a longtime coordinator or even a guy that has been a head coach before. Second chances in the NFL can be successful—unfortunately, the Chargers were Turner’s third chance.
The hits keep on coming for the Chargers. San Diego’s injury issues started with Jared Gaither in the first practice of training camp and have lasted all season. Reggie Wells, Malcom Floyd and Ryan Mathews are just the latest to join the injured reserve.
Five of the 15 players now on injured reserve were starters, and several of those were or were expected to be heavy contributors. This is a wounded team, and that’s not going to change until next season. The offensive line was thin to start with, and now it’s been decimated by injuries.
Player on the Rise
Linebacker Bront Bird is getting a chance along with several other young players to get some experience, and he’s playing reasonable well. Bird had just 19 snaps in Week 14, but he expanded that by 10 snaps last week.
Bird has been particularly adept at dropping into coverage, which can often be the toughest thing for a linebacker to do. With two games left, the Chargers should continue to get Bird experience, but they also need to try to expose him more on early downs to see how well he can play the run.
Stat Trends: Offense
If you can count to four, you can probably see what is wrong with San Diego’s offense. The Chargers do some things well and a lot of things not so great. The Chargers still have a nice completion percentage, and they have been able to complete a decent amount of third downs. The blocking has been poor, but Rivers is still finding ways to put the ball into the end zone.
It’s a passing league, and third downs are important, which is why you can’t take one or two statistics to demonstrate overall performance. The running game, offensive line and turnovers have killed the San Diego offense.
By this point in the season, points per game is a pretty good barometer of the productivity of the offense, and the Chargers are ranked 21st. There have been good performances sprinkled within the bad, but players like Danario Alexander are the exception and not the norm.
Stat Trends: Defense
The Chargers are a strong defense against the run and a weak one against the pass. The one-dimensional defense just isn’t able to get the job done consistently. It’s a passing league now, and the most successful teams can usually rush the quarterback. That’s something the Chargers have struggled to do all season.
On third downs, San Diego’s defense is also one of the worst in the entire league. When you consider the fact that the Chargers have stopped the run so well, you also have to consider that many of these third downs are long conversions.
The defense has been the sum of its parts, which equals about the 16th-best in the entire league. With a good pass-rusher, this defense could be drastically better. First-round draft pick Melvin Ingram was supposed to be that guy, but he has been a huge a disappointment.
The Chargers have walked, stumbled, tripped and fumbled their way through the season. It’s been ugly, and the good moments are few and far between. With just a couple of weeks left, the Chargers are now falling completely apart.
If it wasn’t for teams like the New York Jets, there might be more talk about San Diego’s epic collapse. There are worse teams out there, but the Chargers are getting worse each week. A couple more poor performances and the Chargers might really be able to improve their draft stock.