After yet another disappointing season in San Diego, the Spanos family has the difficult task of making some big changes within the Chargers organization.
It didn't take long for changes to get under way as the announcement was made Monday that Norv Turner and A.J. Smith had been fired. Rumors of both men being dismissed at season's end had lingered weeks before Sunday's season finale, but it seemed team president Dean Spanos wanted to wait to make such a monumental announcement official.
Now that the top of the food chain has been taken care of, the Spanos family, along with the eventual new GM and coach, must now focus on the team roster.
Like a fine wine, Quentin Jammer has gotten better with age in terms of his playing career. The 33-year-old cornerback had a solid year, finishing with 64 tackles, a forced fumble, three fumble recoveries and three interceptions.
That being said, Jammer hasn't truly lived up to the expectations that were placed on him as former first-round pick back in 2002.
Jammer's cover skills have been suspect many times during his career, and game film has shown that he's been beaten deep by faster receivers on more than one occasion.
I will say, however, that Jammer is one of the best open-field tacklers on the Chargers roster. Even though he may never be a shutdown corner in one-on-one situations, Jammer has proven that he can bring down ballcarriers and receivers alike when they venture in his direction.
With the NFL evolving into more of a pass-friendly game, defenses are being forced to cover aerial attacks more often than not, and corners are constantly being tested by younger, faster receivers.
The likelihood of Jammer having another season like he did this year doesn't look good as he approaches his 12th season in the league.
With his contract up, I can't see the Chargers re-signing Jammer even after the success he enjoyed this past season.
Shaun Phillips is another wily veteran on the defense who has gotten better in the latter part of his career. Like Jammer, Phillips had a hand in creating many a turnover this season.
Phillips finished 2012 with 50 tackles, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He led the team in sacks this season, and was a key component in reviving San Diego's pass rush.
After nine seasons in the NFL, Phillips' contract with the Chargers is up, and while the 31-year-old may not have a wealth of time left in his career, I still believe he is a must-sign for the Chargers.
San Diego's defensive unit has undergone a youth movement as of late, and both of the team's top rookies proved to be extremely effective in their new roles. Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes have bright futures ahead with the Chargers, but they still need veterans like Phillips to mentor them in their progress.
Because of his value to the team as a role model and an effective pass-rusher, Phillips must stay with the Chargers.
Antoine Cason is another Charger who played the final year of his contract. Cason has spent five seasons in San Diego, and he too has failed to live up to first-round draft pick expectations.
But, his presence in San Diego is important even though his progression has been slow.
Cason finished the season with 73 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. The former Arizona Wildcat has had trouble with coverage in the secondary but his athleticism at the cornerback position still makes him one of San Diego's better one-on-one defenders.
With more time and a new head coach soon to come, I see Cason finally developing into a solid corner. For that reason, I believe San Diego must continue to show trust in one of their young players and re-sign Cason.
To let Danario Alexander walk away would be the dumbest decision the Chargers could make in the offseason. Alexander was signed in mid-October to help bolster a receiving corps that was dealing with the loss of Vincent Brown and the nagging injuries that plagued Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal.
Much to the team's surprise, Alexander wound up being San Diego's No. 1 receiver as the season came to a close. His 37 receptions for 658 yards and seven TDs was a career best for the former St. Louis Ram, and opened the door for bigger opportunities headed in Alexander's direction this upcoming offseason.
Now that Alexander is no longer a diamond in the rough, he'll more than likely field offers from teams around the NFL looking to add help for their quarterbacks.
The Chargers are still trying to recover from the loss of Vincent Jackson a year ago, and Alexander could be the answer if given the chance. Because of how he performed in such a limited time span, I see the Chargers scrambling to bring back Alexander.
Ronnie Brown was a bust even before he got to San Diego, and now that his one-year contract is up with the Chargers, it's time for him to move on to the next desperate team that will take a chance on him.
Brown signed with San Diego in June to compensate for thin depth at running back, but his contributions in the run game were a lot similar to what they were in Philadelphia with the Eagles—minimal at best.
The former 2005 No.2 overall pick ended his first run in San Diego with 220 yards rushing, 370 yards receiving and no touchdowns. Brown had no excuse for a lack of playing time either as Ryan Mathews missed an ample amount of time with injury. The Chargers were practically handing he and Jackie battle the reins in the run game.
It was obvious that Brown wasn't a fit with the Chargers, so it shouldn't be a difficult choice in deciding whether he stays or goes.
Louis Vasquez isn't the best right guard in football, but he's one of the few players who managed to stay healthy within San Diego's offensive line.
Vasquez started all 16 games for the Bolts at right guard, and he's schedule to be an unrestricted free agent in 2013. With their offensive line being held together by duct tape, the Chargers have no option but to re-sign Vasquez.
It's no secret that the front office will have to address the offensive line through free agency and the draft, but keeping Vasquez in San Diego will help make that challenge less of an overhaul than what it really is.
San Diego replaced longtime kicker Nate Kaeding with Nick Novak midseason, after Kaeding was unable to fully recover in time from a past filled with injuries.
As far as Kaeding's release is concerned, the Chargers may have let go the better kicker in terms of accuracy and reliability in the regular season, but Novak has shown he can make the big kicks as well.
In addition to making 18-of-20 field goals, Novak also hit twice from 50-plus yards out.
Rather than go out looking for a new kicker, the Chargers should focus on staying with what works and re-sign Novak.
Jackie Battle didn't have a set role at the beginning of the season. In fact, some believed he was the third running back behind Ryan Mathews and Ronnie Brown. As fate would have it, Battle ended up being the second-leading rusher behind Mathews and his three touchdowns were the most among the team's running backs.
Whether San Diego decides to re-sign Battle is a toss-up. On one side you have a power back who had an average season running the ball but ended up being the most effective rusher behind Mathews. Then, on the other side, you have a guy who can't really be depended on in a feature back role, possibly even in a No. 2 role.
If Battle is willing to re-sign at the right price, then he should stay with the Chargers.
Tyronne Green missed three games for the Chargers, adding to the troubles on the offensive line. However, many San Diego coaches had their eye on Green at the beginning of the season as he prepared to take over at left guard for the recently retired Kris Dielman.
Green had his fits with a hamstring injury during the season, but his absence wasn't the reason for Rivers being sacked 49 times in 2012.
Green deserves another chance to prove himself as a worthy starter at left guard for the Chargers. That's why I say he stays.
Norv Turner and A.J. Smith had to go, we just didn't know when that day would come.
Finally, that day has come as the announcement was made Monday afternoon. Both men were given a second chance to turn the team in a positive direction, but a 7-9 finish was nowhere near what the Spanos family expected from them.
Now the hunt begins for as new regime to take over in San Diego.