The 2006 San Diego Chargers had a season to remember.
LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 1,815 yards and scored 31 touchdowns. Shawne Merriman led the league in sacks. The team won 14 games en route to the best record in football. They were the top seed in the playoffs.
And it all went for naught in a postseason collapse against the New England Patriots.
With their roster returning virtually intact, the Chargers hoped to use the offseason to find a new head coach to get them over the hump.
Instead, they wound up with Norv Turner.
Though his offensive genius is unquestioned, Turner has been terrible as an NFL head coach. His Redskins teams made the playoffs once in seven years, and he never won more than five games as coach of the Raiders.
Granted, Marty Schottenheimer couldn’t win a playoff game, but Turner has rarely been able to even get a team to the playoffs.
The main difference between Turner's tenures in Washington and Oakland and his future stint with the Chargers is that San Diego has far more talent. There are so many good players on the Chargers’ roster, in fact, that a playoff spot is basically a given in the mediocre AFC West.
This team could make the postseason with Rich Kotite at the helm.
While the decision to hire Turner might not matter much in the regular season, though, it will most certainly be an issue come January.
Who would you take in a matchup of coaches—Turner or Mike Shanahan?
Who would have the edge between Turner and Tony Dungy?
Who has more Super Bowl rings, Turner or Bill Belichick?
The Chargers may have superior talent at a majority of key positions, but their coach isn't even the best in the division.
Beyond the man at the top, not much else has changed in San Diego. Tomlinson will defend his NFL MVP award behind the same offensive line that helped him win it. G Kris Dielman almost fled for greener pastures, but he decided to stay with the team.
Tomlinson's talent would likely have rendered Dielman's loss moot, but having him back will make life that much easier.
Philip Rivers proved himself to be a solid NFL quarterback in 2006, ultimately winning games by himself and turning the Chargers offense into a two-headed monster. A full year of experience as a starter should pay dividends for the young QB.
Defensively, the Chargers return one of the league’s staunchest units.
DT Jamal Williams put his girth to work clogging the middle for the league’s seventh best rush defense in 2006. DEs Luis Castillo and Igor Olshansky round out an ideal line in San Diego's 3-4 scheme.
Merriman was one of the NFL’s top defensive players despite missing four games due to suspension. His 17 sacks led the league, and he made just as many plays in the running game.
The rest of the linebacking corps played well in Merriman's absence, and should be solid again this year.
Turner has worked wonders as an offensive coordinator in both Dallas and San Francisco. His influence will make the San Diego offense even better than it was a year ago, which is a scary thought. Unfortunately, his lack of experience when it counts and poor track record as a head man are both causes of concern.
The regular season fortunes of the Chargers are in good hands with Tomlinson, Rivers, and Merriman. But with Turner leading the way in the postseason, the end result might be unsatisfying.
Projected finish: 10-6, 2nd AFC West
Keep your eyes on: LT Marcus McNeill—Should have won Rookie of the Year honors.
Take your eyes off: WR Vincent Jackson—A sleeper in Fantasy drafts. A snoozer in real life.