(As a quick aside before this article, comments so far have indicated that people believe that I am trying to say that these people could lose their job by the end of 2010. That is not what I am implying. I'm simply saying that these three are feeling a lot of pressure to perform, and if they don't, they could be building a case against themselves when the time comes to evaluate the staff)
With only three days left until the San Diego Chargers take the stage for the first time in the 2010 season, it is time to take a look at some people who may be feeling the heat this coming season.
Not all of the talk this off season has been about player issues. While Vincent Jackson, Marcus McNeill, and LaDainian Tomlinson have certainly hogged the limelight in the last few months, there is no doubt that some of the personnel of the San Diego Chargers have drawn attention for their actions both in the off season and in the preceding years.
There are three San Diego staff members in particular who, because of one reason or another, may be on the hot seat in 2010.
1. Norv Turner, Head Coach
Yes, yes, yes, he received a contract extension. Yes, he led the San Diego Chargers to a 13-3 record last season. Yes, he has turned Philip Rivers in to a potential future Hall of Famer. Yes, he can win in the post season.
There is no doubt that Norv Turner has done some good for this team. He has done everything listed above, even in the face of some criticism that is unwarranted.
That having been said, Turner has some reason to feel the heat. The first, and probably weakest, reason is that he is hated by most San Diego fans. His first few seasons as the head honcho in San Diego were rough, not just in the overall record, but in the absolute destruction of the running game.
This leads into the second mark against Turner: the dead of the Chargers' famous running game.
LaDainian Tomlinson is a household name in San Diego. Lorenzo Neal is still a hero among the Chargers' faithful. Despite the fact that this league is turning into a passing league, everyone enjoys great running plays, and nothing supports a passing game like a good running game.
While some continue to blame this on the aging of LT, it is clear that there were also changes to the running game that came with Turner. The offensive line changed their blocking, and the Chargers did away with true blocking fullbacks.
Norv Turner will not be dropped at the end of this year. However, if he fails to make a deep playoff run, or at least revive the running game, Turner could be signing his future death warrant.
2. Ron Rivera, Defensive Coordinator
Every Chargers' faithful remembers the good old days of 2006 and 2007 when San Diego had the most feared defense in the league.
They had a turnover ratio that would make Tom Brady shake in his boots, and put up enough sacks to rattle any offensive line.
Then Wade Phillips left. Shawne Merriman got hurt. Things changed, and they have never come back around.
Ron Rivera was a good hire. He was successful in Chicago, and he has worked with some storied coaches in his past. However, he came into San Diego to coach a team that runs a 3-4 defense.
His previous experience was with a 4-3 and Tampa 2 defense. Problem? Sort of.
Rivera has created a fascinating and dynamic scheme for San Diego. However, it hasn't quite taken hold yet, and it is failing to turn heads.
If Ron Rivera can't start bringing pressure to opposing quarterbacks and generating turnovers, he could find himself looking for a new job sometime quite soon.
3. A.J. Smith, General Manager
There has been so much debate over this topic that I can't even begin to sort through all the opposing viewpoints. So, here's a point by point breakdown of the things working against him:
- His drafting: While his drafting hasn't been particularly bad, it hasn't been as good as it once was. He is much better at seeking out replacement talent than he is at finding it in the draft. It's hard to estimate how much of that lies on him and how much of that lies on his scouts, but, in the end, it all falls on him.
- His ego: The holdout fiasco with Vincent Jackson, Shawne Merriman, and Marcus McNeill have shown the people of San Diego the true colors of their general manager. AJ Smith is as stubborn as an ox. He wants everything to be on his terms, all the time, no exceptions. While this approach can be helpful at times, his actions so far have hurt the Chargers' chances at a Super Bowl run, and he has also alienated a lot of former players and fans.
While these three may all make it through the 2010 season with their jobs intact, they will all certainly feel pressure to perform.
If they fail to meet expectations again, they could all be building cases against themselves that could end their time in San Diego in the very near future.