After an abysmal start to the 2010 NFL season, the Chargers find themselves in familiar territory. Battling for a shot in the post-season, and once again, having to be perfect from here on out. Should the team lose this weekend to Kansas City, they will miss the post-season for the first time in what seems like an eternity as far as AFC West fans go. With that, the team will also give up another divisional banner. So the question now is who gets the axe first: Norv Turner or AJ Smith?
For Turner, you can argue that again, he did not have his troops ready and the team is now looking at a losing season. The Chargers' slow starts have almost become a cliche. The team can't ever seem to find their feet right from the get go under Norv, but do usually redeem themselves down the home stretch.
This season, however, that does not seem to be the case. You have a Pro Bowl quarterback in Philip Rivers, a small yet quick run game, tall versatile receivers, and arguably the best tight end in the game. Add it all up and what do you get? One divisional loss to Kansas City (for now), and two divisional losses to the flaky Oakland Raiders.
The fact that Turner cannot get his premiere offense to work does not come down to the QB, it doesn't come down to Darren Sproles and above it all it does not come down to general manager AJ Smith, it comes down to Norv and Norv alone.
Should Turner keep his job running the on-field club, the man shaping the team off the field should be held responsible for fielding a terrible defensive core.
Who will be out the door first?
Smith has done a tremendous job drafting over the years and letting prospects grow, however, if a player needs more seasoning he should not be given the top gig. The player I'm referring to, of course, is Antoine Cason. Cason has potential to be a very good player and has the skills to be a very versatile corner. However, after a few seasons of waiting in the wings and backing up Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie he should not have been given the top spot. With that said, Jammer's fading skills need to be remedied in the offseason as well.
Shawne Merriman missed a lot of games early on due to his holdout which, in turn, handcuffed the Chargers D and forced the club to field second and third-string linebackers.
The team's defensive line also needs quite a bit of work. This line looks very different than it did two years ago, numerous big-name players have moved on to bigger and better things while no medicine has been served up to this very sick group of underachievers.
All of these things should have been fixed prior to the season. Smith should have seen this coming, and shouldn't have crossed his fingers while forcing Norv to start second and third-stringers for the majority of the year. He should have relied on trades and signings to help build his defensive core, rather than trying to develop drafted young inexperienced talent. Due to this, his overpowering offense will soon be one year older and likely more agitated and looking for a more successful destination.
There's two halves to an NFL season, this team can't keep getting away with only playing the second portion. If Marty Schottenheimer got the axe for successful seasons but playoff failures, what will happen to Norv Turner for semi-successful seasons and potentially no playoff run this year? One man will be unemployed following the 2010-11 season, it's time to point the finger in San Diego.