Tale of the Turnovers: Why the Chargers Should Thank Lovie Smith

Ian PhilipAnalyst IIIDecember 30, 2007

Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith bungled by letting the San Diego Chargers get their hands on Ron Rivera.

Lovie pulled the ‘ol okie-doke on Rivera when the latter was in San Diego interviewing for the Chargers' head coach position, hiring a seemingly overmatched Bob Babich to take Rivera’s place as Bears defensive coordinator.

Rivera was out of a job for about five minutes, as San Diego brought him in as inside linebackers coach by convincing him that learning the 3-4 would help him get a head coaching job in the future.

Rivera has been Ted Cottrell’s right-hand man while learning the new defense. The Chargers' inside linebackers have been outstanding.

It may be a coincidence, but the Chargers could never hold on to interceptions until Rivera arrived. And while Rivera was busy teaching the San Diego defense how to create turnovers like the ’85 Bears, the Bears were busy falling victim to the Super Bowl Losers' Curse.

The Chargers created 49 turnovers with a +25 turnover margin this season. The Chargers’ turnover margin AFTER their 1-3 start was +27, with a 10-2 win-loss record.

The Chargers also picked off 30 passes on the season, and led the league in interceptions, turnovers, and turnover margin. San Diego recovered 18 of 19 forced fumbles to tie Detroit for second in the league in fumble recoveries.

The Bears, meanwhile, tumbled to a -1 turnover margin for the season, and their defense was nowhere near as dominant as last season, or that Fathead commercial.

Chicago created a respectable 30 takeaways in 2007, but it’s a far cry from their 44 takeaways in 2006. The decline, not surprisingly, has led to six fewer wins this season.

No stat will give you a better indication of a team’s record than turnover margin. Last year, the Chargers rarely turned the ball over, so they got away with their mediocre 28 forced turnovers. This season, with Philip Rivers impersonating Ryan Leaf early on, the Bolts needed the 21 extra turnovers they created.

And the Bears?

They could have used an extra 14 turnovers THIS season.

Consider that the Green Bay Packers lost only three games this season—and two of those losses were to Chicago, in games in which which the Bears were +6 in turnover margin.

The Packers had no business beating San Diego, but a critical Rivers turnover, bad tackling, and no Packers turnovers (the Chargers had numerous chances) led to a San Diego loss in Green Bay.

San Diego also had no business losing to the Chiefs at home, but four San Diego turnovers (including a fumble return for a TD) led to the upset.

But all that's moot now, as Rivera and his new team are bound for the playoffs, while the reigning Super Bowl champs have started the offseason early.

What a difference a year makes.