After nine seasons as special teams coach for the San Diego Chargers, Steve Crosby was shown the door. Crosby was informed by head coach Norv Turner on Monday that his contract would not be renewed for the 2011 season.
It looks as if Crosby will be the fall guy in what turned out to be a dismal season for the Chargers.
At the start of the 2010 season, the Chargers were looking to capture their fifth straight AFC West crown. That all changed in front of a nationally televised crowd on Monday Night Football as the Bolts squared off against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
San Diego looked to continue the dominance they had previously exhibited over the Chiefs the past four seasons, unfortunately things didn't go as planned.
Kansas City Chiefs rookie Dexter McCluster returned a Mike Scifres punt 94 yards for a touchdown—the longest punt return for a touchdown in the 51-year history of the Chiefs.
Kansas City would eventually win 24-14.
That would only be the beginning of the Chargers special teams' woes.
A week after the loss on MNF, Chargers punter Mike Scifres would have a punt blocked by the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars. Thankfully, San Diego escaped with the win.
However, the problems with special teams would continue the next week in Seattle. The Chargers would give up not one, but TWO kickoff returns for touchdowns. What made matters even worse is that they allowed the same player to score both, Leon Washington.
With a 2-2 record and 21 points allowed by special teams, the Chargers headed north to face one of their most hated rivals, the Oakland Raiders.
San Diego has definitely had the upper hand against Oakland over the past four seasons leading the series 8-0, but that would all change on 10-10-2010.
The Raiders would capitalize on the Chargers' special teams malfunctions, blocking two Scifres punts on San Diego's first two offensive series. Those blocked punts would lead to a nine Oakland points and a 35-27 Raiders' win.
The Chargers would drop the next three games for a patented "slow start"
While some fans were calling for Crosby's head to be placed on the chopping block, Chargers head coach Norv Turner was quick to defend him. Turner called questions regarding a possible Crosby firing, "silly" and "inappropriate." For a time, Turner was right.
San Diego's special teams did play better as the season rolled on, but then came the Chargers season finale in Denver.
Flashbacks of San Diego's special teams meltdowns began to resurface after the Bolts' gave up another kickoff return for a touchdown to another rookie. This time it was Cassius Vaughn who returned a kickoff 97 yards for a Broncos touchdown. What would compound matters even more and may have led to Crosby's firing was a botched recovery of a Denver on-side kick in the closing seconds of the game.
While I understand the blame has to reside somewhere, and unfortunately the Chargers have placed it on Steve Crosby, I believe another person is to blame and no, it's not Norv Turner.
It lies on "The Lord of No Rings," Chargers general manager A.J. Smith.
I blame Smith, in part because he allowed three-time Pro Bowl special teams player Kassim Osgood to leave town for Jacksonville and did nothing to replace him.
Granted, Osgood wanted to see more time as a wide receiver (and he may have done some good with Vincent Jackson gone for a majority of the season and Malcom Floyd plagued by injuries), but he wasn't a three-time Pro Bowler for nothing. Smith should have realized that he needed to bring in a special teams player of Osgood's caliber to replace him.
It will be interesting to see how things unfold this offseason, or if A.J. Smith and Norv Turner will be looking to the coaching staff to find another scapegoat next season.
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