The Real Problem with the San Diego Chargers

Brian SmithCorrespondent INovember 26, 2008

The biggest problem this season with Chargers isn't the Chargers in my opinion. It isn't the defense minus Shawne Merriman. It isn't the offense with LaDainian Tomlinson's toe injury. The problem is AJ Smith and Norv Turner.

Why AJ Smith? AJ Smith hired Norv Turner, that's why. AJ Smith fired Marty Schottenheimer. He is the one ultimately responsible for the Chargers.

This isn't a "hate AJ Smith" article or a "hate-a-thon" against Norv Turner. What this is going to be is a statistical analysis of why AJ Smith made a huge mistake by firing Marty Schottenheimer and bringing in Norv Turner as his replacement.

Yes, we all know Schottenheimer's dismal playoff record (5-13) with no Super Bowl appearances. Minus a couple of untimely fumbles in the playoffs, his teams just couldn't seem to get over that hump to make it to the big game.

For this analysis, I will be comparing Marty's first 10 years as a head coach and Norv Turner's 10 years as a head coach (minus the '08 season).

I'll do the easy numbers first. Norv Turner's record as a head coach is 69-87-1 for a .439 winning percentage. Marty Schottenheimer's record as a head coach in his first 10 years is 94-56-1 for a .622 winning percentage.

AJ Smith's mantra is, "Just get to the playoffs." Well, that's just what Marty does. Norv on the other hand...well, he has not done such a good job at doing that.

Let's take a look at their playoff records. Marty, in his first 10 seasons with Cleveland and Kansas City, got his teams into the post season eight out of 10 seasons. Norv, with Washington, Oakland and San Diego has got his teams to the playoffs twice.

We know Marty's record in the post season over his career is 5-13. In his first 10 seasons, his record was 5-8. Norv's post season record is 3-2.

At this point in time, you're probably thinking, "Hey, Norv has the better record in the playoffs." and you are correct. However, when you throw in the AJ Smith mantra, Schottenheimer is clearly the better of the two.

Now, lets take a look at another very important factor in reaching the playoffs and that is your divisional record. After all, if you can't beat the teams in your division, odds are, you will not make it to the playoffs.

Marty's first year as a head coach was in 1984 with the Cleveland Browns when he took over for Sam Rutigliano half way through the season. Marty finished the year at 4-4. His next season, the Browns finished 8-8 and a playoff berth. Respectable. Norv Turner took over the Redskins before the start of the '94 season and finished 3-13. One less win than Schottenheimer, but, nine more loses. Norv's second year as head coach, the Redskins finished at 6-10

So, I said that if you can't win in your division, you will find it very difficult to make it to the playoffs. I truly believe that. Marty's divisional record in his first 10 years as head coach was 47-21 for a .691 winning percentage. That's a very good percentage. Norv's divisional record is 26-45-1 for a winning percentage of .361.

Schottenheimer, in his first 10 years as head coach, his teams finished at .500 or better, never having a losing season. Turner, in his 10 years, his teams finished at .500 or better five times. It wasn't until Schottenheimer's 15th season before one of his teams had a losing record.

Some may argue that if you can't win in the playoffs, what does it matter? I say what matters more is, you can't win or lose in the playoffs if you can't even get your team there. I'll take Marty over Norv as my coach when it comes to that, no hesitation at all.

Norv Turner has coached his teams to second place or better, only three times. Marty Schottenheimer has coached his teams to second place or better, nine times. Remember, this is comparing Marty's first 10 years and Norv's first 10 years. I say second place or better because, if your team is second in its division, you give your team a shot at a Wild Card berth in the playoffs.

It gets worse for Turner. Of the three times his teams finished second or better in their division, they only made the playoffs twice. Marty, on the other hand, when his teams finished second or better, made the playoffs eight times. AJ, are you listening to yourself? Just get to the playoffs.

Besides Turner not having much luck at getting his teams into the playoffs, another glaring problem is he has never had more than eleven wins in a season. Marty had only three seasons where his teams won less than 10 games and one of those years, he took over half way through the season.

Turner has taken over three teams in his career as a head coach. His record as a head coach after taking over a team is 19-29. One can say, it's an adjustment period the first year a new head coach comes in. Ok, I'll concede that point. Then what is Turner's record in his sophomore year as a head coach: 10-22. It's worse percentage wise.

When he took over the Redskins in 1994, Washington lost one more game than the previous year. When he took over the Raiders in 2004, they won one more game than the previous year and when he took over the Chargers in 2007 they lost three more games than the previous year. This shows that his teams regress or stagnate after he takes them over.

Schottenheimer has taken over two teams in his first 10 years as a head coach. His head coaching record after taking over a team is 12-11. That's an ok record, but, his first year as head coach in Cleveland was for eight games. Schottenheimer's record in his sophomore year as a head coach: 19-13, showing that his teams progressed after taking them over.

If you're curious, Schottenheimer's over all record as a head coach is 200-126-1 spread over 20 and a half seasons. Out of those 20 and a half seasons, his teams were in the playoffs 13 times. Even more impressive, in all of those seasons, he only had two losing seasons. Going 7-9 his last year in Kansas City in 1998 and 4-12 in 2003 with San Diego. Oh, his teams had 10 or more wins in a season eleven times. Just get to the playoffs is exactly what Marty Schottenheimer did.

If we project Norv Turner's numbers for another 10 years (including the current season), we see a much bleaker outlook for him as a head coach. 152-192 for a regular season record and only two more playoff appearances. He will have 10 losing seasons and four seasons with 10 wins or more and only six second place or better finishes.

You can argue that Norv Turner has been the victim of taking over bad teams. I don't believe that to be true. The Redskins were just in the Super Bowl three seasons prior and the Raiders were in the Super Bowl two seasons prior and the Chargers were coming off of a 14-2 season before he took over.

So what's my point? My point is, AJ Smith's mantra of "Just get to the playoffs" and using that mantra of his as a factor in all of this analysis, it clearly points to Norv Turner being the wrong person to be the head coach of the Chargers as opposed to keeping Marty Schottenheimer.

We all know that Smith and Schottenheimer did not get along. The unfortunate part of all that is, the team has suffered because of AJ Smith bowing to his ego and firing Marty to bring in his own man. AJ Smith also let Cam Cameron and Wade Philips leave to take head coaching jobs in Miami and Dallas respectively.

AJ Smith let the coaching staff be dismantled that brought consistent success for the Chargers. The finger can be pointed at Norv Turner for mismanaging the talent of the Chargers and AJ Smith is the catalyst of why the Chargers are where they are now.

Marty Schottenheimer will never be back as head coach of the Chargers, but, I just can't see Norv Turner being the head coach of the Chargers much longer if they continue to regress and don't make the playoffs.

After all, it has everything to do with, just making the playoffs. Right, AJ?