Will 2011 Be Norv Turner's Last Season with Chargers?

Neil TillmanContributor IIINovember 11, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 10:  Head coach Norv Turner of the San Diego Chargers talks with quarterback  Philip Rivers #17 in the first half while taking on the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium on November 10, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Is Norv Turner’s job officially in jeopardy?

Norv Turner, the beleaguered head coach of the 4-5 San Diego Chargers, is currently coaching a team on a four game losing streak. It's the most losses in a row for a Chargers team since the start of 2003, when the team started 0-5 coming out of the gates.

Norv Turner should rightfully be under fire. After all, somebody is responsible for this team. It starts with poor quarterback play, offensive line woes, too many penalties, lack of pressure on quarterback, unable to stop opponents running game and blown coverage’s in the secondary.

A head coach allegedly coaches all of those areas. Many football people give Turner a pass because they believe he’s a great offensive mind. A head coach’s job must go beyond calling plays for the offense, an offense that has only scored 24 points a game, which would be the lowest the Chargers have averaged since 2003.

Americans love to play the blame game. In a country that gives attention to a bunch of sign holding protesters that claim the Country’s economic downfall is because of the top one percent, is proof that finger pointing is newsworthy.

The Chargers top one percent is A.J. Smith at General Manager and Head Coach Norv Turner. Since A.J. Smith will not fire himself, he can join the Occupy Chargers Park movement and fire Turner.

Certainly Smith has not done well on his part either. The last few drafts have reaped little reward. However, depleted as it may be, the Chargers roster has plenty of talent to win the division. Why else would Las Vegas set the odds for the Chargers to win the AFC West as heavy favorites?

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 11:  San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner looks on from the sideline during the second half of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Qualcomm Stadium on September 11, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Chargers defeated
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

It’s simple math really? The Chargers, being 4-5, are not winning. The Chargers are not mathematically out of the playoffs, but it’s impossible to get in if you don’t win. The AFC West is hardly the AFC North, or AFC East. There is no team in the West that can go anywhere in the playoffs. That distinction used to exclude the Chargers.

Turner is not a good head coach, because his Chargers are ill-prepared to play football every single week. The reason the Chargers cannot put four quarters together is because it starts with the first quarter. The last three weeks the Chargers have been outscored in the first quarter 38-10.

The Chargers have had only one opening game drive result in a touchdown this season after nine games.  Coincidentally, the Chargers scored a season high 38 points that game.  In 2010, the Chargers only had four games with a touchdown on an opening drive. In all four of those games, all victories, the Chargers had over 30 points.

In addition to poor game preparation, Turner is an awful clock manager. Against the New York Jets, neither Rivers nor Turner could explain why their two minute drill was so sluggish. After completing an 18 yard pass to Gates with just under a minute and a half, Rivers audibled the next play running off approximately 30 seconds, only to dump the ball off for a 3 yard gain to Crayton who remained in bounds.

On Thursday Night, the Chargers had three time outs with just fewer than two minutes to play in the first half, trailing by two touchdowns. After starting with two positive plays that resulted in a first down, the second being a run up the middle.

Rivers was sacked attempting to scramble on first down. Turner decided not to use a time out to get the team together, instead allowed approximately 30 seconds to run off before the Chargers ran a running back draw for 11 yards. After the run, with 27 seconds remaining, Turner called time out. The 3rd down resulted in an incomplete pass attempt and the Chargers punted.

The Chargers showed no attack on their last series before the half. Turner showed a lack of clock management again, and unfortunately he cannot transfer timeouts to the following half. Points before the half could have been crucial, being that the Chargers would receive the ball first in the second half.

Here is a few of the excuses “Norv-Turner backers” throw out as alleged reasons the coach should be employed:

“It’s not Norv’s fault the offensive line can’t block!”

This one’s real popular. Most excuses shift the blame. “It’s Smith’s fault for not drafting better guys.” Turner has the same problems against every team. When Tamba Hali of the Kansas City Chiefs was killing both tackles, McNeill and Clary, Turner didn’t assign help protection. Sure, it would be nice if lineman could always block rushers one-on-one, but if you know you are having a problem, why not add an extra blocker?

Turner might as well play in an empty backfield every down, because more often than not his running back is running to the flats. On a critical fourth and one, Randy McMichael motioned to the backfield, stayed and blocked and Rivers completed the pass for a first down. The offensive line must give Rivers time, but if they have a leak, somebody must find a plug.

“Norv is not the one throwing interceptions!”

Yes. Norv also doesn’t throw touchdown passes, but Norv does still call the plays. Turner also does the game planning for the upcoming games I presume. Turner’s offense lacks any kind of attack, instead they wait till they must strike when their behind.

“The players respect and play hard for Norv,” says Dean Spanos.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 3:  General Manager A.J. Smith of the San Diego Chargers watches their game against the Washington Redskins on January 3, 2010 at Quolcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The players respect and play hard for money. This is a lucrative business, the NFL. Colonel Custer probably had the respect of his men, that didn’t make him a good leader.

“Norv has had bad luck with injuries.”

The 2010 Green Bay Packers had a problem with injuries as well. As does the 2011 Oakland Raiders. It’s amazing how many coaches can use the injury bug as a crutch, while others plug in players.

How much time does Turner have left in San Diego?

Washington Redskins invested nearly seven seasons on Norv-Air, before relinquishing him of his duties near the end of the 2000 season. Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders needed only two seasons, which both resulted in last place finishes to figure out that he wasn’t the Raider’s guy. Assuming Norv finishes the season, this will be Turner’s fifth season as the Chargers Head Coach.

Turner coached the Chargers to three straight AFC West championships to start his tenure in San Diego. Turner has yet to have a losing season in San Diego. However up and down Turner’s regular seasons have gone, his playoff experience has dwindled down from the first season.

Turner’s first season the Chargers went to the AFC Championship before falling to the undefeated Patriots. In Turner’s second season, the Chargers made their way to the divisional round before falling to eventual-champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Turner’s third season resulted in a disappointing divisional round loss at home to the New York Jets. In Turner’s fourth season, the Chargers were left out of the playoffs.

If Turner’s fifth season does not result in a playoff game, there is no reason to believe Turner should earn a sixth season. Of course, Turner signed a four year extension in January of 2010, after the Chargers fell to the Jets. Impeccable timing for Norv, instead of missing the playoffs in the last year of his contract—with the AFC Wests most superior team—Turner missed in his first year of a new contract.

One problem with A.J. Smith firing Norv is, who would Smith hire to replace him? Sure, San Diegans would call for Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher, but A.J. Smith is the kind of guy that hires a coach that has a career record of 58-82-1, with one career playoff victory.

Not only is Turner due a sixth season, he is also due an opportunity to blow a division winner in a seventh season. A.J. Smith is contracted through 2014, one year longer than Norv.