The Chargers conceded the AFC West division on Saturday in a game against the Detroit Lions that was never close. Detroit came out fired up to face what looked like a tired San Diego team, unable to match the Lions' intensity.
Detroit secured its first playoff birth since 1999 with the rout, while San Diego ensured that a new head coach will be calling the shots from the sideline next year and beyond. And while the Chargers gave fans very little to cheer about during Saturday's game, the eminent and much anticipated firing of head coach Norv Turner will be seen by many as a bittersweet consolation prize.
The Turner era has finally ended in San Diego, which should, at this point, provide Chargers fans with a much-needed glimmer of hope heading into next season.
With a team that boasts nine former Pro Bowl players, a legitimate 1,000-yard back in Ryan Mathews and a franchise quarterback in his prime, it's no wonder the Chargers have widely been considered an underachievers under Turner's leadership.
Looking back on the last five seasons, there's very little, if anything positive to say about his coaching abilities. At most, Turner has been able to win enough games to give the fans a false sense of hope and inflated expectations.
And while only Jet's head coach Rex Ryan has publicly called Turner out, indirectly accusing him of misusing the weapons at his disposal, the sense is that many more of his peers hold a similar sentiment. Today's game against Detroit, though, was a prime example of how poorly prepared this team has seemed throughout Turner's tenure, especially in big games.
The Lions game was eerily similar to the week 16 match up between San Diego and Cincinnati last season, when the Chargers needed to win their last two games in order to make the playoffs. The only real difference between the two games being that Cincinnati was a four-win team heading into that contest. This season's Detroit Lions are a much better team.
The truth is, though, that while coaches like John Fox in Denver, and Bill Belichick in New England always seem to get more out of less, there are few left watching who don't believe Turner's Chargers have not lived up to their potential.
Someone must have explained to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky what a blitz was during half time. As ineffective as the soft-zone defense the Chargers ran in the first half was, it's hard to understand what took Manusky so long to make the adjustment.
He did come out with the blitz in the first half which led to a three-and-out for Detroit's offense. Go figure. On the very next series, though, Manusky inexplicably reverted to the conservative, four-man rush that Detroit's offense had had so much success against during the first half.
In contrast, Detroit blitzed often and from everywhere. And, despite recording only one sack of Rivers, the Lions defense was able to get just enough pressure on him to hurry his throws and set off his timing. Apparently Manusky did not think the same rules would apply to Mathew Stafford, as if he could have carved up the Chargers' defense any worse than he did.
Manusky let Stafford sit back there all day and pick the secondary apart for most of the rest of the game. Despite how little success the Chargers have had this season getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks with only a four man rush, Manusky elected to stick with his conservative approach, and with disastrous results.
As good as the Chargers defense is playing with a lead, the unit has been horrible without one. Matthew Stafford shredded the Chargers' secondary like Norv Turners' contract, putting up 373 yards for three touchdowns.
Although the way San Diego's offense has been playing during the last three games allowed the Chargers to play more aggressive on defense, they demonstrated, in no uncertain terms, that they lacked the horses up front to mount an effective pass rush. Unable to get consistent pressure on Stafford the Chargers' front seven hung the secondary out to dry, giving Stafford plenty of time to wait for someone to come open down field.
While very well set, talent-wise, on offense, there's no question the Chargers will be seeking help on the defensive side of the football this offseason, particularly at outside linebacker and strong safety.
The idea of veteran cornerback Quentin Jammer moving to strong safety at a certain point in his career has long been fantasized about by the fans, and treated seriously enough by the coaches, players and members of the media. Such a change is not at all uncommon in the league as a number of former defensive backs have finished their careers at one of the safety positions over the years.
In Jammer's case, it's an intriguing proposition given the physical nature of his game and his excellent tackling skills. Although it's difficult seeing him making the transition to free safety, especially given his well established inability to catch a football, Jammer seems almost perfectly suited for strong and may start to get some work their during training camp next year.
Wide receiver Vincent Jackson couldn't remember the difference between a hook route and a go route on a deep pass play in the first quarter. On another pass play, late in the second quarter, with the Chargers down 17-0, Jackson showed little interest at all in going after the football.
There's no question Jackson is a great player. To be worthy of the contract he seeks, though, which would pay him a salary in the top three at his position, he needs to stop taking games off. Jackson is great but cannot yet be considered elite.
Until, that is, he can consistently come up big when it counts, as opposed to racking up big time stats in meaningless games. Jackson and his agent are seeking a contract comparable to Larry Fitzgerald's, who signed an eight-year contract for $120 million to stay with the Cardinals.
Although Jackson has the talent, he has yet to demonstrate the kind of consistency and has given no indication that he's at a point in his career where he can carry a team. Unless the Chargers franchise him again next season, San Diego may end up settling for the compensatory pick awarded for letting him walk rather than take a mortgage out on the future of the franchise on a single player.