Has Turner's Time Come?

The San Diego Chargers have won the AFC West in each of Norv Turner's three full seasons at the helm. Yet this season, the boys in blue and gold cannot seem to get out of their own way. Would the reigning AFC West champions be better off with someone else running the show?

To be clear off the top: Norv Turner will not be let go during the season. Oddly enough, his inability to get his team ready to play early in this season works into his favor here. He has led the Chargers out of early holes in each of the last three years; why not give him a chance to do it again?

As is always the case in the NFL, money is also an issue. Turner signed an extension last offseason that ties him to the team through 2013. Should the Chargers make a move now, the Spanos family would spend four years paying two head coaches, an almost unfathomable scenario.

Nonetheless, this is a pivotal year for Turner. After Sunday's 20-17 loss in St. Louis, the pressure only rises. Remember, in 2007 he inherited a 14-2 team that was widely recognized as the most talented in the NFL. He led that team to a pair of postseason wins, but the Bolts won just one playoff game in Year Two and none in Year Three.

Now, even making the playoffs seems unlikely.

Coach Norv Turner
Stephen Dunn/Getty
The biggest factor working in San Diego's favor is they are only 1.5 games out of first place with 10 games left to play. Unfortunately, this team has shown no signs of being able to close that gap.

If the Chargers can't beat the Chiefs, Seahawks, Raiders or Rams, how can they expect to top the Patriots, Titans, Colts, Texans or Bengals?

There are serious problems in all three phases. The offense cannot protect the ball of its quarterback; the defense has only one player playing at an elite level (Shaun Phillips); and the special teams … well, let's just say Steve Crosby must have some Brett Favre-like pictures of Norv Turner stashed away somewhere or he would have been fired weeks ago.

Despite all these struggles, the Chargers will have to get through the season with a head coach who is about as motivational as banana bread. Who knows, if Vincent Jackson reports later this month as expected and plays well down the stretch, the Chargers could even bounce back and win a fifth straight divisional title (the Chargers would be 6-0 at this point if Jackson were in the lineup, so perhaps the team's hard-headed GM deserves even more blame than Turner).

Regardless, the real drama arrives in the offseason. The first step is getting a quick resolution to the CBA, because if there is uncertainty in that area, the Chargers will not make a coaching change.

But if San Diego comes off another flameout season and a new CBA is in place, there are plenty of big-name coaches (Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, etc.) who would leap at the chance to coach such a talented roster.

Even those with two feet on the Turner bandwagon have to agree naming Gruden the head coach and Wade Phillips the defensive coordinator would make the Chargers instant Super Bowl favorites in 2011.

Will it happen? Probably not, because Turner is A.J. Smith's hand-picked coach. Just like Smith picked Antoine Cason to replace Antonio Cromartie; Larry English to replace Shawne Merriman; and Buster Davis to replace Chris Chambers (how are those moves working out, by the way?).

Instead, Chargers fans are stuck in the same place they are seemingly every October: hoping for a miracle while looking ahead to next season.

Should the Chargers fire Norv Turner? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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