Chargers Retain Turner, Smith

The Chargers announced coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will return in 2012 despite missing the playoffs for the second season in a row.

"Bottom line, I believe these two men give us the best chance to get back to the playoffs," said Dean Spanos, team president and chairman of the board, in a release. "A.J. Smith is the best man to improve our roster, and Norv Turner is the best man to lead that roster on the field.

"Together, we have stability and experience that's hard to find in the NFL. They've both been in this league a long time. I don't think there is anything they haven't seen or experienced. They've led us through some difficult situations."

The Chargers have deliberated about Turner's future for three seasons, but each time Spanos has remained committed to the management structure in place. Turner is considered a top offensive mind, but quarterback Philip Rivers' regression in 2011, when he threw a career-high 20 interceptions with seven fumbles, put him closer to the firing line.

Rivers, as several veterans did, came to Turner's defense after the season-ending win at Oakland.

"As we've seen throughout Norv's tenure and particularly this past season, the players believe in him, respect him and play hard for him," Spanos said. "When we went through that tough stretch, no one quit. The team kept playing hard, and that's a tribute to Norv's leadership and the respect the players have for him.

"Now we will take a hard look at everything, from player evaluation to coaching to the rash of injuries we've suffered in recent years. Injuries have killed us. And no one is ever perfect in this business. Player evaluation isn't an exact science. We need to improve across the board and I'm going to make sure we do.

"We all have our quirks and faults, but I want A.J. and Norv on my side. They are the right men to help us win a championship."

Smith has been Chargers' general manager for nine years (2003-11), during which San Diego has won 88 games and five AFC West titles. Turner is 52-34 overall record (including 3-3 in the postseason) with the Chargers.

"Despite the number of wins we've had, the net bottom line is it doesn't mean anything unless you win a championship," Spanos said. "That's our goal and I am committed to winning a Super Bowl for San Diego."

Turner seemed confident he would be retained, even joking Monday about his job status.

"What were they going to do?" he said. "Leave me in Oakland?"

There's no mystery this was another disappointing season for the Chargers, a team not that far removed from a four-year run of AFC West titles, but a six-game losing streak did them in. Still, they rallied at the end, winning three of their final four games, to make it possible Spanos brings Smith and Turner.

"What I take on my shoulders is the fact that we finished 8-8 this year," Rivers said. "That was more about play than coaching by far. When you believe in something that doesn't mean you're always right. But if you believe in it you got to express it. I believe it is going to work and we are going to win and ultimately win a championship here. Obviously no one knows what's going to happen. That's obviously what I believe in and I'm going to do all I can to make that happen."


PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Philip Rivers campaigned for coach Norv Turner during the game with his play and afterward with his words. Rivers threw three touchdown passes after a game-opening pick. He passed for 310 yards, as he consistently picked the right receiver with the right read. The key was his protection, which allowed for such a luxury. Malcom Floyd had 127 yards and a score on seven receptions; his downfield partner, tight end Antonio Gates also had a 100-yard game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Chargers got the bully treatment the last time they played the Raiders, but this time they rushed for 153 yards. Despite Ryan Mathews being out, Mike Tolbert and Curtis Brinkley compensated for it. Good run blocking as well. Vincent Jackson was nifty with a 41-yard reverse.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Chargers got picked on at the corners, and safety Steve Gregory was also off. There was no pass rush, with an injury (Shaun Phillips) and an ejection (Antwan Barnes) putting a crimp in the heat delivered. Carson Palmer was able to pass for 417 yards and two scores, though Antoine Cason did have an interception. The lack of a pass rush was a huge problem.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Michael Bush never got in a rhythm, and some of that was because the Raiders fell behind early. But the ground defense was decent, with ILB Donald Butler leading with 10 tackles and ILB Takeo Spikes adding eight tackles. The Chargers' front was blown off the ball early, then made an adjustment and got it right.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Richard Goodman's club-record 105-yard kickoff return was a thing of beauty. However, his touchdown was nearly offset by a fourth-quarter blunder when he fielded a kickoff on the 1 and almost got tackled for a safety. Mike Scifres never got to punt. The Chargers' coverages were just average.

COACHING: A -- With not much riding on this one, the Chargers played as if they were the one trying to seal a playoff spot. Coach Norv Turner emptied the play book, let loose, and the result was one of the Chargers' best showings of the season. The blemishes remained on defense, and until a pass rush is discovered, that will remain the same. But Turner deserves credit for keeping his players interested in what could have been a ho-hum performance.

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