There is little doubt this is Turner's final season in charge. The question is whether to pull the trigger midseason or wait until the campaign is over. Turner will be given at least a few more weeks -- wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would vault the Chargers right back into contention --but he does not have much more rope with which to work.
Assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia is the kind of fiery leader Turner will never be. Bisaccia also has a knack for getting his players to perform with a sense of urgency. The Chargers would be wise to give Bisaccia a legitimate look before engaging in a seemingly inevitable coaching search this offseason.
Fire A.J. Smith
GM A.J. Smith
That being said, he has built a solid and talented core. And while critics say he has lost his touch in recent years, his last three drafts have netted Donald Butler, Cam Thomas, Corey Liuget, Vincent Brown, Melvin Ingram, Kendall Reyes and other strong contributors.
The Chargers are a handful of plays away from being 6-1 right now. There is enough talent in place for this team to make the playoffs and pose a legitimate threat. It is just a matter of who can get the most out of that talent.
Smith, despite his failings, deserves to stay.
Dump Philip Rivers
Fans have seen too much of the good Rivers to give up on him now. But patience is wearing thin. Rivers, despite protecting the ball against the Browns, still turns it over far too much. His deep balls have lost their zip and accuracy. He no longer anticipates routes as well as he once did. Most alarmingly, the player once known for his incredible fourth-quarter QB ratings seems incapable of making plays in the clutch.
The common belief is the organization wants to see Rivers work with a new coach before giving up on him, hoping a new offense and a fresh voice can do him some good. But in the short term, it makes a lot of sense to sit Rivers for a game or two and give Charlie Whitehurst some run. If Whitehurst performs well, the offense may rediscover its swagger. If not, the time on the sidelines may give Rivers some perspective and reignite his competitive fires.
Dump Ryan Mathews
Should the Chargers cut their losses and trade Mathews? In a word, yes.
It is tough to give up on a talent like Mathews. He is an elite runner with the vision to work between the tackles and the speed to turn the corner. But while he runs the ball almost as well as the man he replaced, future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson, Mathews does none of the little things that made L.T. a transcendent player. Mathews gets untracked by nagging injuries; he struggles in pass protection; and most importantly, he fails to protect the football.
Trading Mathews would bring a lot of heat for Smith, who traded away several assets to move up and select Mathews early in the 2010 NFL Draft. But the Chargers cannot move forward with a turnover-prone quarterback and a turnover-prone running back. If forced to choose between Mathews and Rivers, the only logical move is to send Mathews packing.
It is still possible Mathews could go on a tear over the second half of the season and work his way back into the organization's good graces. But so far, so he shown no signs he has it in him.
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Michael Lombardo is 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 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.