A.J. Smith: Architect or Demolition Man?

Two years of bad decisions have come back to haunt A.J. Smith. He handed the QB keys to Philip Rivers, who has proven incapable of leading a championship offense; he fired one of the winningest coaches in history and replaced him with a man who couldn't teach a 10-year-old to tie his shoes; and he failed to address a secondary devoid of talent.

The irony is not lost on Marty Schottenheimer. Only after being fired by the Chargers was he able to hear the fans chant his name. That came in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 30-16 loss to the visiting Kansas City Chiefs, who snapped the Chargers' nine-game home winning streak.

Turner's play calling was suspect at best. After watching LaDainian Tomlinson run for 116 yards on 14 carries in the first half, he gave Tomlinson just six carries in the second half. Instead, he put the game in the unsteady hands of Philip Rivers, who lost one fumble and threw two more interceptions to inflate his season total to seven.

After leading his team to 14 wins as a first-year starter and earning Pro Bowl honors in the process, Rivers has looked more confused than a toddler at a magic show. He was fortunate to leave the game with just two interceptions, as the Chiefs were close to picking off three more. Rivers stares down his primary target and still hasn't learned to look off safeties. He throws in double coverage and gets caught guessing what defenders are going to do rather than reading their first steps after the snap.

Quarterbacks coach John Ramsdell must teach Rivers what to do with the ball when the pocket collapses around him. Rivers first interception came under heavy pressure, when he threw the ball up for grabs rather than taking the sack. His costly fourth-quarter fumble came when he failed to protect the ball despite defenders closing in on him.

Additionally, Rivers continues to miss open receivers. On third-and-goal from the 5-yard line with under four minutes to play, Rivers passed up a wide open Tomlinson in the flat before throwing the ball away. That decision shows a complete lack of understanding of the game of football. Objective one: get the ball into the hands of your playmakers!

Of course, even solid quarterback play might not have saved the Chargers against the Chiefs. The secondary, despite boasting two first-round picks and two second-round picks, continues to show no interest in playing the ball or wrapping up receivers. Kris Wilson rumbled for 15 yards in the first half after Drayton Florence lazily tried to push him out of bounds. Dwayne Bowe scored on a 51-yard catch-and-run after Quentin Jammer missed the ball with his lead hand and failed to follow through on the backside. That kind of mistake is not excusable by a high-school player, let alone by former top-five pick playing out a $36 million contract.

The Chargers have allowed at least 30 points in three consecutive games. They let Damon Huard, who was averaging 183 yards per game, best that number by more than 100 yards. And now, the secret is out. Teams will throw the ball all over the field against the Chargers until they prove they can stop it.

The only silver lining for the Chargers is that they are just one game back in the mediocre AFC West. With games against the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders on tap, there is still hope in a deservedly downtrodden locker room. It may not matter, though. The Broncos are playing better than the Chargers right now. So are the Raiders.

This week is the most important week in Norv Turner's coaching career. Tomlinson just said last week that if the team falls to 1-5, the season is over. Well, the Chargers are just two losses away.

If the Chargers don't make the playoffs, Turner will likely be one-and-done in San Diego.

A.J. Smith made one monumental miscalculation this offseason and now he is reaping the repercussions. He assumed his team had 14-win talent and brought in a cast of coaching castoffs to keep the systems in place on both sides of the ball. Smith figured that in the same systems, the same players could deliver the same results.

What Smith didn't account for is that his team never had 14-win talent. Marty Schottenheimer coached up that team and made it perform above and beyond its natural abilities. Enter Norv Turner -– and A.J. Smith's ego –- and look how fast it comes crumbling down.


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