If you're one of about 1.3 million people, you have the luck and good fortune to be living in San Diego, California. It's sunny and 70 degrees all-year round, and you can get on a bus to get to some of the best beaches in the United States (La Jolla Shores being my personal favorite). There are only two things that make San Diegans a little gloomy: rainy season (typically January through March) and an early exit by the San Diego Chargers in the playoffs -- also falling in that same time frame.
When the latter of the two happen, Mission Valley turns eerily quiet. Jack Murphy Stadium¹ turns to a ghost town, and restaurants like Seau's are full of Chargers fans who are looking for someone to blame. It almost makes me feel proud because the way they treat their players after a disappointing loss makes me feel like being home in Philadelphia again² -- where fans are already criticizing Andy Reid's decision to stick with Donovan McNabb.
My Facebook and Twitter were littered with trends and topics that were executing Chargers personnel worse than Kurtwood Smith executed Peter Weller in Robocop.
Nate Kaeding this.
Vincent Jackson that³.
Agreeing with the Kaeding firing is easy, but there is one guy who should not be able to dodge another bullet. Norval Eugene Turner, give your tickets to the man operating the coaches' carousel at the carnival, and enjoy the ride.
There is precedent to fire Turner because of previous ineptitude from a head coach. Marty Schottenheimer was fired in 2007 after going 14-2 and getting bounced by the underdog New England Patriots at home in San Diego. Turner took over, but not one sports-writer saw this as a good idea for a team with a wide open Super Bowl window. How did general manager A.J. Smith say with a straight face: "Hey, my team is this close to winning a Super Bowl. Why don't I bring in a guy who is 58-82 as a head coach, and hasn't had a winning season since 2000?" Seriously, how much hair was lost by Chargers fans trying to scratch their head to make sense of that logic?
Ok, I'll be fair. Turner DID go 11-5 in his first year, but he got beat by the Patriots again with Phillip Rivers playing with one leg⁴. In the second year of the "Tenure of Norv", the only thing that kept Turner from getting fired was a miracle finish to the season that saw the Chargers win four in a row to win the AFC west over the Denver Broncos⁵. Just like 2007, injuries -- this time to tailback LaDainian Tomlinson -- kept the Chargers from winning a playoff game.
This year, Tuner and the Chargers had NO EXCUSES to not make it to the AFC Championship Game. They won 11 straight, had a first round bye, and they were favored against the New York Jets complete with rookie head coach Rex Ryan and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. What happened? Five words: they weren't ready to play!
Two things stand out. The offensive strategy utilized made absolutely no sense. Why drop back and throw the ball 40 times against a defense that channels the spirit of late Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson? Did Norv just not see Cedric Benson run for 160 yards against this vaunted #1 defense? You have Tomlinson AND Darren Sproles, and they combined for 57 yards on 15 carries. Against a great blitzing defense like the Jets have, you have to run, run and then run some more. San Diego didn't do that, and Rivers was running for his life on all the third and long situations he was in. Nothing changed in the second half at all. Rivers was still dropping back to throw with not only no open receivers but with free blitzers as well. Were any adjustments made? Did Norv say anything to his team?
Equally as mind-blowing as the offensive strategy was the amount of dumb penalties in this game. The Shaun Phillips head-butt in the third quarter was beyond stupid⁶. Instead of 1st down just inside the 20 yard line, it was first and goal inside the 5. Sanchez throws to Dustin Keller ... touchdown. Jets lead 10-7.
You can't totally put this game on Nate Kaeding -- even though fans in Diego have already thrown him under the bus. It didn't seem as if Turner made any kind of adjustments in the second half. He was out-coached by a rookie head coach/quarterback combination making their second playoff start. The Chargers played like second class citizens, and some of the failure has to come down on Turner. The Chargers fans have Ron Rivera on their staff, and he was a hot head coaching candidate not too long ago. If Turner can't get it done -- and personally, I don't think he can -- then someone needs to get the keys to the car before their great young core of Rivers, Sproles and Merriman gets wasted and starts winning rings elsewhere.
Normally, I'm not one to call for a coach's head, but I'm making an exception in this case on behalf of the fans of the San Diego Chargers. If a coach with a pedigree like Marty Schottenheimer was fired for failures like this, a coach with a distinguished and proven resume like Norv Turner needs to be shown the door faster than Uncle Phil showed Jazz in the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air."
¹ I refuse to acknowledge the incorporation of professional sports stadiums. (i.e. Qualcomm will always be Jack Murphy and INVESCO Field @ Mile High Stadium. Football gods don't sell out.)
² Let's be honest. No fan base is rougher on its team than Eagles fans.
³ A bit ridiculous considering he had 7 catches for 111 yards against Darelle Revis -- the second best cornerback in football.
⁴ Rivers played the AFC Championship on what was revealed later to be a torn ACL.
⁵ A trend Denver continued this year. After starting 6-0, the Broncos finished 2-8 and miss the playoffs.
⁶ On a scale of one to Forrest Gump, that play is about a Rain Man.