They came into the season with one of the league's deeper rosters, the second-highest rated quarterback in the league, and Super Bowl expectations. They'll be leaving the season with their heads bowed in shame. They won two of the first seven, lost games to Seattle, St. Louis and Cincinnati, and will be playoff spectators.
Here's the question: With team president Dean Spanos announcing that head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will be back for 2011, did they sign themselves up for the same fate next year?
My concern is the reasoning Spanos gave to Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“I’ve learned the hard way,” Spanos said. “Your GM and coach have to be two individuals who work together. It’s very difficult for some teams; I’ve been through it. I like the working relationship at this level.
“We’re as disappointed as anyone. But I look to 1996 to 2003, when we couldn’t even get (beyond) 8-8. We’ve turned it around, to where we’re a good team and a good organization."
So, Smith and Turner stay because they play well together, and because the Chargers didn't go 1-15?
Is the goal to win the Super Bowl, or is the goal to not return to the sad sack days of the late '90s? Obviously, you don't want to relive the Ryan Leaf era, but at the end of the day, what everyone should be striving for is that big, silver trophy, right?
Maybe Spanos is a little too comfortable finishing .500 or better, and not hellbent enough on winning the whole damn thing.
I'm not arguing that anyone should be fired -- not in this post, anyway. The attitude expressed by Spanos seems like a problem, though. If he'd have just said, "I fully believe that these are the two guys who can and will win us a Super Bowl," it would be one thing. But that's not what he said.
Just for the record, I wouldn't fire A.J. Smith, either. While he won't be winning any popularity awards, he has done a tremendous job putting together this roster. His job should be safe. His methods might not be popular, but look around the league. How many GMs have built a roster as talented as Smith's?
But when a team consistently starts seasons so poorly, and it happens year after year after year, don't you have to at least consider blaming the coach? Turner does a lot of things brilliantly, but when a team repeatedly fails to reach its potential, isn't it fair to wonder if the coach isn't pushing the right buttons?
Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. It's troublesome for Chargers fans, though, that the decision came so quickly and easily.