The San Diego Chargers have made it official: head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith have been fired.
“I thank A.J. and Norv for the determination and integrity they brought to the Chargers each and every day,” team President Dean Spanos said in a statement. “Both Norv and A.J. are consummate NFL professionals, and they understand that in this league, the bottom-line is winning. My only goal is the Super Bowl, and that is why I have decided to move in a new direction with both our head coach and general manager positions. I am committed to our great fans, and we will do whatever we possibly can to achieve that goal.”
Spanos has retained former Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders executive Ron Wolf to assist in the search for a hew head coach and general manager.
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Dec. 6 that the club had already made the decision to fire both Smith and Turner. Team president Dean Spanos denied that report. The Chargers were 4-8 and out of playoff contention at that time and not even a 3-1 finish to the season, including a surprising 34-24 road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, was enough to buy the duo another season.
Smith had been with the club since the 2002 season. During Smith's tenure, the Chargers are 103-73 in the regular season and 3-5 in the playoffs, but multiple personnel miscues were too much for ownership to ignore. Depth was an issue at running back as the Chargers' 31st-ranked offense was 27th when running the ball. Over the last two offseasons, Smith let Darren Sproles and Mike Tolbert walk away in free agency, instead relying on 2010 first round pick Ryan Mathews, who scored just one touchdown in 2012, shedding some light on how the Chargers' ranked 28th in "goal-to-go" percentage. Tolbert only had 183 rushing yards on the season, but the battering ram scored seven touchdowns on the season. Sproles has led the New Orleans Saints in combined yards in each of the last two season and his 75 receptions in 2012 would have led the Chargers.
The Chargers also opted to not re-sign wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who signed a five-year, $55.5 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jackson was widely praised for his veteran leadership in Tampa and he caught 72 passes for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns. Those numbers that would have led the Chargers, who spent $20 million in guaranteed on receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, who combined for 37 receptions, 441 yards and three touchdowns. Under Smith, the Chargers also swung and missed on high-round draft choices Larry English (8.5 sacks in four seasons for the 2009 first-round pick out of Northern Illinois) and Jonas Mouton, a 2011 second round pick out of Michigan who has been unable to crack the team's 46-man game day roster.
Turner replaced Marty Schottenheimer as head coach in 2007 and posted a 56-40 record during the regular season and was 3-3 in the postseason, taking the team to the AFC championship game in 2007, his first season with the club. The Chargers have missed the playoffs in three straight seasons, its longest drought since 1996-2003. Turner has one year remaining on his current contract and is expected to land of his feet, however, with his name being linked to several potential offensive coordinator vacancies that will open up this offseason.
Acee noted in December that director of player personnel Jimmy Raye is expected to replace Smith as GM, while director of college scouting John Spanos becoming his right-hand man. As for who replaces Turner, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly is a possibility. Andy Reid, who was fired by the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday morning, has been mentioned as a candidate in San Diego, but Schefter reported on Monday that the Chargers plan to go in a different direction.
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