|Dean Spanos is bringing back Norv and Smith for one more run in San Diego. (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
Norv Turner will return to San Diego as the Chargers head coach in 2012, and A.J. Smith will continue to be the general manager, the team said in a statement released Tuesday.
“Bottom line, I believe these two men give us the best chance to get back to the playoffs,” president Dean Spanos said. “A.J. Smith is the best man to improve our roster, and Norv Turner is the best man to lead that roster on the field.
“Together, we have stability and experience that’s hard to find in the NFL. They’ve both been in this league a long time. I don’t think there is anything they haven’t seen or experienced. They’ve led us through some difficult situations.
“As we’ve seen throughout Norv’s tenure and particularly this past season, the players believe in him, respect him and play hard for him. When we went through that tough stretch, no one quit. The team kept playing hard, and that’s a tribute to Norv’s leadership and the respect the players have for him.
“Now we will take a hard look at everything, from player evaluation to coaching to the rash of injuries we’ve suffered in recent years. Injuries have killed us. And no one is ever perfect in this business. Player evaluation isn’t an exact science. We need to improve across the board and I’m going to make sure we do."
On Monday, CBSSports.com's Clark Judge wrote that Turner and Smith could return to the Chargers, even though the speculation in recent weeks was that both were in serious danger of losing their jobs.
In six seasons with the Chargers, Turner was 52-34. Impressive, except that the team has missed the playoffs the last two years and has struggled to play consistently for most of his tenure.
San Diego started the '07 season (Turner's first) at 1-4, finished 11-5, and lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. A year later, they lost their final four regular-season games, made it to the postseason with an 8-8 record, before losing in the divisional round. In 2009, San Diego was 2-3 before wining 10 in a row … and losing in the first round to the Jets. The Chargers begun '10 at 2-5 and eventually missed the playoffs. And after a 4-1 start in '11, they lost six in a row. San Diego still had a chance at the postseason but a Week 16 blowout at the hands of the Lions sealed their fate.
Still, as Judge pointed out, "Quarterback Philip Rivers is a big fan of Turner and voiced his support Sunday for his embattled head coach." And despite fan and media sentiment, San Diego rallied to win three of four and finish in a tie atop the AFC West at 8-8 (the Broncos won the tiebreaker).
Judge adds: "That will go into Spanos' thinking. But so will a business decision. That's one reason he begged off on making an immediate move, saying he needed a couple of days to think about it." But he also notes that the news "doesn't mean Turner is in the clear. On the contrary ... Spanos won't tolerate another 8-8 season, so Turner has been put on alert."
On Tuesday, Spanos sounded like he was confident in his decision.
“We all have our quirks and faults, but I want A.J. and Norv on my side. They are the right men to help us win a championship. … Despite the number of wins we’ve had, the net bottom line is it doesn’t mean anything unless you win a championship. That’s our goal and I am committed to winning a Super Bowl for San Diego.”
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