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Tag:AJ Smith
Posted on: January 3, 2012 2:40 pm
 

Chargers keeping Norv Turner, AJ Smith

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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Posted on: January 3, 2012 2:38 pm
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Posted on: December 5, 2011 6:16 pm
 

Report: 2 teams have reached out to Jeff Fisher

Jeff Fisher could return to the sidelines in 2012. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Last week, Jack Del Rio became the first head coach to get canned this NFL season. He won't be the last. In fact, by the time the offseason rolls around, there could be up to 10 teams looking for new coaches.

One name mentioned at the top of most lists: Jeff Fisher, the longtime coach with the Oilers and Titans who was fired last offseason. Over the weekend there were reports that any interest he might have in the Chargers job (which almost certainly will be vacant the moment Norv Turner puts the finishing touches on another disappointing campaign) will hinge on whether general manager A.J. Smith is relieved of his duties, too.

Now that we're three-quarters of the way through the 2011 season, clubs have begun making plans for 2012. According to NFL Network's Jason La Canfora, two teams have reached out to Fisher about possible coaching opportunities.

"The Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, San Diego Chargers, and St. Louis Rams could be possible destinations for Fisher," La Canfora wrote Monday. "Fisher has very strong ties to ownership in Dallas and New York; San Diego is the closest thing to a hometown team; and St. Louis' front office has ties to him as well, with Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff's father, Marv Demoff, being Fisher's longtime agent."

On Sunday, we posted a list of current coaches on the hot seat:

* Norv Turner (4-7)
* Steve Spagnuolo (2-10)
* Jim Caldwell (0-12)
* Tony Sparano (4-8)
* Todd Haley (5-7)
* Tom Coughlin (6-6)
* Andy Reid (4-8)
* Raheem Morris (4-8)
* Leslie Frazier (2-10)

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has since said that Frazier's job is safe, and there's a report that Reid can stick around if he dumps offensive coordinator Juan Castillo. But there's a good chance the other teams above could be in the market for new coaches (although we can't understand why Coughlin would be fired -- he's done well given all the injuries the Giants have endured this season).

Whatever happens, there's a good chance Fisher is back on the sidelines in 2012.

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Posted on: December 4, 2011 10:04 am
Edited on: December 29, 2011 5:30 pm
 

Coaching hot seat adding names down the stretch

The question now: who will replace Norv? (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Norv Turner's days in San Diego are numbered. We've heard nothing official from Chargers owner Dean Spanos, but between another underwhelming season (this one includes a six-game losing streak) and the near-daily rumors about Turner's demise, it doesn't take Norman Einstein to make the logical jump that San Diego will be looking for a new coach the moment the season ends.

The biggest question is whether general manager A.J. Smith will be relieved of his duties, too. And that decision could determine who replaces Turner. During NFL GameDay Morning, NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reports that a) Turner is as good as gone (not news) and b) A-list coaches like Jeff Fisher and Bill Cowher would have interest in the job … but only if Smith is out (news).

"Remember, Cowher's mentor is Marty Schottenheimer who went 14-2 and lost a power struggle with A.J. Smith," La Canfora said. "Jeff Fisher, I'm told, would have some reservations working with Smith. So if [the Chargers] want the kind of coach that they may desire, then they may have to blow up everything to get him."

Other coaches on the hot seat heading into the final five weeks of the season (via La Canfora):

* Norv Turner (4-7)
* Steve Spagnuolo (2-9)
* Jim Caldwell (0-11)
* Tony Sparano (3-8)
* Todd Haley (4-7)
* Tom Coughlin (6-5)
* Andy Reid (4-8)
* Raheem Morris (4-7)
* Leslie Frazier (2-9)

La Canfora "doesn't really see a scenario where" Turner, Spagnuolo and Caldwell are back next season. He also mentions that Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli "always hires within his family tree," one which includes Kirk Ferentz and Josh McDaniels.

Regarding Jacksonville's job opening: "Mike Sherman was contacted by the Jags before they fired Jack Del Rio. He was at A&M at that point. Texas A&M has since let him go. Mike Sherman, Jay Gruden, Brian Schottenheimer -- names to watch in connection to that Jacksonville job."

Most amazing: no one's talking about Mike Shanahan's job security.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 12:30 pm
 

Report: Norv Turner's days could be numbered

Turner could be looking for work come January. (AP/US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Norv Turner is in his fifth season as the Chargers head coach. He took over the team in 2007 after general manager A.J. Smith fired Marty Schottenheimer for going 14-2. In three of the four seasons since, two things have been constant: the Chargers have gotten off to glacially slow starts only to mount a late-season run and make the playoffs. And San Diego, despite a franchise quarterback and plenty of playmakers, is still looking for its first Super Bowl.
Turner's record in San Diego
2007: Started 1-3, finished 10-2, lost to the Pats in the AFC Championship game
2008: Started 3-5, finished 5-3, lost to the Steelers in the AFC Divisional game
2009: Started 2-3, finished 11-0, lost to the Jets in the AFC Divisional game
2010: Started 2-5, finished 9-7, missed the playoffs 
But 2011 was different; the Chargers started 4-1, were the clear favorites in the AFC West (and even some folks' Super Bowl favorites), and everything was finally coming together. Unfortunately, the new collective bargaining agreement didn't shorten the regular season to five games. San Diego has dropped five straight and is a complete mess of a franchise. Philip Rivers has looked, well, awful, the run defense is non-existent, and head coach Norv Turner, through it all, remained expressionless.

But barring a Tebow-like miracle, Norv won't have to worry about the Chargers much longer. The San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee writes that Turner's days could be numbered.
At this point, it is apparent only a drastic turnaround will save Turner, as the Chargers have lost five straight and are in last place in the AFC West, in grave danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight season. [Owner Dean] Spanos also has wondered about repeated game management decisions, and after five years it is possible Turner has been given enough time to get done what no Chargers coach ever has – win a Super Bowl.
Ah, yes, those game-management decisions. The latest came Sunday, in the Chargers' loss to the Bears. San Diego lost its final two timeouts with 3:16 to play and trailing by 11. They burned the first one, and then during thee timeout decided to challenge a ruling. The Chargers lost the challenge (of course they did) and another timeout. You don't see that every day.

But Turner isn't the only guy who should be worried about his job. Smith could be in trouble, too. Acee writes: "But even late last week, word had begun to circulate in league circles about Spanos' escalating concern about the state of his franchise in the hands of Turner -- who has the second-highest winning percentage in team history at .608 (45-29) -- and even Smith, the man Spanos has given virtually complete control of football operations over the past nine years."

In general, Smith has done a good job of roster-building and fielding a winning team. But the lack of success in the postseason coupled with Turner's weekly gaffes have started to add up.

Early last season, when Vincent Jackson was holding out for a new deal and Smith refused to budge, Jackson's agent Neil Schwartz said "We had multiple deals in place. It is our understanding … that the Chargers were unreasonable. More than one general manager referred to A.J. as the 'Lord of No Rings.'"

Short of an improbable turnaround, Norv and A.J. might soon be the Lord of No Jobs.

As we mentioned in Tuesday's Coach Killers, maybe Rex Ryan was onto something.

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Posted on: August 5, 2011 3:53 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2011 4:01 pm
 

Chargers reach agreement with WR Malcom Floyd

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Ravens, with a huge need for a big-play wide receiver to line up opposite Anquan Boldin, had an offer on the table for Malcom Floyd*. On Friday, Floyd, who spent the previous seven seasons in San Diego mostly as a backup, re-signed with the Chargers.

Chargers.com reports that the team reached an agreement with Floyd on a two-year deal.

“We have a lot of happy Chargers today with the return of Malcom,” General Manager A.J. Smith said. “He has been an integral part of our team and it’s great to have him back. He is a very talented receiver and that will just add to the continuity of our offensive unit.”

In 2010, Floyd caught 37 passes for 717 yards (19.4 ypc) and 6 TDs. The season before, he hauled in 45 passes for 776 yards (17.2 ypc) and 1 TD. At 6-5, Floyd is an obvious red-zone target, but he's also capable of stretching the field as evidenced by his DeSean Jacksonian yards-per-catch average. He'll rejoin another 6-5 pass-catcher, Vincent Jackson, as well as Patrick Crayton, Kelley Washington, Laurent Robinson and highly touted rookie Vincent Brown as potential options for QB Philip Rivers.

Floyd will likely be the second or third WR in a Chargers' offense that features tight end Antonio Gates and one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Ravens, who have been trying desperately to find legit pass-catching options for young QB Joe Flacco. As it stands, Baltimore has Boldin, rookie Torrey Smith and, well, not much else. Thirty-seven-year-old Derrick Mason could return (despite his age, he has been productive for the Ravens), and perhaps the organization will make a run at recently released Jets wideout Jerricho Cotchery.

We have yet to play a preseason game but Ravens fans are already questioning if Flacco can lead the team to a Super Bowl. We're not absolving Flacco of blame in Baltimore's recent playoff losses, but it would certainly be a lot easier for him if he had someone to throw the ball to.

* UPDATE: According to Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun, the Ravens had trouble clearing enough cap room for Floyd.

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Posted on: July 1, 2011 11:26 am
Edited on: July 1, 2011 4:12 pm
 

Chargers GM talks Eli Manning-Philip Rivers trade

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Chargers general manager AJ Smith is known as much for his ability to identify talent and assemble a roster as he is for his sometimes stubborn disposition.

He refused to give wide receiver Vincent Jackson a new contract last offseason, and Jackson ended up holding out for the first two months of the season. When Jackson finally returned in Week 12 (he had to first serve a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy), it was without a new contract but the Chargers were 6-5. They would eventually miss the playoffs, and although most of that was because of their dreadful defense special teams, Jackson's absence certainly didn't help.

(Edit: the commenters rightly point out that it was special teams -- not the defense -- that cost the Chargers a shot at the playoffs last season. My brain was thinking "special teams" but my fingers typed "defense." To hammer home the point, Football Outsiders ranked San Diego offense fourth, their defense seventh, and special teams ... 32nd.)

In 2005, Smith placed Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates on the "roster exempt" list for the season opener against the Cowboys because Gates wouldn't sign his one-year exclusive rights free-agent offer of $380,000. The two sides eventually came to a resolution but not before San Diego lost to Dallas. The most famous example of Smith vs. uncooperative Chargers player came the year before, when the team selected Eli Manning with the first-overall pick of the 2004 draft even though Manning said he'd rather sit out the season than play in San Diego.

Smith, undeterred, drafted Manning anyway. About an hour after Manning stood on stage with that "Did this really just happen?" look on his face while holding a Chargers jersey, Smith traded him to the Giants for Philip Rivers, and draft picks that would later become Shawne Merriman, Nate Kaeding and Roman Oben.

Despite the Chargers getting the most out of that trade, all most people remember is that Manning and the Giants won a Super Bowl in 2007. In a recent interview with Sporting News, Smith talked about Rivers and Manning. 

"I believe with my heart and soul that [Rivers] one day will lead the Chargers to a world championship," Smith said. “He’s a great quarterback—a phenomenal leader with great character, great work habits.”

No one disputes that. In fact, Football Outsiders ranked Rivers as the NFL's third-best quarterback in 2010, behind Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Eli ranked 16th, behind Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, Kyle Orton and Matt Cassel. If nothing else, it reinforces the importance of surrounding your franchise quarterback with playmakers at the skill position and a good defense.

As for how Smith feels about Manning seven years after drafting him … well, let's just say he's still a little bitter. "He was a Charger for 45 minutes and that was too much time to be a Charger, in my opinion."

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Posted on: August 14, 2010 6:23 pm
 

Merriman: Holdout 'didn't accomplish anything'

Posted by Will Brinson

Shawne Merriman finally reported to Chargers training camp on Friday. After missing the first two weeks of practice, the linebacker signed his $3.269 million tender for this season, despite receiving no guarantee that he wouldn't be traded (he wanted one) or a long-term deal (he really wanted one).

And it appears he finally realized what most of us knew all along -- his holdout was essentially pointless.

"I didn't accomplish anything at all," Merriman said. "I always knew that I was wanted here, which was one of the biggest reasons for getting things sorted out. You hate to deal with the whole business part of it, but I'm so glad it's behind me and I can go out and play."

Of course, the "business part of it" is only behind him in the sense that he's being paid for this season. There are still tons of questions whether he can be a productive linebacker worthy of a long-term deal.

But that's why he's with the Chargers now: proving that he can perform on the field for a full season (and stay healthy) will go a long way towards getting him paid by someone over a longer duration once he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Sitting out the season would be as effective as getting injured or playing poorly, in that he'd only be costing himself an opportunity for a more lucrative deal.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com