Norv Turner and A.J. Smith Connected at the Hip

No one really understands how Norv Turner is still the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. He has seemingly been on the media’s hot seat ever since his 13-3 Chargers lost at home in the 2009 Divisional Round to the 9-7 New York Jets. Since that time his Chargers teams have been less than impressive, but he has been able to hold on to his job, while under performing with a very talented team.

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Photo by: Ric Tapia/NFL.com

There two explanations for why Norv Turner is still the head coach of the Chargers. One being that Philip Rivers likes Norv Turner and San Diego does not want to upset their franchise quarterback, who by the way, is beginning to look less and less like a franchise QB.

The other more plausible reason for Turner’s tenure lasting so long is that A.J. Smith likes him and uses him as a sort of puppet head coach, with Smith really calling the shots. Smith has been the most vocal general managers in the NFL and being so vocal has not done him any favors, just made him look bad in some instances.

If the Chargers do not use their bye week productively and make a strong playoff push in the second half of this season, it is very likely that this will be the final year of Smith and Turner together. I would not be surprised if both men were let go if the season does not end well. A playoff win or two will be the only thing that saves these guys from unemployment.

Towelgate Continues to Unfold

Jay Glazer made it known on Monday that the San Diego Chargers were being investigated for using an illegal sticky substance during their last game against the Denver Broncos. That substance was on a towel that the players used to wipe on their hands or gloves. According to the NFL, there is nothing allowed that adds tack to a player’s uniform or gloves, that is not already on the gloves.

This towel that San Diego was using, could have belonged to the manufacturer Gorilla Gold, who have stated that they had been providing these “Grip Enhancing” towels to football teams for years. The resin that is used on these towels does not leave any residue on the ball, so it is quite easy to understand how the referees may have not noticed this beforehand.

Unfortunately for the Chargers, this extra stickiness has not exactly helped their receivers. San Diego’s receivers have dropped too many passes this year and now considering they may have been using this Gorilla Gold to improve upon that, makes it look even worse.

The NFL has yet to decide on how to discipline the Chargers for this infraction. I would not expect too harsh of a penalty Perhaps a simple fine, but the NFL has been inconsistent in their fines before.

A Monday Night Nightmare

Everything seemed hunky dory for the San Diego Chargers when they went into the half up 24 zip. Well that feeling did not last for long, because over the next thirty minutes, they could not play or look any worse, especially Philip Rivers. Philip Rivers over the last year and a half has turned into an absolute bum. The current Philip Rivers can be described in two words, turnover machine.

You would not be able to tell by the scoreboard, but the Chargers really did not play that great in the first half either. Most of San Diego’s 24 unanswered points were scored on terrible misplays by Denver. Whether it was a muffed punt by newly signed returner Trindon Holliday, or a fumble on a kick return and a bunch of pass interference calls against Denver, the Chargers were catching a lot of breaks. But they did take advantage of those breaks, which you cannot fault them for doing. However, at some point the Chargers had to stop relying on the bounce of the ball and make some plays for themselves.

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Photo by: Stan Liu/Icon SMI

San Diego’s first three scores were all done after a turnover. Two fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown by Quentin Jammer. Those 17 points were some of the easiest scores you will get in a football game. Not to mention that the interception for a touchdown occurred just after Denver receiver Eric  Decker caught a pass 20 yards down field from anyone on San Diego, but tripped up and was downed 30 yards short of the endzone. Decker is going to have to watch out for that turf monster the next time.

The old saying for luck is that “You make your own luck.” But it appeared to me that the Chargers were not necessarily making their own luck, but instead they were being granted it. Now had they just played better in the second half and won the game, it would not be fair to rip them for such an offense, but being that they did lose, those flaws became much more obvious.

To start the second half the San Diego defense allowed Peyton Manning to carve them up on the opening drive. And Manning capped the possession with a 29 yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. At 24-7 the game was still well in hand for the Chargers, but little did they know that the turnover parade was about to begin.

On the ensuing drive, the Chargers were putting together what looked like a game sealing drive. Then Philip Rivers was sacked and fumbled the ball, which was returned 65 yards for a touchdown by defensive back Tony Carter. This touchdown completely turned the game around. Leading 24-14 the game had suddenly become close, and the Chargers players were tightening up.

San Diego punted on their next drive. And the Broncos drove the ball again, for another touchdown. Denver was only three points down and had all the momentum. Plus it is always good to have the opposing quarterback on your side as well.

Philip Rivers threw another interception, which was the first of three consecutive drives ending in an interception. Rivers made some terrible decisions on those drive and is starting to make you wonder if he is the right quarterback for the future. Including this season he has three years left on his contract. The key component is how much of that is guaranteed. I am not trying to say that it is time to show Rivers the door, but if he continues down the path that he paved last season, you have to start asking yourself that question.

Fortunately for San Diego they have a bye next week. They will need to regroup and prepare themselves for the lowly Cleveland Browns in two weeks.

 

Chargers Look to Remain Atop the AFC West

This is a critical home game for the Chargers tonight. If San Diego can win this game, they will gain a two game lead over their staunchest competitors within the division. But a loss will even the two teams’ records but give the edge to Denver in the head to head match up.

Over the past few years, Philip Rivers and the Chargers have had a lot of success against the Denver Broncos and even more success on Monday Night Football. Rivers is 9-4 against the Broncos and 7-3 on Monday Night Football. The man knows how to play in the bright lights.

Along with Philip Rivers, Ryan Matthews has had a lot of success against the Broncos in his short career. He averages 127 yards and a touchdown against Denver. This game could be an important step in Ryan Matthews returning to the better graces of the Chargers offense. I would expect the Chargers to use a balanced attack tonight knowing how effective Matthews has been against the Broncos.

Keys to the Game: Philip Rivers needs to remain consistent. Rivers has averaged 250 yards passing and an interception each game. If your Norv Turner you take those numbers and run with them. That’s because for every interception Rivers throws, he makes three or four big plays that set up touchdown drives. It is in those games where he turns the ball over multiple times, that his carelessness for ball security becomes an issue. Philip Rivers is a gunslinger, he will throw your team into games and out of them.

Prevent Manning from getting into a rhythm. Peyton Manning has had trouble getting into a rhythm early in games the past several weeks. This has led to the Broncos falling behind early and not allowing them enough time to come back. The Chargers have been lousy at defending those short passes that Manning likes to throw, instead of using the run. To defend against that, San Diego needs to mix up their coverages and put pressure on Manning. The Broncos’ offensive line is not that great, they can be had.

Create turnovers. The Broncos have had some costly turnovers this season. Manning has protected the ball well, but the Chargers’ defense has had a habit of forcing Peyton Manning into interceptions. Also the San Diego defense must remember that Demaryius Thomas has had trouble carrying the football. They can definitely force Thomas to fumble.

Final Analysis: Both teams are coming off a tough loss last week and have a lot to prove tonight. I like the fact that the Chargers are home and that they have always given Denver and Peyton Manning trouble. This game will be close, but the Chargers will pull away late and take a two game advantage in the AFC West. San Diego 31 Denver 20.

Gaither Doubtful for Monday Night Football

Left tackle Jared Gaither injured his groin last Sunday against the Saints. His injury allowed Martez Wilson to sack and strip Philip Rivers on the final play of the game. Norv Turner said that Gaither should have taken himself out of the game, but as I said before, Turner should have been aware of what’s happening on the field and personally made the decision to put Mike Harris in.

Well that decision appears to be happening earlier this week, with Gaither being listed as doubtful for Monday night’s game against the Broncos. Mike Harris will be playing instead and should have his hands full with Elvis Dumervil and Vonn Miller on the other side of the ball.

Turner Blames Gaither for Not Exiting Game

On the Chargers final drive against the Saints last Sunday, left tackle Jared Gaither injured his groin. He was in visible discomfort and could not properly block defensive end Martez Wilson. Norv Turner was quoted by U-T San Diego, that “He should have taken himself out.” Well that may be true, but if your a good coach, which you are not, Norv Turner, you take notice that your starting left tackle is hurt and send in backup Mike Harris to relieve him. Plus, you have to realize that Gaither had been chastised for not playing during the first few games of the season, because of back spasms. So you know that he is going to want to prove that he is tough and can continue to play, even if he is hurt.

The bottom line is that Gaither should have taken himself out if he could not perform, but the coach should not throw him under the bus and he should be able to realize when adjustments should be made. Especially during the final drive of the game.