SAN DIEGO (AP) — For his final news conference of the season, San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner wore the Super Bowl ring he won as offensive coordinator of the 1992 Dallas Cowboys.
Turner denies it was a subliminal message to his current employer, which lost badly in its only Super Bowl appearance 17 years ago.
Still, no one recalls seeing Turner flashing the jewelry before. He also has a Super Bowl ring from 1993 with Dallas.
Turner knows his future is being debated by team president Dean Spanos, who also is deciding whether general manager A.J. Smith will be back after the Chargers (8-8) missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
It’s believed Spanos will take a few days to assess this season and previous seasons under Turner and Smith before announcing a decision. Turner has two years remaining on his contract, at a total of $6 million, and Smith has three years left on his, also at about $6 million total.
Asked if the fact he was still employed on Monday was a good sign, Turner quipped: “As (opposed to) leaving me in Oakland, you mean?”
Turner subtly defended himself during his news conference a day after the Chargers won at Oakland to end the Raiders’ playoff chances. The Chargers were eliminated a week earlier in a loss at Detroit.
“I’d be excited about being back,” said Turner, who is 49-31 in five years with San Diego but only 3-3 in the playoffs. “I’d be excited about this team. I don’t know that unless you’re living it day to day, you can appreciate it what these guys have been through, what this team has been through from a physical standpoint. They’ve responded and I do believe this team can go do some great things. We need to get better in some areas. I think part of that is our young guys having played, but we need to continue to add impact players.”
The Chargers started 4-1 and ended 4-1, but were doomed by a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season. Had they won one more game, they would have won the AFC West. Instead, Denver won the division despite losing three straight at the end of the schedule.
After the win at Oakland, Spanos told reporters: “It was really exciting. I’m really proud of them. I think it really shows how resilient they are, how hard they play for this coach.”
Spanos wasn’t available for further comment Monday.
“I am waiting for a decision like I do each and every year, but it’s not usually in this dramatic fashion,” Smith said. “Dean is going to take some time, which he always does.”
Many fans have felt since the losing streak that Turner must go, and there’s been an increasing call for Smith to get the heave-ho, too. Spanos will have to decide whether to keep the status quo, make wholesale changes or keep one or the other, but not both. Perhaps complicating the decision is that the team is expected to ask voters later this year for help in financing a new stadium.
Turner was fired by the Washington Redskins and Oakland in previous stints as an NFL head coach. His overall record in nearly 14 full seasons is 107-113-1.
Turner was hired in February 2007 after Marty Schottenheimer was fired for what Spanos said was a “dysfunctional” relationship with Smith. Turner inherited a team that went 14-2 before melting down in a home playoff loss to New England. Turner got the Chargers to the AFC championship game his first season before losing at New England. Since then, though, there’s been a steady decline in postseason success. San Diego has won only one playoff game in the last four seasons. Its last postseason appearance was an embarrassing home loss to the New York Jets in January 2010. The Chargers responded to that defeat by giving Turner a contract extension.
Quarterback Philip Rivers, center Nick Hardwick and left guard Kris Dielman, who missed the last 10 games with a concussion, were among the players supporting Turner.
“The players have made it clear we love our coaching staff,” Hardwick said Monday.
“He’s a good coach, man,” Dielman said. “I don’t think you guys perceive him the right way with what he does for us. We’ve got good fans, I’m sure, but they look at it too black and white. There’s a lot of (stuff) that Norv does that is amazing. This guy is a genius in football and I just think he came upon some bad luck with injuries and whatnot. … He’s an amazing coach. He’s a great coach. I hope to see him stay here. I hope the rest of the guys stay here, too.”
Dielman, a four-time Pro Bowler, said he hasn’t decided if he’ll return next season. After sustaining a concussion in a loss at the New York Jets on Oct. 23, he remained in the game for several plays, and then suffered a seizure on the flight home.
“That was a scary little moment we had in New York,” Dielman said. “I’ve got a lot of decisions to make. I’ve got family now to consider. I don’t have to make a decision anytime soon. I won’t do anything to screw this organization by waiting out too long.”
Dielman said there’s one thing that could bring him back.
“No ring. I’ve only got a wedding ring,” he said. “I’ve done the Pro Bowls, I’ve done the contract. I want a Super Bowl. I’m no different than anybody else in San Diego that’s (complaining) and moaning about not being in the Super Bowl. Trust me; we want to be in the Super Bowl, too. It’s not an easy league.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.