By Dave Thomas
As the dust settled on San Diego’s 31-13 win over Kansas City Thursday evening, some folks either in attendance or watching on the tube could probably not help but wonder if the victory saved Charger head coach Norv Turner’s job.
Yes, three straight losses over a four week stretch (bye week) had probably tested the patience of ownership, yet Chargers management was saying all the right things in public (if anything at all), pointing to the fact that there were no imminent plans for a regime change with the team at or one game under .500.
So, in walked the sad Kansas City Chiefs, a team that proved just the right answer late in September, a point and time when the Chargers were scuffling after an embarrassing 27-3 home loss to Atlanta.
In that first encounter with the Chiefs on Sept. 30 at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chargers would take advantage of six Kansas City errors, rolling to a 37-20 victory.
Fast forward to this past Thursday evening, and the Bolts would once again benefit from Chief mistakes, most notably those of quarterback Matt Cassel.
Those 14 fourth quarter points, a fumble recovery in the end zone and an intercepted pass run back for a touchdown, would slam the door on the Chargers’ fourth win of the season. As a result, an embattled Turner lived to fight another day.
In reality, for anyone that thought Turner would have gotten the heave-ho after the Denver debacle or the less than inspiring effort in Cleveland, the facts are that Team Spanos will more than likely make its decision (or at least execute that decision) when the season ends.
Do Chargers Need A Playoff Run To Keep Turner Employed?
Right now, one would have to guess that short of making the playoffs and winning at least one game, Turner and/or general manager AJ Smith are history come January. Remember, this is the same ownership that canned head coach Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 effort years back.
While Turner can’t throw the passes, prevent fumbles or lock down on opposing wide receivers, he can take his share of the blame when it comes to predictable play calling.
Ask yourself when was the last Charger game you watched where San Diego did not run the ball on its very first offensive play of the game? It may happen on occasion, but more times than not, Rivers is handing the ball off to Mathews for a run up the middle on the team’s first offensive possession of the game.
Turner has also gotten criticism as of late and last season for being steadfastly in the corner of Rivers, even when the franchise player was hitting more opposing secondaries with his passes than guys wearing white, yellow and blue.
With Billy Volek a distant memory, what exactly are Turner’s options when Rivers is off? Does anyone seriously think Charlie Whitehurst will see the light of day this season other than if Rivers gets seriously injured?
As the Chargers were closing out an 18-point victory Thursday night over the Chiefs with four minutes and change left, it was Rivers handing off the ball, not Whitehurst. Yes, while it was unlikely Whitehurst would have been asked to pass in that offensive series, why not at least let him come in and run a few live play snaps? More than likely, Rivers told Turner he would finish off the game.
So, one might ask if Turner has full control of this team at this point? If he doesn’t, just how far can the Chargers go with a formidable Denver squad and at least record-wise, an improving Oakland squad?
The debate will rage on for the final two months of the regular season as to whether or not it was the right call by Team Spanos to bring Turner and/or Smith back this season.
One thing that is clear, covering the Chargers over these remaining two months certainly will not be dull.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.