The San Diego Chargers announced Monday that Head Coach Norv Turner and General Manager A.J. Smith were fired, and will not return to the team in 2013.
The news was announced one day after the team earned a 24-21 home win over the Oakland Raiders to finish the season at a 7-9.
Three weeks ago, it was widely reported that sources within the team said Turner and Smith would be fired, but team president Dean Spanos refuted those reports. Spanos announced Saturday that the football operations of the team were being handed down to his son, John Spanos.
“I thank A.J. and Norv for the determination and integrity they brought to the Chargers each and every day,” said Dean Spanos in a statement. “Both Norv and A.J. are consummate NFL professionals, and they understand that in this league, the bottom-line is winning. My only goal is the Super Bowl, and that is why I have decided to move in a new direction with both our head coach and general manager positions. I am committed to our great fans, and we will do whatever we possibly can to achieve that goal.”
Not surprisingly, after reports first surfaced about the possible firings, the Chargers finished the season strong, winning three out of their last four games.
See also: Norv Turner Press Conference
Fans of the team have spoken out against Turner, many calling for his job after having missed out on the postseason in 2010 and 2011. In 2009, the heavily-favored Chargers, who finished 13-3 in the regular season and had a first-round bye, lost a home playoff game to the New York Jets.
Since then, the team has been mired in mediocrity, finishing 9-7 in 2010, 8-8 last season, and 7-9 this year. Attendance at Qualcomm Stadium also declined, which resulted in four games being blacked out on Southern California television
screens because they didn't come close to a sellout.
Turner compiled a 56-40 record with the Chargers in the regular season in six seasons. He has a playoff record of 3-3.
Long known for his clever offensive schemes and excellent playcalling, Turner's offense sputtered this year. The team averaged only 205 passing yards per game, which ranks 24th (out of 32). The rushing offense was even worse, averaging only 91 yards per game, good for 27th in the league.
Speculation abounds on who will be hired to replace Turner, but several names have been reported by ESPN's Tim Kavanaugh, who writes: "On offense, the coordinator names that have gathered the most steam include Denver's Mike McCoy, San Francisco's Greg Roman, Atlanta's Dirk Koetter and Cincinnati's Jay Gruden. On defense, Jacksonville's Mel Tucker, Atlanta's Mike Nolan, Seattle's Gus Bradley and Cincinnati's Mike Zimmer are amongst those believed to be in the mix for a head-coaching opportunity. Internally, the Chargers may consider special teams coordinator/assistant HC Rich Bisaccia."
After becoming general manager, Smith built teams that won more than 10
games in a season four times. However, the Chargers have a combined record of 24-24 over the past three seasons, and detractors said he ran too many talented players out of town with his stubborn demeanor.
It is widely thought that Jimmy Raye, a 17-year employee with the team, and the current director of player personnel, will take over for Smith. The team has begun the process of finding replacements by retaining the services of former Green Bay Packers GM Ron Wolf, who will serve as a consultant throughout the hiring process.
–City News Service contributed to this story.