Source: USA Today
The Chargers return home Sunday to face Buffalo, hoping to finish a season that hasn't gone as planned.
Whether their plans next year include general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner remains to be seen.
Once mentioned among the NFL's upper-echelon teams, the erosion of the franchise has been evident the past two years. Unless they complete a late-season run that would trump even their standard ones, the Chargers will miss the playoffs.
That would be two straight years of not making the postseason, a shocking development for a team that recently won four straight AFC West titles.
Turner, never a popular choice when taking over for Marty Schottenheimer, has seemingly run out of time. If not making the playoffs again, Turner's teams would have but one playoff win to show in the last four years.
That's not expected to be good enough to give him another year, proving the skeptics right after Turner was a two-time failure in Washington and Oakland.
But if Turner goes, does Smith go along with him?
Smith was once lauded as one of the NFL's sharpest minds. But a run of dreadful drafts, not acquiring significant talent in free agency and his often squabbling with players has diminished his work.
In addition to constructing shoddy rosters - the Chargers are under .500 the past two years - Smith was responsible for the hiring of Turner, after proving he couldn't co-exist with Schottenheimer. When firing Schottenheimer after a disheartening playoff loss on the heels of a 14-2 season, Smith surprised many by selecting Turner has the replacement.
So if the Chargers are painted into their current corner by personnel and coaching decisions, should the person making those decisions be trusted again going forward?
It's an intriguing question considering the Chargers need to present an improved product next season to a skeptical fan base.
Those fans could be in San Diego with the Chargers asking for taxpayer-support for a downtown stadium. Would that request fly if Turner and Smith - both extremely unpopular among the Chargers fan base - are allowed to return?
Or could it be fans in Los Angeles, if the stadium situation up north develops and the Chargers decide to move. Entering a new marketplace with Turner and Smith might not excite the Los Angeles landscape.
And if just Turner exits, would Smith being aboard limit the pool of well-known coaching candidates? Among the possible replacements are Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden and Jeff Fisher. Would they want to work with the brash Smith, or prefer to have their own personnel associates in place?
All this speculation is being done minus any comments from top executives. Team president Dean Spanos and Smith have declined to comment to the media. Spanos, as well, hasn't given either a vote of confidence.
LINEUP WATCH: Rookie Stephen Schilling, a sixth-round pick, has gained some valuable playing time with the rash of injuries hitting the Chargers. Schilling is proving his versatility by playing inside, after being a tackle at Michigan.
BY THE NUMBERS: The Chargers opened the season with three straight wins at Qualcomm Stadium, then went downhill. Losses to the Packers, Raiders and Broncos leave them with a .500 mark with games remaining against Buffalo and Baltimore.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—S Darrell Stuckey has been unable to break into the base defense but he continues to shine on special teams. Stuckey is tied for the team lead in special teams tackles with Andrew Gachkar.
—ILB Donald Butler continues to grow in his first year as a starter. Butler has 75 tackles, eight for losses, with a sack.
—WR Malcom Floyd is hoping to stay healthy late in the year. He missed four straight games with a hip injury and was to play Monday night.
—OL Tony Moll was signed late in the season and has been thrust into the starting lineup at guard. Moll had been bartending after being cut by the Jaguars in camp.
—DE Luis Castillo, who has missed almost the entire season with a broken leg, could start practicing next week.