Norv Turner Turning Page on Tough Season, Eager to Tackle Job Next Year
The Chargers (8-7) had won three consecutive AFC West titles under Turner before being eliminated from playoff contention last Sunday with a loss in Cincinnati. San Diego finishes off its season on Sunday at Denver.
In a conference call with Denver-area reporters, Turner said he believes team president and CEO Dean Spanos, along with general manager A.J. Smith, understood that the team's injury-riddled season had a lot to do with the Chargers' falling short of the playoffs.
San Diego lost such stars as tight end Antonio Gates, wide receivers Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee, Patrick Crayton, kicker Nate Kaeding and running back Ryan Mathews to injury at various times. In addition, the Chargers had to cope with the prolonged absence of left tackle Marcus McNeill and wide receiver Vincent Jackson due to holdouts.
"I think they appreciate the fact that we played 73 different guys," Turner said. "You know, we've been through a lot of different things in terms of preparing different people for different games and the uncertainty of it.
"It's not making excuses. We had opportunities to overcome some situations. We didn't quite get it done. It's nice to compete again next year. We won the division three years in a row. It hurts not to do it again."
Strong all season on both offense and defense despite their injury problems, the Chargers never really recovered from a 2-5 start that was due in large part to failings on special teams.
"We had a lot of guys playing at a real high level," Turner said. "Our issues and it has been well documented: We had five punt blocks, we had kicks returned for touchdowns and our backs fumbled the ball inside the 20 in close games, I think, four different times. We just didn't take care of the ball and didn't take care of the kicking game the way we have in the past."
Through it all, Turner said, he has maintained a solid working relationship with Spanos and Smith and welcomed the opportunity to work with them again.
"I believe we're all on the same page," he said. "We've been on the same page. I think Dean and A.J. have a great understanding of the different things that happened as the season goes on."
Meanwhile, Turner said even though there's no postseason stake in Sunday's matchup against the Broncos (4-11), he planned to go all-out and he intended to play all of his healthy starters.
"We're going to play our guys," he said. "We're going to play the game. Since I remember starting playing, whether it was junior high playing Pop Warner or playing in high school, I've never heard of a meaningless game. Guys that love to compete, that's what we're talking about. The Champ Baileys, the Philip Rivers that love to compete. We're playing a lot of guys because we've had to. We've had a lot of starters out. If they are dressed, they will play."