SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 01: San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos (L) greets head coach Norv Turner before the game with the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium on November 1, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Is Norv Turner's career as Chargers head coach over after Sunday's season finale against the Raiders? Odds are, yes.
So, instead of looking at three players who will impact Sunday's game, let's expand our thinking a bit and talk about three people who will not only have a say in what happens against Oakland, but also might still be in San Diego with the new coaching staff in 2013.
John Pagano: His first year as defensive coordinator was extremely successful. Pagano led a unit that weaved in four new starters and had a pair of rookies play substantial minutes, and he led it well. The Chargers have the league's 4th-best rushing defense. Kendall Reyes and Melvin Ingram have gotten better as the year has gone on. Philip Rivers has said many times the defense has played well enough for the Chargers to win, it's the offense that's held them back. Pagano is the longest-tenured defensive coach on San Diego's staff. He's certainly earned a chance to keep that streak going under the new regime.
Takeo Spikes: The linebacker is arguably the best player in NFL history who's never reached the post-season. Spikes has played in two Pro Bowls and made the All-Pro team. In his first two years with the Chargers, his team mates voted him their most inspirational player. Spikes is under contract for 2013 (at $3 million) but may be released, or choose retirement. If he does come back for one more shot at the playoffs, he won't be the every-down stalwart he's been throughout his career, which means the Bolts may not want to tie up that much money in a backup, even if he is the emotional leader of a very good defense.
A.J. Smith: The general manager hit it big with a series of very good drafts, then watched his roster be depleted by another string of very bad drafts. But, it looks like he found a few good players in the 2012 class, and his ability to find undrafted and unwanted talent is unmatched. His reported demise is not nearly as easy to predict as the head coach he handpicked to replace the popular Marty Schottenheimer. It's completely possible for Dean Spanos to hang on to an employee who has assembled the roster that's resulted in more wins than any other Chargers G.M., and did it staying on budget.