What has been common knowledge for weeks has become written fact as of Monday.
General manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner were fired Monday morning, less than 24 hours after the team’s season finale win over the Oakland Raiders.
The news broke unofficially several weeks ago, but has been assumed since the team’s inability to reach the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
If Smith and Turner could not create a playoff caliber team this year, their era would be over.
“We kind of knew this was going to happen,” safety Eric Weddle said. “But it’s still difficult to handle.”
The team finished 7-9, their first losing record since 2003. It was quarterback Philip River’s first losing season in a long time.
“Since seventh grade…maybe,” Rivers said.
Veteran players like Rivers, Weddle and tight end Antonio Gates have seen the Turner era for most, if not all of their entire San Diego career.
“He’s like a father figure,” Gates said. “It’s like having a father figure around and I’ve learned so much from him personally. He’s been a big part of my career, of my growth.”
As in any situation, longevity produces the kind of close-knit core the Chargers team has. And some will be hit harder than others.
“The older guys will be hit a little harder,” Weddle said. “Just because we’ve been around the coaches and Norv a lot longer than some people but the young guys have bought in and done everything we wanted them to do. So everyone’s going to take it different ways.”
As passionate as fans, players and teams can be, the NFL is still a business. And the fact is, if you do not win, if you do not produce, you will not survive.
It’s a non-negotiable aspect of the league, but that doesn’t mean it’s anyone’s favorite part.
“It’s just unfortunate,” Gates said. “The business side of it. It’s just something no one’s immune to.”
As the rookies turn into veterans and the young players evolve into the leaders, they learn to adapt.
“Once you figure this thing out,” Gates said. “You learn to appreciate every moment you share with the coaches with the players. You just never know what the circumstances will be in the future.”