San Diego Chargers president Dean Spanos announces the return of head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith at Chargers Park in Mission Valley on Jan. 3, 2012. He was considering their dismissal after the team missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Dean Spanos stood tall Tuesday, figuratively folded his arms over his chest and made a calculated plunge backward, tumbling toward the ground near San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith, head coach Norv Turner and quarterback Philip Rivers.
A trust fall.
They'd better catch.
After taking time to mull over a second straight season short of the playoffs, the team president briskly entered a media conference room full of cameras, microphones, recorders and reporters, accumulated to document his pre-announced leap of faith: Smith and Turner will be retained at least for the 2012 season.
Another year of Smith and Turner is another year of stability for the franchise. But Spanos says he's not settling for status quo on recent performance, recognizing a fan base jaded by a franchise-record eight straight seasons without a losing record that've netted, however, zero Super Bowl appearances.
Whichever way it went, the decision was certain to split Spanos' audience.
Falling backward, he needs his faith in the same men to be rewarded.
"We may do some things a little bit differently than we have in the past," Spanos said. "That’s something that Norv, A.J. and I are talking about in terms of player personnel as well as coaching ... There may be things I could’ve done differently. I know that coaching has contributed somewhat. Player personnel selection has contributed somewhat. I think injuries have been a huge factor. There are all sorts of reasons why we are where we are. We need to change those things going forward."
Spanos said a "series of meetings" with Smith and Turner is coming, involving a thorough discussion of potential changes.
For starters, Smith called his 2011 in-season policy of largely no media availability a "mistake," and he is "open-minded" to being more aggressive in free agency this offseason, should the class warrant it.
The roster depth certainly has room for improvement, in light of high-profile draft misses and key free-agent departures, such as running back Darren Sproles.
"People underestimate the effect one or two players can have on your entire team," Turner said. "I've seen it around the league this year where teams have added a draft pick or made a free-agent signing, and it made a big difference on one side of the ball. We have a lot of good players, and if we can add a couple of those guys that change games ... then it'll help us take a step, on both sides of the ball."
Current players must step up their game, too.
They're getting their head coach back after a vocal campaign of pushing for his return. Rivers led the charge on behalf of Turner, who is under contract through 2013, but he wasn't alone among the team core.
"We wanted him to lead us," safety Eric Weddle said. "We as players, we got to go win it for him and make Dean right, that he made the right decision. We’re excited to keep our head guys here and keep the continuity and energy up.
"We know what we have, but we also know that it’s on us. So we have to improve not only for the coaches but for us as players. We’re here, and we want to win. That's the bottom line."
A decision this divisive can go awfully wrong without winning.
Spanos took a leap, putting his coins in the same machine, trusting that it won't.