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Turner Vows to Press Chargers On

Coach says job status will "be handled" in offseason

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011  |  Updated 10:48 AM PDT
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Norv "I'm Not Oblivious" Turner

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Head coach Norv Turner of the San Diego Chargers leads his team against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Chargers defeated the Broncos 33-28.

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Norv Turner said he's been coaching too long — including getting fired twice along the way — to let chatter about the proverbial hot seat be a distraction.

On Monday, though, that chatter turned into a clamor as angry fans called for both Turner and general manager A.J. Smith to be fired by team President Dean Spanos.

Already livid, the paying customers turned up their wrath a day after Turner made some questionable play calls in a 16-13 overtime loss to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. San Diego's six-game losing streak is its longest in a decade and dropped the Chargers into a last-place tie in the AFC West at 4-7, three games behind Oakland with five to play.

“I'm not oblivious to any of that, but it's not something that's going to be an issue for me and I'm not going to talk a lot about it over the next five weeks,” Turner said. “As I said, I've been doing this a long time and I do know how to go about preparing for a game. We've gotten our guys prepared and that's going to be our goal to keep getting them prepared.

“I don't think it's an issue right now and I'm sure it's something when we're through with the season it'll be handled,” said Turner, who's under contract through 2013.

Turner said neither Spanos nor Smith has talked to him about his job status.

Spanos and Smith have declined interview requests for weeks.

On Sunday, fans booed when Junior Seau thanked Spanos during his induction into the team's hall of fame.

Letters to newspapers, postings on Internet sites and callers to talk radio all fume about the Chargers collapse. Some took out ads on Craigslist seeking a new coach.

Spanos has a huge decision to make at season's end, especially if the Chargers fail to make the postseason for the second straight season. He'll have to decide whether to keep Turner or fire the coach and eat the final two years on his contract. Turner is the only coach Smith has hired in his nine-season tenure. Smith has said Turner was the “right coach at the right time.” Turner was hired after Spanos fired Marty Schottenheimer in February 2007 because the old-school coach had an icy relationship with the GM.

Turner inherited a team that went 14-2 — and flamed out in a home playoff debacle against New England — and had 11 Pro Bowlers.

If Turner is fired, it's unclear whether Spanos would give Smith another chance to hire a coach, especially if it excludes equally strong-willed candidates who might want to have a bigger say in personnel matters. If Spanos fires Smith, he'd have to eat three years of his contract.

Turner said it's not difficult to prepare the team amid talk of fading job security.

“I get concerned at times that it can affect people around you, so I work hard to make sure it doesn't. I think our guys have done an outstanding job, coaches and players, of continuing to prepare for each game. Obviously in the last couple of games we've given ourselves a chance to be in a close game, given ourselves a chance to win. We just haven't done it.”

The Chargers play at Jacksonville next Monday night.

Turner was fired by the Washington Redskins after the 13th game of the 2000 season and by the Raiders after the 2005 season.

When he was hired by the Chargers in February 2007, Turner had a combined record of 58-82-1 as an NFL head coach.

“I'm pretty much aware of who he is and where he's been,” Smith said the day Turner was hired. “But this isn't Washington and this isn't Oakland. It's the San Diego Chargers.”

Turner is now 103-112-1 overall.

The Chargers, who did a poor job protecting Philip Rivers against Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil on Sunday, blew a 10-0 second-quarter lead. Their losing streak started on Oct. 23, when they blew an 11-point halftime lead at the New York Jets.

Turner was criticized for his play calling on Sunday, especially in overtime. Additionally, he said after the game that he didn't have an explanation for why running back Ryan Mathews, who was having the best game of his two-year career, was on the sideline for the final two plays before Nick Novak missed a 53-yard field goal attempt that would have won it.

With a first-and-10 on the Denver 35, Turner called three straight running plays. Mathews gained three yards before being replaced by Mike Tolbert, who gained one yard to the 31 before being stuffed for a four-yard loss to the 35 before Novak missed.

That gave the Broncos the ball on the Denver 43, and they moved to the San Diego 19 for Matt Prater's game-winner from 37 yards with 29 seconds left.

“With all the pressure that we had and the number of times that Philip got hit as he was throwing or threw the ball away because we were covered, if we had taken a sack there we certainly would have been out of field goal range,” Turner said. “We had run the ball pretty well. Ryan had popped a couple of runs, a first-down run. He got hit pretty good and he came out for a play, and it ended up being two plays. When we had the ball at the 31, I thought we would make the field goal.

“I think everyone can evaluate that any way they want to. In a perfect world, yeah, we would get closer, but we're not playing in a perfect world right now. As I said, there are some matchups up front that were not in our favor. To have a negative play in the passing game and take us out of field goal range would not have been good.”

Mathews ran 22 times for 137 yards.

The Chargers were further embarrassed when TV cameras picked up Novak kneeling near an equipment trunk and urinating late in the fourth quarter, with a team employee holding up a towel in a futile effort to block him from public view.

“Honestly, he's not the first guy that's ever done it,” Turner said. “I didn't see it so I don't know how discreet he was being, but it's more common than people think. I certainly wouldn't have wanted him to run up to the locker room and miss part of the game.”

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