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Chargers in Unfamiliar Territory

The Chargers have a losing record for the first time since 2003

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    Norv Turner has watched his team miss the playoffs for three straight seasons. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

    Try to read the following statement in the iconic voice of Casey Kasem:

    "Antonio Gates was an unknown, undrafted rookie free agent.

    Philip Rivers was a senior at North Carolina State University.

    Losing Like This, Never OK: Rivers

    [DGO] Losing Like This, Never OK: Rivers
    San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers talks to the media after the team's devastating loss Sunday.

    And Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California.

    The year was 2003."

    It was also the last time the San Diego Chargers finished a season with a losing record. Their 8-year run came to an end on Sunday with an uninspired, 31-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Qualcomm Stadium. There are still two games to play, but it will be the symbolic end of the journey for head coach Norv Turner.

    In his first year leading the Chargers, Turner's team went to the AFC Championship game. The next season, they won a single playoff game. The next, they lost their first playoff game. Then they went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Then they went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. And now they have a losing record.

    I like Norv Turner. I respect him. He's a good and charitable man. But, as the head coach of the Chargers, I must echo what Darth Vader said about Obi-Wan Kenobi in Return of the Jedi, "Now his failure is complete."

    On Monday, coach Turner was asked why his team will miss the post-season for a third straight year.

    "I don't think I'm gonna go there because each year is different," said Turner. "Each season is totally different in terms of how they unfolded. We'd be here a long time if we talked about all the different things this team has been through over the last three years."

    Prevalent on the list are injuries and defections at key positions. Starting in 2010 with the holdouts by Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson, and finishing this season with the injuries to Jared Gaither and the rest of the offensive line, the guys who've been called on to replace the usual starters simply have not been as good.

    Free agency is a big issue. Vincent Jackson signed with Tampa Bay, so general manager A.J. Smith tried to replace him with Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, who have combined for an obscenely disappointing 30 catches, 341 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jackson has 62 catches for 1226 yards and 8 touchdowns (it's worth noting, while Meachem and Royal are making $16 million less combined, their guaranteed money is only $6 million less than Jackson got from Tampa, and Vincent's contract is one year longer than Meachem's).

    So, it appears the Chargers will play the Jets in New Jersey, then the Raiders in Mission Valley, then see if there's a change with the head coach or G.M. Or, perhaps, both. Or, perhaps, neither.

    With the way things have gone the last few years, nothing would surprise me anymore.