AFC West: St. Louis Rams

Pagano not shy about praise for Austin

November, 7, 2013
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The word frustration has probably been tied to St. Louis Rams rookie receiver/returner Tavon Austin more than anyone else through the first nine weeks of the NFL season.

Austin has been frustrated with penalties that have cost him big plays, fans have been frustrated by those infractions, as well as Austin's drops, and the list goes on and on. Despite that, plenty have remained steadfast in the breakout potential of Austin. As a rookie, it's unfair to make any sweeping declarations about his future only nine games into his career.

Austin
One person who isn't afraid to express his belief that Austin's early struggles will turn around sooner than later is Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano.

During his Wednesday conference call with the St. Louis media, Pagano was asked a general question about what he sees from the Rams, this week's opponent. In a long and winding answer full of the normal bland and somewhat vague compliments, Pagano made it clear that Austin is a player his team is well aware of going into Sunday's game.

"And the special teams, you’ve got a dynamic returner in Tavon Austin that’s one of the best and going to be, arguably, maybe one of the best ever to play that position," Pagano said. "He’s a game-wrecker. He’s a game-breaker. I know the numbers are a little bit skewed because of penalties and things like that, but he’s one of the most dynamic guys. When we watched him coming out, it’s obvious why the Rams took him where they took him. The guy literally can wreck a game for you, not only on offense as a receiver, and no matter how he gets the ball and gets it in his hands, he’s a threat to score from anywhere."

All of the things Pagano mentions have been evident at various times this season, though that's high praise considering the numbers. Austin does have the speed and ability to make big plays, but so far those skills have only been evident on plays wiped out by silly penalties.

Of course, given the Rams' current situation, there would be no better time for Austin to prove Pagano correct than when he's standing on the opposite sideline.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It is easy to look at Saturday night’s preseason game against the St. Louis Rams and simply see the Denver Broncos faced an NFC West team they’re only going to see once in a great while in the seasonal rotation that is the NFL schedule.

But look a little more closely and you will really see what the template will be for many defenses that face the Broncos and Peyton Manning this season.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Peyton Manning tried to find room to pass against the Rams on Saturday night.
Why?

Because out of any head coach and high-ranking assistant coach, no combination in the league has likely faced Manning more during the future Hall of Famer’s career behind center than Rams coach Jeff Fisher and Rams assistant head coach Dave McGinnis. Which means, they've tried most everything, including Fisher calling for an onside kick the first three times the Titans kicked off in a game against the Colts.

Fisher faced Manning twice a year in the AFC South since 2002, when the league’s divisional alignment was changed until Fisher’s exit from the Titans following the 2010 season. And McGinnis has been an assistant on Fisher’s staff, in both Nashville and St. Louis since 2004. The current St. Louis staff also includes a former Titans defensive coordinator in Chuck Cecil and a former Titans linebacker in Joe Bowden.

And when they all put their heads together for a rather no-frills defensive gameplan, the Rams' strategy Saturday night was still likely the same Manning will see against teams comfortable enough with their pass rush not to have to blitz him a lot. Nobody really likes blitzing Manning a lot, though teams did try it slightly more against the Broncos than they did in Manning's final two seasons in Indianapolis. The Rams worked back to front, took away the big stuff, especially down the hashmarks, forced patience and hoped for the mistakes that impatience brings.

In short, yards don’t matter, points do. So the yards pile up, but when the offense moved inside the 25-yard line or so, the angles go away, there is less room to work and it can be more difficult to throw into a crowd to score without resorting to corner fade after corner fade.

As a result, Manning threw 34 passes and completed 25 of them for 234 yards in his half of work Saturday. The Broncos, working at breakneck speed as well, ran an astounding 49 plays in the first half, but because of turnovers, a missed field goal and two punts, they had just 10 points to show for all of that.

Manning’s longest completion was a 23-yarder to Andre Caldwell late in the second quarter. He had 12 completions of fewer than 10 yards and 20 of his completions were for 15 or fewer yards. That’s because that’s what the Rams were hoping for as well.

“That’s what they were doing," Manning said. “So, you can throw down the field, I guess, and throw incomplete, but it would be just a waste of time in my opinion if they’re all just sitting back and hanging back."

It does show those who have faced him the most over the years, except the fact Manning knows what they’re up to most of the time and has an answer for it. So, better to take the drum-beat approach and force him to make completion after completion, try to make tackles to limit the catch-and-run damage. Then hope the four-man rush can get there at times to at least get him off the mark once in a while, and hope a mistake or two from the Broncos comes along for the ride as well, be it a fit of impatience, an ill-timed penalty, turnover or missed assignment.

Even Manning’s touchdown pass, a 6-yarder that had to be a GPS job, fit into the smallest of windows to Demaryius Thomas over Cortland Finnegan. In the end, until the Broncos can run the ball well enough to threaten the defensive plan and bring the safeties down toward the line of scrimmage, it is a blueprint others will try to follow. Because with Wes Welker added to the offense, it’s really the only choice they will have, to simply live with the gaudy stats left behind and hope the touchdowns aren’t listed next to them.

Observation deck: Broncos-Rams

August, 24, 2013
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DENVER -- While Peyton Manning's night was done at halftime, the Denver Broncos took most of their starters into the third quarter of Saturday night's preseason meeting with the St. Louis Rams and came away with the same questions they carried into the contest -- turnovers on offense and special-teams play that is changing games in the wrong direction. The Broncos did, however, come away with a 27-26 victory.

Some things to consider:

  • The Broncos kick-started the offense by going big. They opened the night in a three-wide-receiver set, their preferred look, but after Rams rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree broke free in the middle of the formation on a third-and-4 on Denver's first possession, the Broncos beefed things up a bit. They lined up in a two-tight-end look on 29 of the next 35 plays, including all 12 in a drive that ended with a blocked field goal. It is a versatile formation for the Broncos, one that forces defenses to decide whether to put a linebacker or safety on Jacob Tamme. In all, the Broncos put up 174 of their 290 yards in the first half out of the two-tight-end look. But for a team that signed Wes Welker in the offseason, it shows there is some work to be done. Welker was not in uniform Saturday because of an ankle injury and Andre Caldwell played as the third receiver with the starters.

  • Special teams have gone from a hey-there-is-time dilemma to a full-blown, what’s-the-deal affair. The Broncos surrendered a 107-yard kickoff return for a score to go with a 33-yard punt return against the Seahawks a week ago. Saturday night, Tavon Austin took the Broncos’ first punt 81 yards and added a 23-yarder in the second quarter; the Rams also blocked a field goal. Jeff Rodgers' units were consistently a strength in the 13-3 campaign of 2012, and more of the same was expected this season. Yet the Broncos are giving up lanes in the return game when they don’t show the discipline they had last season and they aren’t getting off enough blocks.

  • [+] EnlargeRonnie Hillman, Alec Ogletree
    AP Photo/Jack DempseyRonnie Hillman saw this second-quarter carry end with Alec Ogletree ripping the ball away and returning it for a touchdown.
    For the second consecutive game, Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman saw one of his fumbles returned for a touchdown. Last week, it was Seattle’s Brandon Browner who went 106 yards when Hillman fumbled into the end zone in Seattle. Against the Rams, Hillman committed a cardinal sin for a running back -- turning his back to the defender when his forward progress had been stopped. Ogletree ripped the ball out as Hillman was falling, back to the ground and ball exposed; Ogletree scooped up the loose ball and returned it 13 yards for the score. The Broncos have lost four fumbles in three preseason games, including Hillman’s two. Hillman went back into the game to start Denver's next possession, so it hasn’t affected his playing time … yet.

  • Knowshon Moreno, whose roster spot looked shaky early on in camp, has carved out some playing time in passing situations because of his reliability in protection. He got some snaps with the starters in the first half and more on the Broncos' first possession of the second half when all of the offensive starters, except for Manning, were in the game.

  • The Broncos figured out a way to get Von Miller into the game and still work in the linebackers who will have to replace him during his six-game suspension to open the regular season. Broncos coach John Fox said this past week he would play Miller in the final two preseason games, including the finale Thursday against Arizona -- a game most, or all, of the Broncos regulars are expected to sit out. With Robert Ayers (ankle/Achilles) and Derek Wolfe (neck) out of the lineup, the Broncos played Miller at defensive end, with Shaun Phillips in the base defense. That put Nate Irving in Miller’s usual strongside spot in the base look, with Wesley Woodyard in the middle and Danny Trevathan on the weak side. Miller also stayed at end in the nickel and dime looks, which is where he normally plays in those packages.

  • Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase has promised to push the pace at times, especially in the elevation of the team’s home stadium, to see if defenses can keep up. The mistake-filled first half against the Seahawks camouflaged the fact that the Broncos ran 40 plays on offense for 209 yards. Saturday night, they made that look positively tortoise-like. Against the Rams, the Broncos ran an astounding 30 plays in the opening quarter and 49 for 290 yards in the first half. Hillman’s fumble and an interception from Manning in the two-minute drill tempered the output, however. But it shows opposing defenses that they will have to be ready for that kind of pace.

  • Manning showed he has regular-season awareness when he caught the Rams with 12 men on the field with a quick snap, which drew a penalty flag.

  • Wide receiver Eric Decker had one catch for 10 yards in the first two preseason games combined. He was targeted eight times in the first half and finished with six catches for 66 yards. With Welker out, Decker worked out of the slot plenty.

  • Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who left Thursday’s practice after taking a knee to his lower back, started the game and played with the first-team defense through the first half.

  • And in the what-a-difference-starters-can-make department: With the majority of the first-team offense still in the game, Brock Osweiler opened the second half under center for the Broncos. On the second possession, the second-year player led the Broncos on an 11-play, 79-yard touchdown drive. With time to look things over, he showed a power arm, going 5-for-6 for 58 yards on the march. Playing behind backup linemen, Osweiler had been sacked seven times in the first two preseason games. Saturday, he was sacked on his first drop-back after the starting offensive line left the game, and he tossed an interception in the fourth quarter.

  • Left tackle Ryan Clady made his first preseason start and played into the second quarter. Clady, who had offseason shoulder surgery, had practiced more with the starting offense this past week. Chris Clark, Clady’s replacement, was flagged for holding on his first play after entering the game for Clady. But Clady’s return should settle things down up front, and the Broncos will be able to push the help in pass protection to the middle of the field.
Weekend mail call:

Jeff Roebuck from Wichita, Kan., wants to know if there is any way the Chiefs could package Dwayne Bowe in a deal to St. Louis in an attempt to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 pick.

Bill Williamson: It’s an interesting thought. I think the Kansas City Chiefs would love to get a chance to take Griffin, but they will have a hard time putting together a winning package. Teams such as the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins will all offer better trades. The Chiefs have the No. 11 pick in the draft and the three other teams all pick higher in the first round. Adding Bowe would sweeten the pot. Still, I’m not sure if a package of Bowe and the No. 11 pick would be enough. The Chiefs would likely have to add, at least, a future first-round pick to the mix. That’s a steep price.

Shaun Lee from San Clemente, Calif., wants to know if I think the Raiders could sign San Diego running back Mike Tolbert if they can’t sign Michael Bush.

BW: It is starting to look like Bush will probably get an offer to leave the Oakland Raiders. While I think Tolbert would be an attractive option for the Raiders if Bush leaves, he may be too expensive for a team that has bigger needs. I say Oakland fills the backup running back job with an in-house candidate.

Marilou from Anchorage, Alaska wants to know if the Broncos could sign Pittsburgh Mike Wallace in restricted free agency.

BW: There is a chance Wallace (who the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted with a pick acquired in a deal involving the Denver Broncos) could leave for the price of a first-round pick. He would be worth the No. 25 pick. But I think Wallace may be intrigued by other possibilities -- he has already mentioned New England and San Francisco as teams that may appeal to him. In the end, I don’t see this pairing happening.
The nice play is over in the AFC West. It didn’t last long.

When Dennis Allen was hired to be the Oakland Raiders’ head coach last week, his former boss John Fox wished Allen well. And, now, Allen is on his own.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Broncos have denied the Raiders permission to speak to linebackers coach Richard Smith for the Oakland defensive job.

Previously, Kansas City defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas and New Orleans defensive line coach Bill Johnson were dropped off as candidates. It’s not a surprise Fox denied Allen permission. He wants to keep as much stability on his defensive coaching staff as possible. It seems more and more teams are denying permission these days and it’s no shock this intra-division hard stance was made.

Potential coordinator candidates may now include former San Diego defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and San Francisco defensive backs coach Ed Donatell.

UPDATE: CSN Bay Area reports Oakland special teams coach John Fassel has reported to St. Louis. The Raiders have had one of the best special teams in the NFL in recent years. Fassel was a strong coach, but the talent remains for Oakland in this area.

Meanwhile, NFL.com is reporting that Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is considering pursuing former Kansas City coach Todd Haley as offensive coordinator.

That would be an interesting pairing. Haley is known for being high strung and vocal in his coaching. Tomlin is intense, but he’s not much of a screamer and a yeller. Also, Haley is known for getting on his players often during games. It would be interesting to see an established quarterback such as Ben Roethlisberger adjust to playing for Haley.

I’m sure Haley would love the job. He is from Pittsburgh and his father, Dick, is a former legendary Steelers’ personnel man.

Chiefs make coaching staff moves

January, 30, 2012
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Romeo Crennel has just made his first coaching staff moves as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The team announced it has hired Tom McMahon to be the special teams coach. He spent the past three years as the special teams coach in St. Louis. Kansas City did not retain special teams coach Steve Hoffman. The Chiefs also announced wide receivers coach Richie Anderson and assistant offensive line coach Pat Perles were not retained.

The Rams were considered to have one of the better special teams in recent years.

"I am pleased to add Tom to our staff," Crennel said in a statement released by the team. “He is a diligent worker and passionate coach. It is a great addition for us."

The team’s biggest remaining hire to make is an offensive coordinator.
This is the danger of a long coaching search: teams can lose some of their best assistant coaches.

That occurred in Oakland. NFL.com reported that Oakland defensive line coach Mike Waufle has taken the same job in St. Louis.

Waufle was considered one of the better defensive line coaches in the NFL and he was one of Oakland’s best coaches. Oakland’s players, especially defensive leader Richard Seymour, often praised Waufle.

However, as of last Tuesday, coaches on Oakland’s staff were free to find work elsewhere while the Raiders look for their new coach. Usually, new head coaches bring in a mostly a new staff, yet there are often a few holdovers from the previous staff.

I would have thought Waufle had a chance to stay on. I’m guessing another assistant who may be asked to stay is assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski. He is considered an up-and-coming coach. Wisniewski is a former Raiders’ great player and he is the uncle of Oakland guard Stefen Wisniewski, who stood out as a rookie in 2011.

AFC West notes

January, 21, 2012
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ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that former Oakland coach Hue Jackson was bypassed for the St. Louis offensive coordinator job. The paper reports new Rams coach Jeff Fisher picked former Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer over Jackson.

That has to be a tough blow for a former head coach to be bypassed in favor of a former offensive coordinator. There are other offensive coordinator jobs available, so perhaps Jackson will land somewhere. As of now, there has not been any reported interest in Jackson, including in Kansas City, where the Chiefs are looking for an offensive coordinator. Friday, we suggested the Colts should consider Jackson for their head-coaching job.

In other AFC West news:

The Chicago Sun-Times identifies Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery as the favorite to become the Bears’ general manger. He has worked in Chicago in the past. Chargers executive Jimmy Raye has also interviewed for the job.

The Miami Herald reports one of the reasons Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy did not get the Dolphins’ head-coaching job -- it went to Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin -– is that he was reluctant to keep interim Dolphins coach Todd Bowles as the defensive coordinator. Bowles has interviewed in Oakland for the head-coaching job and McCoy backed out of his Oakland interview to concentrate on a second interview with the Dolphins. It’s unclear if the Raiders will look to interview McCoy at this point.
NFL.com is reporting that the Indianapolis Colts want to interview former Minnesota coach Brad Childress for their head-coaching opening. Here’s another name the Colts should consider: Hue Jackson.

If Childress is on the Colts’ list, Jackson – who was fired last week after one year at the helm in Oakland – should be, too.

Jackson wasn’t fired in Oakland because he can’t coach. I think Jackson, 46, is one of the bright, young offensive coaching minds in the league. His work with Oakland’s offense the past two years shows how capable a coach he is.

His problem in Oakland was that he took on too much power after the death of owner Al Davis — and that he talked too much. But those are issues he can quickly resolve. The Colts have a strong power structure in which Jackson would simply be asked to coach. And whether the Colts’ quarterback in 2012 is Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning, Jackson would be a good leader for either.

Jackson is a candidate to be the offensive coordinator in St. Louis. If he gets that job and the Rams offense rebounds in 2012, Jackson will likely be a hot head-coaching candidate next year. Still, if the Colts are looking at a retread like Childress, they might as well take a gander at Jackson, who’d still be the head coach in Oakland under the right circumstances.

In other AFC West news:

The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting that former Carolina secondary coach Ron Meeks has been offered the Chargers’ secondary coaching job and he is expected to decide by the end of the weekend. Meeks would replace Steve Wilks — who went to Carolina to work for former Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, who is now Carolina’s head coach.

The Raiders denied a report that new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie has hired former Raider Sean Jones as assistant general manager. The team's search for a new head coach continues, meanwhile; Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was reportedly set to interview Friday.

The new coach in Miami could further increase the chances of Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll ending up in that role with Kansas City. Daboll worked in New England with new Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel.

Rocky Mountain Raiders?

January, 16, 2012
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If you can’t beat them in a tiebreaker, join them?

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Oakland Raiders will interview Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen for their head-coaching opening.

It’s an interesting move by new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie. His pursuit of McCoy and Allen show that McKenzie is willing to cast a wide net in his search. The former Green Bay executive is also expected to interview some Green Bay assistants. McKenzie has already interviewed former Miami interim coach Todd Bowles.

McCoy and Allen were part of Denver’s resurgence this season. The Broncos went to the playoffs after beating Oakland and San Diego for the division title in a tiebreaker. All three teams were 8-8. I’m sure both McCoy and Allen are legitimate candidates, but it will also give McKenzie a chance to pick the brains of his rivals.

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins’ long search for a new head coach is reportedly leading them to Denver. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported the Dolphins will interview McCoy this week. McCoy was set to interview in Jacksonville, but the Jaguars hired Mike Mularkey as coach before McCoy was interviewed. Allen interviewed in St. Louis before Jeff Fisher was hired.

Former Denver Broncos owner dies

January, 14, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — On the day the Denver Broncos will play in their biggest game of John Elway’s short era as the team’s leader, the team is mourning the death of the man who owned the team when the Broncos traded for Elway as a rookie in 1983.

The team put out a release to address the death of former owner Edgar Kaiser. He sold his majority rights to the team to current Denver owner Pat Bowlen in 1984. Kaiser later unsuccessfully sued to regain some rights to the team.

“On behalf of the Denver Broncos, I extend our sincere condolences to the family of Edgar Kaiser,” Bowlen said. “I have enormous appreciation for the opportunity Edgar gave me to become owner of this great franchise in 1984. Our deepest sympathies go out to Edgar’s family during this difficult time.”

Added Elway: “It is with great sadness that I learned of Mr. Kaiser’s untimely death. He was responsible for executing the trade that made me a Bronco, and I am forever grateful for everything he did for me. My thoughts are with the entire Kaiser family and his friends as they mourn their loss.”

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels will be upstairs Saturday night against Denver in his first game back with the Patriots and his first meeting against Denver since he was hired as head coach in December 2010.

With Jeff Fisher taking the St. Louis job, Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen appears like he will stay in Denver. He has no other head-coaching interview currently scheduled. If the Broncos’ defense continues to make progress, expect Allen to get head-coaching interest next year.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- ESPN is reporting the NFL will look into coaches jumping from one team to a playoff team during the postseason and that the league will determine whether there will be a rule blocking such moves.

Of course, the inspiration for the discussion is the New England Patriots’ hire of Josh McDaniels as an offensive coach. He was St. Louis’ offensive coordinator during the season. Yet, he started to work for the Patriots last week. His first game will be Saturday night against Denver in the divisional playoffs. Denver fired McDaniels as head coach in December 2010 after 28 games. He was previously the Patriots’ offensive coordinator.

The Broncos haven’t made a big deal of the situation, but, I know, privately, some folks in the organization -- and others around the league -- think it’s a little odd that such a move could happen.

Don’t you think there are some Rams players who would like the opportunity to work in the playoffs, just as McDaniels will get the opportunity?

I knew the league would take some heat over it. It’s just my guess, but I bet this is the last time we see such a move.

Meanwhile, Denver snapper Lonie Paxton is missing the game because his wife is having complications in her pregnancy. She is carrying twins. Our best wishes go out to the Paxton family.

Denver signed former longtime San Diego long snapper David Binn for Saturday night’s game.
In a testimony to his fantastic work with the Denver Broncos’ defense, first-year defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is receiving head coaching interest from elsewhere.

Allen is set to interview for the St. Louis Rams’ head coaching job Thursday. However, Allen told reporters in Denver on Wednesday that his primary is on the Broncos’ AFC divisional playoff game at New England on Saturday.

“Obviously, I’m thrilled about it, but really, at the end of the day my focus is to try to win a game against the New England Patriots, and that’s the only thing that I’m concerned with right now,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, we’re focused on New England, and we’re trying to win this game, and whatever happens after that, that’s in somebody else’s hands.”

Allen credited the Broncos players for the Rams’ interest. Denver was ranked last in most defensive statistical categories in 2010. However, under Allen, Denver’s defense has been much improved and it is a big reason why the 9-8 Broncos are still alive in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Kansas City director of college scouting Phil Emery and San Diego director of player personnel Jimmy Raye are among four candidates the Bears are interviewing for their open general manager job.

Report: Rams to talk to Denver DC

January, 9, 2012
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This is what happens when you make a little postseason noise: Some of your top assistant coaches may get lured away.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that St. Louis will interview Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen on Thursday. Denver plays at New England in the divisional round of the playoffs Saturday. Jacksonville is planning to interview Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. It is too early to consider either Allen or McCoy prime candidates in either city.

Allen’s candidacy may be fluid since the Rams are battling Miami for Jeff Fisher's services. Still, Allen deserves the interest. The Broncos were the No. 32 defense in the NFL in 2010 but has been much improved this season and the unit is a big reason why the Broncos are still alive in the postseason.

In other AFC West news:

ESPN Stats & Information broke down why the Tim Tebow-Demaryius Thomas 80-yard pass play on the first play of overtime to beat Pittsburgh worked.

Former Kansas City coach Todd Haley spoke of his time with the team in a radio interview. He was fired last month.
One of the most intriguing stories in the NFL in this week of change is what the San Diego Chargers will do.

The Chargers could fire both coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith, fire one and keep the other or keep both.

It seemed certain Turner would be fired once the Chargers were eliminated from playoff contention last week -- the second time in two straight seasons San Diego has missed the postseason. Smith’s future, however, was more uncertain.

Yet after the Chargers dominated the Oakland Raiders in Oakland and knocked them out of the playoffs Sunday, there seems to be thought that perhaps both Turner and Smith could be kept. After a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season, the Chargers managed to win four of their final five games and finish with an 8-8 record.

San Diego owner Dean Spanos told the San Diego Union Tribune on Sunday he was impressed by the effort and he’d consider the situation for a couple of days.

CBS Sportsline is reporting that the team may be leaning toward keeping both Turner and Smith. Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union Tribune agrees. I heard similar talk as well. The players, led by quarterback Philip Rivers, are in Turner’s corner.

I think the Chargers believe they have the makings of a good team and would rather keep it together than tear apart their leadership core. But ownership also knows the fan base is antsy because of the recent failures. With the team trying to secure a new stadium in downtown San Diego, fan sentiment means a lot these days.

If Turner and Smith are kept, it will certainly be on a year-to-year basis. To appease the fans, if no chances are made, I would think the Chargers would have to get aggressive this offseason to add some big-name players, especially on defense. Another playoff-less season will not be tolerated.

It seems everything is still on the table in San Diego, but with Black Monday coming to an end, the fact that Turner and Smith are still around, may be working in their favor. If Spanos knew he wanted to make a change for sure, he would have done so already.

Timing is critical because other teams are already getting a jump on candidates. NFL.com reported that former Titans’ coach Jeff Fisher would be interested in the Chargers. He reportedly is already lining up interviews with the Rams and Dolphins. Fisher is one of the best coaching options available. If the Chargers want him, you’d think they’d act quickly.

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