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Monday, January 2, 2012
What way are the Chargers leaning?

By Bill Williamson

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.