San Diego is Philip Rivers' town now. But with a slight change in regime, are the Chargers better off? Let's take a look at the Bolts on the 20th stop of NESN.com's 32-day march through the NFL.
2009 Record: 13-3, AFC West champions (lost to Jets in divisional round)
2010 Schedule Difficulty: Their opponents went a combined 116-140 (.453 winning percentage) in 2009, which is tied for the third-easiest schedule in the NFL.
Key Additions: Cornerback Nathan Vasher, cornerback Donald Strickland, running back Ryan Mathews (draft), wide receiver Josh Reed, inside linebacker Donald Butler (draft)
Key Losses: Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, nose tackle Jamal Williams
Burning Question: How does Norv Turner still have a job?
Entering the 2009 playoffs, the Chargers had an 11-game winning streak and looked like the best team in the NFL. Yet, they opened the postseason with a flat-lining, 17-14 home loss to the Jets. Call it the Norv Turner Special.
Turner has guided the Chargers to a 32-16 regular-season record and three AFC West championships in three years as San Diego's head coach. Yup, that’s pretty awesome. But, despite having one of the most talented rosters in the league each of those seasons, the Chargers are just 3-3 in the playoffs under Turner.
Before taking over in San Diego, Turner spent seven years as the head coach in Washington (1994-2000), and two years in Oakland (2004-05) and was a combined 58-82-1 with a 1-1 mark in the postseason. Scintillating stuff, right?
Then, in 2006, Turner was the 49ers' offensive coordinator, guiding the Niners to 24th in points scored and 26th in total offense, establishing a resume that made the Chargers' front office salivate enough to refill the Pacific Ocean five times over.
Coaches have been fired for less. But it's baffling that a coach with that history kept his job after last season's one-and-done.
2010 Outlook: There's a bit of a transition going on in San Diego with the departures of LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Cromartie and Jamal Williams. Yet, what they subtracted in talent, they gained in character. Ryan Mathews has some big shoes to fill, and he'll have to play well to complement running back Darren Sproles. Quarterback Philip Rivers has grown into a perennial MVP candidate, and there's enough talent on both sides of the ball to make the Chargers the clear-cut favorites to win the division. The regular season isn’t the problem with this team, though. It's about time they prove something in the playoffs.
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