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Spanos credits Turner for turnaround
How enjoyable has this 10-game win streak been for you?
“It’s great. Obviously we started off slow for a lot of different reasons. That seems to be the character of this team the last few years, and for different reasons. It happened to be injuries this year at two key positions: our offensive and defensive lines. Our backups and some new players came in and the more they played, combined with some good coaching from Norv Turner and his staff, they started playing so well as a team and got on a run.”
Sitting at 2-3 in late October, could you have envisioned such a strong turnaround?
“You always think you’re going to win every game. That’s how I think, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Winning is contagious, just like losing is. Once we got three or four games under our belt, I think the team gained so much confidence that they believed they were going to win every game. The psychological part plays such an important role when you start winning.”
Where do you give the credit for the turnaround?
“It’s the players on the field obviously, but the catalyst that makes it all happen is the head coach. He’s the one that directs the team; he’s the one that puts the game plans together. He gives them the direction and the means to go out there, but they still have to go play. I think the catalyst for the whole thing is Norv Turner. It starts with him.”
Is there one characteristic Norv has that you think has been instrumental in the team’s success?
“Consistency. Norv is very consistent. He believes in what he’s doing and you never see him deviate from what he believes in. I believe very strongly that the players see that, they sense that, they understand and they respect that.”
In your opinion, should he be considered as a candidate for NFL Coach of the Year?
“Obviously I’m biased. I just think he’s done an incredible job the last three years and I’d like to see him considered. He deserves to be considered.”
There have been rumors about a possible contract extension for Coach Turner.
“As I said before, we typically address those issues at the end of the season and that’s our plan right now. I think it’s clear and it’s been clear from my comments how I feel about the job he’s done the last three years. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as do the players and the entire organization.”
With the Pro Bowl teams being announced this week, how do you feel about the players who have been named and are there any that aren’t on the list that you think should be?
“The five Pro Bowlers that made it from our team deserve to be there. In my mind, there are always players that don’t make it that should. I think Mike Scifres is one for sure that should be a Pro Bowler. He’s somebody that people should take note of because he’s one of the best punters in the league.”
Speaking of postseason awards, Philip Rivers’ name is starting to be mentioned in MVP talk. Do you think he’s deserving?
“Of course he is. Look at his stats; look at his record, especially late in the year. He’s really the leader on the field right now and this whole team believes in him.”
How do you think Norv has helped Philip’s development?
“If you look at Norv’s history, he’s one of the best at bringing a young quarterback along and making him into a seasoned veteran. I’m sure Philip would say the same thing.”
You and other organizational leaders have stated time and time again that the goal is to qualify for the postseason and then see what happens. What are your thoughts on having the first-round bye?
“It’s a double-edged sword. You can make an argument that you can keep playing, but when you look at our team, we have some injured players we’d like to get healthy for the playoffs. You don’t want to lose momentum, but we’ve been there before. We had the top seed back in 2006. We learned from that experience and we’re not going to lose perspective of how important momentum is. The one thing that I think Norv has stressed is we’re practicing next week just like we would if we were playing that Sunday. We’re not going to go out of our normal routine and we’re not going to lose our momentum.”
What does it mean to the City of San Diego to get to host postseason football and how do you expect the excitement in the city to be surrounding the playoffs?
“There’s an undeniable bond, connection between this team and the people of San Diego. It’s exciting for them. It’s exciting for the community. If you just walk around downtown, everybody is wearing Chargers hats and Chargers shirts. A lot of people are out of work right now and it’s tough times, but I think (the team’s success) has proven to be unifying and uplifting for the community.
Mark Fabiani recently discussed the necessity of public funds for the site currently being talked about for a Super Bowl-quality stadium in San Diego. What did you think of the public reaction?
“I think there’s still a lot of discussion needed to help everyone’s understanding of the issues involved, such as redevelopment funds versus an increase in taxes. This (idea) is still in its infancy right now; we’re not even sure it’s possible. There are all sorts of issues relevant to that particular site downtown, but it was something that was suggested by the mayor and we’re taking a look at it.”
Are there any new developments on the stadium front?
“We’re keeping an open mind to any ideas that people have. The downtown site has the support of a lot of people, and many people have urged us to take a look at it, so that's exactly what we're doing.”
As you look back on 2009, what are you most proud of?
“I really want to give our players and our staff a lot of credit for stepping up and making a difference in the community. You look at today’s economic times and how many people are really struggling because they don’t have a job or other struggles in their lives. There are a lot of things our players, coaches and staff do in this community that people don’t see or know about. They give their time and resources to help organizations and individuals too numerous to mention; helping the less fortunate in so many different ways. Everybody in our organization has stepped up. That’s a great thing and something that I’m really proud of.”
What are your thoughts as you reflect on the past decade?
“A lot has changed in the last 10 years. When I think back on the past decade, we were a struggling franchise back in 2000 and 2001. When you look at where we were then to where we are now, I know I’m biased, but I think we’re one of the most consistent and winningest franchises in the league. We’re the third-winningest franchise in the NFL over the last six years. I think we’ve proven we can play with any team in the league and we have just as good a chance to win a World Championship as anybody.
“It started with John Butler. He wasn’t here long enough to carry out his dream, but he put together a staff that was in place after he passed away and he really laid the foundation for what you see today. A.J. (Smith) has different ideas and a different approach, but he’s done a tremendous job. And he’s here because John brought him here. You have to give John and A.J. a lot of credit.”