Some of the most important players and respected leaders on the Chargers’ roster all have spoken highly of Head Coach Norv Turner, who will remain San Diego’s coach, the team announced Tuesday.
Chargers President Dean Spanos feels there’s a correlation between the player’s respect for Turner and how hard the team plays. Spanos is aware of the players’ comments in support of Turner.
“It contributed to help make the decision, but it wasn’t the determining factor,” Spanos said. “Players are generally supportive of their coaches, so I didn’t read too much into that, but I do respect the fact that (Rivers) did say something. Some of the other players, too.
“I think the relationship (Turner) has with our quarterback says a lot.”
Rivers, for his part, always has been vocal in his support of Turner, but became even more outspoken during the final weeks of the season. Rivers kept saying Turner did not throw an interception or miss a tackle all season, and said the blame should be on the players for losing games, not their coach.
“It’s exciting to know that our head coach is coming back,” Rivers said Tuesday. “It wasn’t the season we wanted, but I think there’s no doubt keeping that continuity gives us the best chance to win.
“What I take on my shoulders is the fact that we finished 8-8 this year. That was more about play than coaching by far. I believe it is going to work and we are going to win and ultimately win a championship here. I’m going to do all I can to make that happen.”
Other players made themselves available Tuesday at Chargers Park as well, expressing a united approval of the decision.
“I’m super excited. Norv’s a heck of a coach,” said Hardwick, a key member of the offensive line and a free agent. “We have a great staff here, a really great staff. I’m just excited to continue to build on what we’ve learned and keep moving forward and make a good push.”
Dielman, who said Monday he may consider retirement after ending up in the hospital and then missing the rest of the season following a concussion against the New York Jets, also called Turner’s status “a major factor” in his decision.
“He’s a good coach, man. The guy is a genius in football. I just think he came upon some bad luck with injuries and whatnot,” Dielman said. “He’s just a personable guy. I’ve known him now five years. One of the main reasons I signed back here is because they did hire him. I sat down and talked to him. He treats his players with respect if you’re a practice squad guy or if you’re a five-time Pro Bowl player.”
Turner acknowledged this season was a challenge for him personally and he felt the weight of the losses despite getting credit from Spanos and the players for ensuring the team did not splinter.
Turner’s leadership during the final five games proved a lot to Spikes in his first season with the Chargers. San Diego won four of those in impressive fashion after struggling to get a win for nearly two months.
“I like Norv. I like everything he stands for. I’ve always admired him from afar, but to play under his leadership was a valuable experience,” Spikes said. “He got beat up pretty good during that six-game losing streak, but he never changed. He always stayed positive and kept saying we could turn things around. Because we fought our way out of that hole, I gained so much more respect for him.”
As much as missing the playoffs stung, the players’ words meant a lot to Turner.
“It’s not guys who are trying to save a job (for themselves),” Turner said. “It’s guys who are established and it doesn’t matter who’s coaching here, they’re going to be an important part.”
WHAT THEY SAID: Here is some more player reaction to the decision to keep Turner and A.J. Smith as coach and general manager in 2012.
“It’s great. We keep the guy we want here. Us as players, we have to go win it for him and make Dean (feel) that he made the right decision. We’re excited to keep our head guys here. We know what we have, but we also know that it’s on us (as players), so we have to improve.” – FS Eric Weddle
“I’m really excited. Having been here eight years now, there’s a great working relationship with all of us players, Norv and A.J. Anytime you can have continuity and consistency within the organization, from a football player’s standpoint, that’s huge. Familiarity breeds confidence and consistency and those are huge parts of going out and playing well. We’re obviously all really excited.” – K
“I’m glad Norv is back. Anytime in life when you have stability, whether it’s family or dealing with business, that’s when you see progression start happening. That’s why I love the fact that Norv is back.” – Spikes