SAN DIEGO (AP) — Six weeks into what could be the worst of his four seasons as coach of the San Diego Chargers, Norv Turner finally said it.
“Hey, I’m accountable,” Turner said Monday, a day after a 20-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams dropped the underachieving Bolts to 2-4. “You know how I feel about it, it’s all on me and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we get it straightened out.”
Turner has offered mostly excuses to this point on why the Chargers have inexplicably lost to Kansas City, Seattle, Oakland and St. Louis, all on the road. Those teams were a combined 15-49 last season. The Rams were an NFL-worst 1-15.
Turner defended his staff, including beleaguered special teams coach Steve Crosby. San Diego’s special teams have had almost every conceivable breakdown this year, including two kickoffs and one punt returned for touchdowns and consecutive punts blocked at Oakland that helped the Raiders take a quick 12-0 lead. On Sunday, Nate Kaeding slipped on a field goal attempt that was blocked in the fourth quarter, straining his groin in the process.
“I really like our staff and I like the way they prepare and coach,” said Turner, who fell to 92-102 in three stints as an NFL head coach. “I feel like I said about Crosby the other day, we’ve gotten in this hole and I can’t think of a better group of guys to coach this group to get us out of it.”
Turner said last week that it was “silly” and “inappropriate” for anyone to even ask about Crosby’s job status.
The forgiving part of San Diego’s schedule is over. Up next are home games against New England (4-1) and Tennessee (3-2) and a game at Houston (4-2).
Turner hopes star tight end Antonio Gates (sprained toe) can play against the Patriots, but doubts if wide receiver Malcom Floyd (hamstring) will.
Turner said in the summer that this could be his best Chargers team. So far it’s not only his worst start, but the Chargers’ worst since 2003, when they were 1-5 at this point.
San Diego was 13-3 last season, including winning 11 straight before staging another playoff pratfall, a 17-14 home loss to the New York Jets. Turner’s worst finish so far was 8-8 in 2008. The Chargers won the AFC West title that year thanks to Denver’s historic collapse.
The Chargers might have been overconfident going against a Rams team led by rookie quarterback Sam Bradford.
Turner said he sensed frustration when the Chargers fell behind 17-0 in the first half.
Asked if some players thought it was going to be easy, Turner said:
“I don’t know how to answer that. I do know this, that guys fall into that trap. When we didn’t get off to a fast start, I sensed a frustration from our guys on the sideline and that shouldn’t be, because you should go into every game expecting it to come down to a drive in the fourth quarter, a chance to go win a game in the fourth quarter.”
Turner said the Chargers aren’t playing at the level they’re capable of playing.
“Again, I’ve been doing this long enough to know there are no guarantees for anybody, and that’s why every week is a new week and you’ve got to prepare that way,” Turner said during his weekly news conference. “And anyone who’s naive enough — I’m going to say that again, anyone who’s naive enough, because I’m talking not only to our team but to everyone in this room, to think that there’s a game that’s going to be easy in this league, they don’t know enough about the National Football League.”
Turner said Sunday’s results around the league — overtime games, upsets and teams winning on the final play — should reinforce his stance.
“That point is driven home to our guys on a regular basis and sometimes you lose sight of that. You think a game’s going to be easy,” Turner said. “The only easy game I’ve been involved with is after the fact, when it happens, after the game, usually because a team made a number of mistakes and allowed it to be easy.”
The Rams sacked Philip Rivers a career-high seven times and stuffed the NFL’s top offense.
San Diego made numerous changes in the offseason. Turner was asked if this might turn out to be a transition year.
“I hope not. I mean, that’s not what our intention was. That’s not what my intention is now,” Turner said. “I don’t think any one of our players feels that way. I don’t want it to turn into that. We’ve got a lot of work to do, though. Obviously we’ve dug ourselves a hole and we have a a pretty demanding schedule coming up as we continue through this.”
Turner said Gates’ toe injury is different from the one he had in the 2007 playoffs. He thinks Floyd’s injury is bad enough to keep him out of Sunday’s game.