No changes at the top: Chargers' Turner, Smith to return in 2011

San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will return in 2011, club president Dean Spanos told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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"I've learned the hard way," Spanos told the newspaper after a 34-20 loss Sunday at Cincinnati ended the Chargers' playoff hopes. "Your GM and coach have to be two individuals who work together. It's very difficult for some teams; I've been through it. I like the working relationship at this level.

"We're as disappointed as anyone. But I look to 1996 to 2003, when we couldn't even get (beyond) 8-8. We've turned it around, to where we're a good team and a good organization. There's a lot of continuity, but we're still short.

"The easiest thing in the world is to start over. Who the hell do I go hire? Blow the whole thing up? We're a pretty good team, but we have to make the right moves. We've fallen. It could have been our draft picks or our free-agent moves. But we have a good core, and I don't care what anybody says. I'm not afraid to make changes. If I thought it was warranted, I would do it. We have a good foundation here."

Turner, hired in 2007, led San Diego (8-7) to AFC West titles the past three seasons. He took the Chargers to the AFC Championship game in his first season as coach and guided them to a 13-3 mark last year, when they were upset by the New York Jets in their playoff opener. His record with the team is 40-23 and 3-3 in playoff games.

Smith has been with the Chargers since 2001, first as assistant general manager and director of pro personnel, then as GM after John Butler died of cancer in April 2003.

"I trust (Smith)," Spanos told the Union-Tribune. "He'll tell you he's made mistakes. Who hasn't? But he takes chances. Sometimes you lose the bet, but if you're going to win a world championship, you've got to take chances. ... A.J.'s committed 100 percent to this organization.

"Norv took over a good team, and I think he's done a good job under some trying circumstances. I hate to make excuses, but I don't (care). It's hard to win without players. Last year we lost six players in our opener at Oakland, and Norv won 13 games. This year, I've never seen anything like it. I know injuries are a (poor) excuse, but we started 2-5 and could have caved, and we didn't."

Smith, too, says he supports Turner.

"When you have a coach that is competent, loyal and trustworthy and you believe in him, you stay the course," Smith told the newspaper. "Norv Turner will be leading this football team. ... The man knows what he's doing. People may have the opposite opinion. The coach is coming back. Other teams make decisions to go in another direction. I did — four years ago. I know it's frustrating to the fans, but I believe in this coach."

Spanos told the Chargers' official website that he understood fans' criticisms of Turner and Smith.

"They just want to win, and they're tired of coming up short," he said. "I feel the same way. Bottom line, we're all accountable, starting with me, A.J. and Norv. Every coach, player, staff member -– everyone is accountable, and we all must look at ourselves in the mirror.

"However, I look at how this team has played. We've played hard. At times I think we played as well as any team in the league. Sure, not every player decision or coaching decision has worked out as we had hoped, and A.J. and Norv would be the first to say that. They know they're accountable. But I look at the top of our football team, and I like how these men work together and balance each other. I believe consistency and stability are the major factors to have success on the field.

"I firmly believe the organizations that have been consistently successful in the NFL have also been the ones that have been consistently stable. These organizations have faith in their front office, coaches and players and stick to a long-term plan. That's my goal for the Chargers, but clearly we still have more work to do. That's why I know everyone will work harder than ever this offseason to get us ready for next year."