Norv Turner, A.J. Smith will return

The San Diego Chargers missed the playoffs despite having the NFL's No. 2-ranked offense and top-ranked defense. Still, team president Dean Spanos told the San Diego Union-Tribune that both coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will return next season.

"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," Spanos told the newspaper. "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."

The Chargers' run of four straight AFC West titles came to a frigid, shocking end Sunday when they were routed by the lowly Cincinnati Bengals 34-20. That leaves just a meaningless season finale at Denver for a team Turner believed could have been the best in his four seasons as coach.

The Chargers stumbled to a 2-5 start due to an unfathomable number of special teams blunders and turnovers, and never recovered.

They also were without two of their best players -- left tackle Marcus McNeill and receiver Vincent Jackson -- for several games this season as Smith took a hard line with the pair in contract negotiations.

"I like A.J., even though he's a bit goofy," Spanos told the newspaper. "I trust him. 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. I learned that from my father in our business. A.J.'s committed 100 percent to this organization."

San Diego needed to have the Kansas City Chiefs stumble in one of their final two games. Instead, it was the Chargers who eliminated themselves hours after the Chiefs routed the Tennessee Titans. When the Chargers lost, the Chiefs clinched the division title with one game to play.

"It's personal and I take responsibility every game we lose," said quarterback Philip Rivers, who threw a crucial interception Sunday. "I understand it takes all of us to win a game, but certainly as a quarterback you feel like you have more of a hand in a win and a loss than anybody else who touches the ball every play.

The Chargers (8-7) must win at Denver Sunday in order to avoid their second 8-8 finish in three seasons.

The Chargers lost five games to teams with losing records: Seattle, St. Louis, Cincinnati and twice to Oakland.

"It starts in the division," Rivers said. "When you get swept by Oakland, you're probably not going to get in."

The Chargers have had a startling regression under Turner. He inherited a 14-2 team when Marty Schottenheimer was fired after the 2006 season because of the former coach's dysfunctional relationship with Smith. Turner won two playoff games after the 2007 season, one playoff game after the '08 season and then the Chargers took a face-plant in a home playoff loss to the New York Jets after last season, when San Diego finished 13-3.

"It wasn't coaching. Sometimes the best thing in the world is to make very few changes," Spanos told the newspaper. "There's an image out there that Norv is my puppet. Just the opposite. 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."

Now the Chargers are out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005, when Drew Brees was injured in a meaningless finale against Denver, then allowed to leave as a free agent.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.