You don't need the holiday decorations and department store window displays to tell you it's December. NFL fans can tell what month it is because there are reports out of San Diego that Chargers head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will be fired at the end of the season.
The San Diego Union-Tribune had the report on Thursday, citing league sources that said team president Dean Spanos had made up his mind. Reports of imminent dismissal for Turner and Smith surfaced almost exactly a year ago.
San Diego won four of its last five games in 2011, helping buy the pair yet another mulligan from Spanos when the team finished 8-8. This season, the Chargers are 4-8 and facing the Steelers this week on the road. The Chargers will play the Panthers, Jets and Raiders to finish the season.
This time, according to the report, Spanos isn't likely to give Smith and Turner another chance. From the UT report:
And unlike last year, when Spanos found enough reason for clemency in a strong finish and past accomplishments, those with knowledge of plans that are already in motion said it seems certain there will be no last-minute change of heart this time.
Spanos is waiting until after the season, more because that is his preferred time to make such moves than due to any faith in the Chargers' microscopic playoff chances.
Both Smith and Turner have a year left on their contracts.
San Diego made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game in 2007, Turner's first year, but lost to the Patriots. The team made two more playoff trips before the beginning of a postseason drought in 2010, and that is likely to continue this season despite the cruel fact of the team not yet being mathematically eliminated.
The report goes so far as to mention Chargers Director of Player Personnel Jimmy Raye as a potential replacement for Smith.
Smith and Turner have a much tougher case to make this year, but this report and last year's is another reminder that things can change before pink slips are officially handed out.
SB Nation's Chargers blog Bolts from the Blue has more on the latest report.