Will Spagnuolo Replace Castillo?
It will be a dizzying week atop the Chargers power structure, and the possibilities only keep getting more intriguing.
The first order of business for team president Dean Spanos is whether to retain General Manager A.J. Smith.
Spanos is expected to reveal his decision on whether to keep Smith by the middle of next week. It is believed, based on numerous conversations with league sources over the past month, that head coach Norv Turner will be fired regardless of who is the general manager.
Further, should Smith be fired in San Diego, he is expected to have opportunity elsewhere.
People familiar with Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s plans said Monday that Kroenke is waiting for Spanos to make a move on Smith. If Smith is available, league and agent sources strongly indicated that Smith will be hired as Rams’ general manager and bring along Jon Gruden as head coach.
Sources said Gruden has decided to return to coaching in 2012 and that his current employer, ESPN, is already preparing for his departure.
Spokesmen for ESPN and the Rams declined comment on Monday night.
Smith also declined comment when asked both about his future employment or his association with Gruden.
Sources who spoke Monday did so on the condition they not be identified. Those sources in a position to know Smith’s possible plans would not or could not say what he would do for a head coach if still in San Diego.
League sources have said for weeks that Kroenke plans to clean house after the season, firing both head coach Steve Spagnuolo and General Manager Billy Devaney. League sources also said this week that it is all but certain that Spagnuolo will join Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. Devaney, who was the Chargers Director of Player Personnel from 1990-2000, will not be a candidate in San Diego.
It is well-known in league circles that the relationship between Smith and Gruden is a solid one. The friendship began in the late 1990s when Gruden was head coach of the Oakland Raiders and was introduced to Smith by Smith’s closest friend, Bruce Allen, then the Raiders’ senior executive.
League and agent sources said recently that Smith has expressed his ongoing faith in Turner. However, Smith has also repeatedly said that five years is a “good test” for finding out the direction a head coach can take a team.
Turner is 48-31 in five seasons as head coach, but after back-to-back seasons have resulted in the Chargers missing the playoffs, it is possible Smith could decide he has to move in another direction. Moreover, he could be led in that direction by Spanos.
Even more certain than Turner’s fate is that of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Sources have long indicated the team views his hiring as a “mistake,” and the lack of answers in Detroit on Saturday sealed Manusky’s fate.
Turner, for his part, is aware of the likelihood of his being let go. Yet he vowed Monday to go about business as usual even as the Chargers’ season finale at Oakland has no real ramifications.
“I think that’s a good way of putting it,” Turner said when asked about approaching this week as he normally would. “I think that’s what we’ve tried to do as a coaching staff. I’ve got great respect for the coaches on our staff and the way they’ve worked at what they do and the way they’ve worked to prepare this team to go play. Obviously, there’s speculation, uncertainty. But the only thing we can control is obviously getting these guys ready to play, and we’re going to do that this week.
“Obviously, we’re going to finish the season on Sunday and, you know, like all of you, we’ll see what happens.”
(Story written by Matt Hammond of 973espn.com)