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Friday, February 12, 2016

Maybe Cowher Wants the Chargers Job

The Chargers were upset by the Jets 17-14 at home on Sunday, losing their Divisional Round playoff game. The Chargers outgained the Jets in the first half by a wide margin but only led 7-0, partly because All-Pro kicker Nate Kaeding missed two field goals (from 36 and 57 yards out). In the second half, the Jets’ pressure was strong and it forced two interceptions — one was a fluke play on a ball that never hit the ground, the other seemed to be a poor read by Antonio Gates over the middle. Then Nate Kaeding missed yet another field goal with 4:38 left, this time from 40 yards away. That seemed to be the nail in the coffin for the Chargers but San Diego managed a stop and a touchdown in only 2:24, leaving 2:14 left on the clock. At that point they faced a key decision: kick it deep and rely on a defensive stop or attempt the onside kick.

Norv Turner decided to go for the onside kick but Kerry Rhodes recovered it for the Jets. New York then converted a critical 4th and 1 with 1:09 left to seal the win. Turner’s decision was questionable because he had two choices at kickoff and his decision did not work out. That doesn’t mean it was the wrong choice — both scenarios were low probability — but it didn’t work out. After the game, the CBS crew acted as if Turner had made the worst call of the century and that the alternative was clearly the right choice. In fact, Bill Cowher provided the most biting criticism, with Boomer Esiason coming in a close second:

Cowher: “Kudos to the Jets but I got to say this: I’ve got to question the decision of Norv Turner to go for the onside kick. He’s got the two minute timeout, he had his own timeout, he could have got the ball back with 50 seconds to go or more around midfield if he kicks the ball deep.”

Boomer: “If the Jets have the ball kicked off to them instead of Kerry Rhodes coming up with the onside kick then the 4th and 1 they have no choice but to punt it, but because of field position they go for it. A lot of people are going to be wondering about Norv Turner in San Diego.”

In both scenarios, the critics are assuming everything would have played out the same way which isn’t necessarily the case. Not only do I point these criticisms out because I think Turner’s taking more heat for that decision than he should be, but also because of the source of the criticism. Bill Cowher is one of the hot coaches on the free agent market and earlier in the week Jerome Bettis said Cowher was holding out for the Giants job. Hearing that criticism from Cowher makes me think something else: perhaps Bill Cowher has interest in the Chargers job. He’d be working with an elite quarterback, a roster loaded with talent, and a weak division. The only thing not to like about the job is GM A.J. Smith’s itching trigger finger and perhaps the cheapness of the Spanos family. Cowher’s comment could have been simple post game analysis or it could have been intended to turn up the heat on Norv’s chair. I think it’s something in between.

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