SAN DIEGO — On one end of the Chargers locker room, above the doorway is stenciled the Latin phrase, “Nunc Coepi.”Its English translation, “Now We Begin,” is stenciled above the doorway on the opposite end.
When head coach Norv Turner selected the phrase at the beginning of the season, there was optimism, excitement — even the expectations of going back to the postseason after missing out the previous two years.
Before the season’s official end on Sunday with a 24-21 win over the Raiders, the season had already been over for several weeks. Any optimism of a postseason appearance had turned to pessimism. Apathy had set in with the fan base when it became apparent the team would finish with a losing record; and the expectations of going to the playoffs shifted to the expectations of the firings of Turner and general manager A.J. Smith.
After the game there was no official notice either way about Turner or Smith.
Responding to whether he thought this was his last game as the head coach, Turner said he didn’t think his opinion mattered. He added: “We are going to meet tomorrow with the team, and I’m sure they’ll start looking for a new coach.”
Because of the emotions, Turner kept his post game locker room speech short, opting instead to talk with his players in-depth Monday, but said that he told his team how much he appreciated them responding in the face of their situation — a situation that could have seen players quitting or pointing fingers.
“On Mondays, it would have been easy for them to go along with the crowd and say, ‘I confess, he did it.’ They didn’t,” Turner said. “They always stood up and took coaching and acknowledged where they needed to get better.”
Whatever happens with Turner or Smith, the team will be different next year.
The roster is different every year, said quarterback Philip Rivers. “How different? I guess we’ll see,” he said.
After 11 seasons, veteran cornerback Quentin Jammer believes this was his last game as a Charger. “It’s been a blessing,” he said. “I’ve been here long enough to see some great guys go. When you look at all the young guys that can flat out play, we have a good group of guys at safety. We’ll see what happens.”
Regarding Turner, Jammer said: “I’ve been through a lot of great coaches. I will go on record and say that I really love and respect Norv Turner. He’s my favorite, and it was an honor to play for him if this is my last game here. We’ll see what the future holds.”
Rivers seconded the sentiment, saying that it’s hard to understand how it all goes without being on the inside day in and day out. “There’s just a lot to be said about the way he’s (Turner) said and done everything.
“Other than my dad, I don’t know that there’s ever been a coach that you’ve ever had so much respect and trust for,” Rivers said. “I think I can say that for a lot of the players, and I think eventually people on the outside will appreciate him and what he’s done here for six years.”
While the win may help players feel good about how the season ended, veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes was left with an all together different feeling.
In the second quarter, Spikes and Raiders running back Mike Goodson became locked up in a shoving match and grabbing each others’ facemasks. The tussle would extend far beyond the play and both players were ejected by referee John Parry. Parry explained that they were disqualified based on how long it took to break the two apart.
“With the continuation of it and the amount of time that took place, that is why we disqualified them,” Parry said. Neither side was warned before the game, and, according to Parry, he wasn’t working under any directive from the leagues as to how long a lock up should or could be before players would be ejected. The decision was based on Parry’s judgment.
Spikes, in his 15-year career, had never been ejected from a game.