SAN DIEGO—One day after finishing a disappointing season that saw several special teams breakdowns, the Chargers fired special teams coach Steve Crosby.
The Chargers made the announcement Monday after head coach Norv Turner held an afternoon press conference. In a statement issued by the Chargers, Turner said: ""We appreciate Steve's hard work and dedication to this team over the past nine seasons."
The Chargers had four punts blocked, and another deflected, and allowed three kickoffs to be returned for touchdowns, including one by the Broncos in the season finale Sunday in Denver. They also gave up one punt return for a touchdown.
Those special teams mistakes caused the Chargers season to end short of the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
As a light rain fell outside their Murphy Canyon headquarters, the Chargers players packed up their lockers and said their goodbyes.
"For me personally, it was deflating," said center Nick Hardwick. "And it was depressing."
"The season's unfortunately ended a lot earlier than we expected this year," said nose tackle Antonio Garay. "The only benefit is we can prepare sooner for next year."
After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005, several Chargers echoed that statement: choosing to focus on what's ahead in 2011. Turner said he will place an emphasis on avoiding another slow start and back-breaking mistakes.
"It's making sure our guys understand that it isn't about how many great plays you make, it's obviously eliminating negative plays," Turner said.
Negative plays like fumbles. The Chargers put the ball on the ground 25 times this season, and lost 16, tied for 3rd-most in the NFL. Rookie running back Ryan Mathews fumbled twice against Denver and he says he will work on that a lot in the off-season.
"That is number one," Mathews said. "With getting as many touches as I sure hope to get, I have to protect the ball and putting it on the ground is unnecessary. That's going to be one of my main focuses to find that right technique. It's a lot different. Guys are actually going after the ball in this league and you just have to protect it."
The 2010 season did provide some positives: The defense (271.6) and offense (395.6) led the NFL in yards per game and Philip Rivers led the league in passing with a career-high 4,710 yards - third-most in team history. Yet, for the first time as a starter, Rivers will have to watch the entire post-season.
"As soon as we get put out, or this year not making it, for that split second I think, I'm not watching one game," Rivers said. "But then I think, you watch it and it can drive you and then, to me, I look forward to February 6th when that game's over when everyone is 0-0 again."
At this point 0-0 sounds much better than the Chargers final record of 9-7.