It happens to every company sooner or later: Wall Street sets a mark for quarterly earnings, and the company misses that goal. Sometimes, an earnings stumble is a signal to sell, but digging in the dirt is also a good way to find turnaround candidates while they're getting beaten down. Today, we'll see a management team asleep on the couch, a networker that can't quite connect, and a wannabe emperor streaking down the street. This should be interesting.

Our first straggler today is furniture peddler and Motley Fool Income Investor selection La-Z-Boy (NYSE:LZB). The maker of fine couches and recliners reported pro forma earnings for the quarter of $0.22 per share, where analysts had hoped for $0.30 and the company's own forecasts had outlined $0.26 to $0.32 per share.

Sales were a bit lazy, too. Last year, La-Z-Boy reported $566 million of gross revenue, and Wall Street wanted to see at least $546 million or so, but the company could ultimately scrape together only $508 million.

Peeking inside the numbers reveals an interesting segment breakdown. The retail operations saw faster sales but a bigger operating loss year over year, while the case-goods department -- chairs, tables, and other pieces not upholstered -- increased its operating profits on lower sales. The company's bread-and-butter upholstered goods hit the downer jackpot with lower sales and operating profits.

It's a company in a state of flux, with a just-retired CFO and soon-to-retire chairman of the board. For this quarter's shortcomings, the remaining management team blames everything from fuel costs to macroeconomics, including supply shortages dating back to last year's hurricane season. I'd be wary of dropping any cash on a company with so many excuses and such an uncertain future, no matter how comfy its recliners are.

Nortel Networks (NYSE:NT) is our second butterfingered marksman today. The computer-networking old-timer, under the leadership of turnaround specialist Mike Zafirovski, reported four times the expected losses -- it lost $0.04 per diluted share, versus the analyst target of losing just a penny. It's better than last quarter's $0.53-per-share setback, and sales were down by a mere 0.3% over the comparable period last year. But Nortel clearly isn't behaving like the superstar tech grower it wants to be.

The company keeps spending around $50 million per quarter on fixing old accounting problems, and even the CFO doesn't appear too excited about his company's future prospects, pointing to "high-single-digit growth" and calling that "strong revenue momentum." Try that in a Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) or Juniper (NASDAQ:JNPR) earnings report, and there will be nervous laughter and concerned looks all around the room.

Zafirovski seems to have his work cut out for him, and some investors are losing confidence in his ability to turn this ship around. However, the man claims to operate along a long-term plan, and I can certainly appreciate management that dares to plan for the long haul at the expense of short-term results. Give Nortel another few quarters to right the badly battered ship that the current management inherited, and only then give the company another look, I'd say.

Finally, I'm putting a mirror up to clothier Jos. A. Bank (NASDAQ:JOSB), one of the stock market's favorite growth stories over the past few years. A dollar invested in JOSB June 1, 2001, would be worth $12 today, or almost $23 at its peak a couple of months ago.

The stock fell by 29% when earnings were released last week, thanks to lower earnings than expected and negative year-over-year earnings growth. GAAP earnings per share of $0.32 didn't impress the analyst community, where $0.46 would have gone over much better. Sales for the quarter increased by nearly 18% over last year's comparable period, to $114 million, but the margins suffered from what appears to be misjudgment of customer demand.

My Foolish colleague Nathan Parmelee thinks there's something fishy going on with inventory management, and I'm inclined to agree. The company's clothes may be classy, but the quality of operations here looks less stylish.

Some of these underperformers are victims of larger circumstances, while others might have only themselves to blame. It's up to you to decide which down-on-their-luck companies should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and which really are stuck in the mud. Come back next Monday, and we'll take a look at another batch of mishaps and disappointments. It'll be fun and educational. Promise.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns no stock in the companies discussed this week. If he stopped writing about Cisco all the time, he might buy some shares there, but the Foolish disclosure po licy won't let him do both at the same time.