Monday, November 19, 2007

The Chargers’ Coaching Circus

For those of you who feel that coaching has little to do with a game, you need only look one place to find out that you're wrong: the San Diego Chargers.

The Chargers coaches are sub-standard, it's affecting the players, and the only man to blame is the San Diego General Manager, A.J. Smith.

See, under the Chargers' previous head coach, Marty Schottenheimer, the team went from the basement of the NFL to the attic. His disciplinarian style and ability to lead turned that team around, and he was summarily rewarded by being fired... and all because A.J. Smith didn't like him, and never did.

But when Marty was there, he had a decent offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron, an excellent defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips, and a suprisingly outstanding set of coaches.

Exit Cam to Miami, exit Wade to Dallas, and exit Marty to wherever the Hell he is. In Mythology, those three-headed animals can be a pain to deal with as long as one head remains, but San Diego lost all three in one off-season.

A.J., rife with the self-belief that he's a genius, brings in Norv Turner (whom Cam Cameron stole his offensive system from), a man who has never been an effective head coach, but has always been an excellent offensive coordinator.

This, however, created more problems than it solved.

First, the man hired as the new offensive coordinator by Marty, Clarence Shelmon (former running backs coach for the Chargers), effectively "lost" his new job, as Norv calls all offensive plays himself. This ain't going to make Clarence happy, and it removes him from a coaching position that he excelled at. Let's not forget that the new running backs coach is far less notable. Any wonder why the Chargers running game is way below their standard this year?

Second, Norv is not the motivator Marty was. Norv, like Philip Rivers, appears to give up from time to time. Marty fought tooth and nail to make a point, even if his team was down by 30 points.

See, when Marty and Cam ran the offense, Cam would generally call the plays, but if Marty had a problem with it, the play-calling would shift. Similarly, if Marty wanted something, Cam would adjust his plays to make Marty happy. Two heads, as they say, are better than one. With Norv, he answers to no one, and what he says is it... even when what he says is so obviously stupid.

For proof of this, simply look at Turner's career. As an offensive coordinator, he turned a struggling 49ers offense into a pleasant suprise the last couple of years. Now that he has left San Francisco to be the head coach in San Diego, both teams are suffering. The 49ers offense once again sucks, and the entire Chargers team once again sucks. Coincidence? I doubt it.

How does this explain the defensive problems San Diego has? Well, look at it this way... if you're a defensive player and you're always stuck on the field, and you have little faith that your offense is going to score even if you stand your ground, how long can you go before you quit giving a shit?

Norv Turner has to go, and he has to go before Philip Rivers truly does become a lost cause. Otherwise, the Spanos family better find some way to get Drew Brees back.

And Marty, too.

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