Monday, October 6, 2008

Chargers ’08 - Second Year Coach Syndrome

After five games, it's almost no surprise that the San Diego Chargers are 2-3, exactly the same record they had at this point in the season last year. Okay, it is a bit of a surprise, but it can't be unexpected, can it?

Despite Philip Rivers' good start, everyone else is proceeding as usual. Norv Turner once again shows that he is unable to properly prepare a team in the off-season, Ted Cottrell once again reveals that he is far too conservative a defensive coordinator, and LT once again has problems catching swing passes.

Like I said: business as usual. Here's hoping that the rest of the season winds up like last year.

Unfortunately, precedent is against such a thing happening. I call this precedent "Second Year Coach Syndrome" and, no, this does not refer to all second-year coaches. Merely the ones who took over for already successful franchises.

Take a look at the San Diego Padres this year. Two years ago, in manager Bruce Bochy's last year, the Padres were among the best teams in the National League. Last year Bochy left and was replaced by Bud Black. This year? The Padres were easily one of the two worst teams in all of Major League Baseball. Why, you might ask? That's easy: last year's team was still very much Bruce Bochy's, even if he wasn't there to manage physically. To put it theologically, enough of his soul was around to get the Padres to that tragic tie-breaker game.

Still don't believe me? Then just look at the participants of Super Bowl XXXVII. Jon Gruden, in his first year as Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, and Bill Callahan, in his first year as the Oakland Raiders head coach, both led their respective team to the big game. Only, in each case, neither team really belonged to that coach.

The Buccaneers of that year were still very much belonged to their previous coach, Tony Dungy, who was inexplicably let go after taking the Buccaneers out of the butt-joke basement of the NFL and into the NFL elite.

Ironically, the Raiders of that year still very much belonged to their previous coach, John Gruden, who, though a perfect fit in Oakland, has been less than perfect in Florida.

While the Buccaneers have remained competent, they have only posted two winning seasons since their Super Bowl appearance and have lost both of their playoff games. The Raiders have won a mere 19 out of 80 games in the five seasons following that Super Bowl.

What does this all mean? Isn't it obvious? The spirt of Marty Schottenheimer, the strangely oft-reviled former head coach of the Chargers who also took a butt-joke team and turned it elite, is likely what propelled the Chargers to the AFC Championship game last year. Not, as general manager A.J. Smith would have you believe, the coaching abilities and game philosophies of Norv Turner (who, by the way, has a paltry 69-87 record as a head coach in the regular season).

I do hope I'm wrong. I really do. But, unless Norv Turner wins a playoff game this season, I'm going to continue to attribute last season's success to Schottenhiemer.

Time will tell.

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