Smith, Spanos getting what they deserve in San Diego

By Connor Byrne  |   Wednesday, October 03, 2007  |  Comments( 16 )

San Diego Chargers
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Back in February, I wrote a column for RealFootball365.com that overtly criticized San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith for waiting too long after the season ended to fire then-head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

After the Bolts, who finished the regular season an NFL-best 14-2, pulled off their usual collapse in the January playoffs, Smith and team president Dean Spanos should have fired Schottenheimer immediately. Instead, however, they waited an extra month -- after Schottenheimer's coordinators (Wade Phillips and Cam Cameron) left for head coaching jobs -- to relieve the 200-win coach of his duties.

Because of the front office's decision to can the 64-year-old Schottenheimer too late into the winter, the Chargers had to settle for a mediocre-at-best successor in Norv Turner, who failed in two previous stints as a head coach. Now, they aren't exactly reaping the benefits. Arguably the most talented team in the league, 1-3 San Diego is floundering and coming off a loss that saw it allow 24 second-half points, all unanswered, to AFC West rival Kansas City en route to a 30-16 loss.

It's safe to say this is the lowest point the Chargers have experienced in a while. Starting running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the reigning league MVP, has been publicly frustrated this year -- even arguing on the sideline with quarterback Philip Rivers during a Week 3 loss to Green Bay -- and for good reason. He's not getting the ball enough, especially in crucial times, and the team has stumbled as a result.

With three losses in their first four games, there honestly isn't much worth looking forward to for the Chargers. While it's true they can rebound in their weak division, will it even mean that much? Fans certainly won't be content with another quick playoff exit, and ownership probably won't be either.

San Diego is simply not the type of well-coached team that one normally sees roll through the playoffs and either make it to or win the Super Bowl. In that department, plenty of enemy AFC franchises -- New England, Denver, Indianapolis, Tennessee, etcetera -- run rings around the Chargers.

The fact is, firing Schottenheimer would have not have been criticized had San Diego handled it right. But the decision came far too late, especially for a coach whom the team's players, including Tomlinson, respected immensely.

With its bone-headed move to let Schottenheimer go and subsequently replace him with a guy who has a great track record as an offensive coordinator but has twice failed with more responsibility, the Bolts' brain trust robbed its players and fans of a chance to end the 2007-08 season with a Super Bowl celebration.

With a third straight loss staring them directly in the face last Sunday, disgruntled Chargers loyalists began to chant loudly for Schottenheimer's return. Unfortunately for them, he won't be riding in on any white horse.

Smith and Spanos thought they could replace a successful regular-season coach with just anybody; now they're getting the negative results they deserve.

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