Loss to Pats likely will seal Schottenheimer's fate
Posted: Tuesday January 16, 2007 2:15PM; Updated: Tuesday January 16, 2007 2:51PM
Without the support of his GM and six straight playoff losses on his résumé, Marty Schottenheimer may have coached his last game with the Chargers.
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Four more NFL teams began their offseasons in the wake of division-round playoff losses over the weekend. Here's a look at the key issues they face in the coming days, weeks and months ....
The silence coming from the Chargers management regarding coach Marty Schottenheimer's status speaks volumes. If Schottenheimer isn't a dead man walking after five years in San Diego, then all that stuff Chargers team president Dean Spanos said last month about his coach being evaluated based on his team's postseason run was just so much blather.
Bottom line? The Chargers challenged Schottenheimer to finally deliver in the playoffs, and he failed miserably once again. It's clear by now: Schottenheimer can take an NFL team just so far, but he can't get you past a certain point.
Over the past three regular seasons, San Diego has gone 35-13 -- the third best mark in the league after New England and Indianapolis -- but the Chargers are 0-2 in the playoffs in that span, with both losses coming by three points at home in the divisional round, against AFC East underdogs.
The statistical case for bye-bye, Marty is overwhelming:
His six consecutive playoff losses (with Kansas City and San Diego) ties a dubious NFL record also held by Steve Owen (1939-50) and Jim Mora ('88-2000). Nine times a Schottenheimer team has lost its playoff opener. Three times in the past 11 years Schottenheimer's teams have wasted the AFC's top seed, losing at home in the divisional round ('95 and '97 in Kansas City, '06 in San Diego). He's 5-13 in the playoffs, and hasn't made even a conference final since '93.
When will the Chargers ever be better positioned for a Super Bowl run than they were this year, with a franchise-best 14-2 record, 10 consecutive wins entering the playoffs, an 8-0 home mark, nine Pro Bowl selections, and the league MVP in LaDainian Tomlinson? If Schottenheimer couldn't win a single playoff game with the most talented team he's ever had in his 21 seasons as an NFL head coach, what's the point of letting him repeat his personal history ad nauseam?
And it's not only that the Chargers lost Sunday to visiting New England. It's how they lost, with undisciplined play, mind-numbing mistakes and questionable coaching decisions. San Diego was outplayed and outcoached. What else is there?
It's hard to see how Spanos could over-rule the judgment of general manager A.J. Smith, who made it clear that he's no Schottenheimer fan and tied his coach's fate to the Chargers' playoff run this year. Smith is almost assuredly going to make the call, and if he doesn't get that prerogative, his authority has effectively been undercut. Schottenheimer is entering the final year of his contract, which will pay him in excess of $3 million, so it's either let him go or let him coach as a lame duck, a scenario that usually doesn't sound appealing to anyone. Oh, and, something tells me talk of a contract extension is probably out of the question about now.
Two obvious candidates to replace Schottenheimer are in-house, and would give the Chargers the best possible scenario in terms of continuity and keeping their Super Bowl window of opportunity open: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the former Indiana University head coach who interviewed this month for coaching vacancies in Atlanta, Arizona and Miami, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who went 47-36 as a head coach in Denver, Buffalo, Atlanta and New Orleans (he was an interim coach with both the Falcons and Saints).