Chargers' blame game
Owner, not GM, responsible for Schottenheimer's exit
Posted: Thursday October 4, 2007 10:24AM; Updated: Friday October 5, 2007 7:32PM
The firing of Marty Schottenheimer last February was a shock to many people, but not to the former Chargers coach himself.
Schottenheimer not only expected his dismissal, he arranged it. He intentionally provoked club president Dean Spanos into making a change.
That reality has been overlooked, forgotten or purposely ignored in the wake of a 1-3 start in which new coach Norv Turner seems determined to prove that his failures in Washington and Oakland were no fluke. The focus instead has been on general manager A.J. Smith and how he is a goof for pushing out a coach who was 35-13 in his last three seasons for one who was 58-82-1 in nine seasons as a head coach.
No doubt, Smith disliked Schottenheimer. But he had nothing to do with the firing. The only person in the organization with the authority to fire a head coach is Spanos, and he did so in this instance because of a disagreement with Schottenheimer over the coaching staff.
When Schottenheimer interviewed to replace Mike Riley in 2002, he told Spanos he wanted to bring along his son, Brian, to be quarterbacks coach and his brother, Kurt, to be defensive coordinator. Spanos told him that could be a problem because he didn't believe in having relatives on the same staff.
With the prospects of a deal diminishing, former general manager John Butler stepped in and recommended Schottenheimer be allowed to hire one relative. The Chargers were coming off their sixth consecutive non-winning season and Butler believed Schottenheimer was the right person to turn things around because he had had only one losing year in 15 full seasons to that point. Spanos reluctantly acquiesced and Schottenheimer and son were hired.
Now fast forward to last February, when the Chargers were looking for a defensive coordinator after Wade Phillips was hired as head coach of the Cowboys. Schottenheimer suggested promoting outside linebackers coach John Pagano, who was respected by the players and coaches but lacked coordinator experience. Spanos wondered if it would be wiser to go with someone who had a background calling plays, believing that the team possessed enough talent to make a Super Bowl run after finishing 14-2 in 2006.