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The Marty mess

Chargers mishandled entire Schottenheimer situation

Posted: Tuesday February 13, 2007 3:13PM; Updated: Tuesday February 13, 2007 3:24PM
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Marty Schottenheimer has a right to be unhappy with how this offseason has played out in San Diego.
Marty Schottenheimer has a right to be unhappy with how this offseason has played out in San Diego.
Al Tielemans/SI
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Regarding the Marty Schottenheimer debacle in San Diego: I blame president Dean Spanos and general manager A.J. Smith for two enormous mistakes they made along the road to kicking the coach out the door:

1. The idiotic "contract extension'' offer that was made to Schottenheimer when the Chargers announced he would not be fired. How do you offer the sixth-winningest coach of all time -- or some losing schmoe, for that matter -- an extension with only $1 million of the $4.5-million guaranteed? What Spanos was doing with that extension was saying: "Marty, we beg you, don't take this slap-in-the-face offer. And let's all go our separate ways after this season, when we can promote Wade Phillips or Cam Cameron to the head job.'' Oooops.

2. To me, the job of a team president and general manager, when your team is in full crisis mode (as the Chargers were in the last few days, seeing four of their top five or six assistant coaches walk out the door to coordinator or head-coaching jobs) is to be an olive-branch-toting guy. One of them needed to walk into the head coach's office and say: "For the sake of the franchise, we can't let this season go down the drain. We've got to repair this relationship for the next few months and go forward with the best interests of the team in mind.'' Neither did.

I support Schottenheimer if he felt that hiring his well-traveled brother, Kurt, to be defensive coordinator was the best decision for the team. Can't Schottenheimer have any say on who he goes to battle with for the next season? Granted, Kurt Schottenheimer is not a very well-regarded coordinator candidate. But if you're going to bring Marty back, you're not going to let him pick the players and he's got gaping holes on his coaching, he should be allowed to pick the staff. And from the smoke signals wafting from Chargerland, that was a major problem at the end.

I like Smith. He's great at his job, which is 80 percent acquiring talent. On balanace, no one since 2001 has done a better job of building a franchise through the draft than the Chargers, and it's mostly due to Smith's keen eye. But he's got to look himself in the mirror on the other 20 percent. This is a people business, and being autocratic all the time is not the way to earn respect from your co-workers.

In my business -- in fact, in any business -- if the underling and the boss aren't speaking, and if the relationship is hopelessly severed, you move on. You switch jobs. That's the way this relationship was a month ago. And Spanos should have made the decision then, when his staff wouldn't yet have been in tatters.

Now that the Colts have won a Super Bowl, the Chargers now are in danger of becoming the most disappointing team of the decade. With a 35-13 record over the past three years (New England is only one win better), San Diego has made the playoffs twice in those three seasons and lost to inferior teams, the Jets in 2004 and Pats in 2006. No playoff wins despite a .729 winning percentage in the regular season. The last month doesn't help their outlook in any way. In fact, with all the mayhem, it'll be stunning if the Chargers can dig their way out of this horrible web of mismanagement to finally be a playoff factor next season.

My only advice? Interview Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. It's insane this guy doesn't have a head-coaching job yet. The San Diego defense under Ryan would be even more hell-bent-for-leather next fall.


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