Schottenheimer sitting pretty in San Diego

With a defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL and an offense ranked No. 6, veteran NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer has the San Diego Chargers looking and playing like one of the league's elite teams entering Sunday's game against the 49ers at Monster Park. Here, Schottenheimer talks Chargers and 49ers and gives his takes on numerous subjects regarding the potential of his powerhouse team.

On how things are going as far as having a first-year starter running the show at quarterback in Philip Rivers: "He's done a fine job. He's exceeded the overall expectations. He's done a terrific job, and I think we've a good job overall in putting him in positions where he can make plays, and he's done that."

On the importance of Rivers' surrounding cast: "I think it would be inaccurate to say that he doesn't lead them. He has natural leadership ability, and that's one of the things that has been evident since the outset. We're working on different circumstances and different things that we feel like he can do best, and that's what we've focused on. As is the case with any player, as coaches we always strive to see what they can do best, and try to give them the opportunity to work in that environment."

On what Rivers does best: "I think he does a terrific job of managing the offense. He understands things extremely well. He's got a lot of experience at being a quarterback. It goes all the way back to his father, who was a football coach. Football has been a big part of Philips career, he's got good judgment, he throws the ball accurately, and he sees the field very well."

On if the balance on the San Diego offense is what he'd like it to be: "In three of the games it was, and in one it wasn't When you win it's perfect, when you don't it isn't."

On how big last week's win over the Steelers was: "I think anytime you can beat the reigning NFL champions you feel good about it. Of course, they are a very good football team, and we had to make some adjustments over the course of the first half and the start of the second half. We were able to do that and none of those are of any value or consequence unless the players were able to step up and execute and they did just that."

On if the Chargers runs the risk of coming out flat this week: "I'm not sure if there is a whole lot of reality in that. I've heard that over the years in every sport. You play golf and you beat one guy, then you should beat the next guy and you don't. That's the beauty of competition. There's never any certainty about what you are going to do until you go out there and compete to do it. I'm looking at the 49ers, and their offense, and I've been impressed particularly with the running by Frank Gore. Even as much so, I think is the development of Alex Smith, because he is really a much better athlete than I had remembered. He's showed the ability to move around, and they are using him around to get out in space, but I think their offense is doing quite well. I think defensively, they continue to hammer at you down after down to get you to break."

On if he sees any parallels between Philip Rivers and Alex Smith: "With Alex, my thought is that he was a guy who would not move around a lot, but he has done a terrific job of avoiding pressure. He throws an accurate ball on the move, and there are some weapons there for him. Anytime you can run the football it takes the pressure off the passing game, and then the quarterback. Obviously, they have a couple of wide receivers that have shown the ability to make plays for them. I've been very impressed with the offense."

On why he didn't think Smith would be a mobile QB: "I just had the sense that he was a pocket passer and now I don't see him that way. I see him as a guy who can move outside the rush and buy himself extra time, and find the open guy. He uses the roll out, and the bootlegs, and he throws very effectively on the move. I originally thought of him as a pocket passer and he is certainly more than that."

On his impressions of the 49ers' offensive line: "They've got the leading rusher in the NFL and I think that says it all with regards to the running game. They've only had a handful of sacks in five games, so I would say the offensive line is playing very effectively."

On if his defensive front seven this season is the best he has ever had: "It certainly would be up there with the group we had back there in Kansas City. We had a pretty good group there, and when you look at it and the playmaking ability of those up front. Particularly Jamal Williams inside, with Luis Castillo and Igor Olshansky, who have done a terrific job for us. It's not often that you can lose a starter in Steve Foley and have a guy step in and be as effective as Shaun Phillips has been. We've got a good front there is no doubt about that."

On if the Chargers have faced a lot of max protection: "I think it all depends on the opponent and what their design is relative to pass protection. I think we've seen the play action, where they block with seven, and we've also seen a spread offense where they try and get the ball out quickly. I think defensively for us, it all starts up front with that front seven."

On if the emphasis by opposing teams on Shawne Merriman opens it up for everyone else: "We have a number of people who are certainly capable of putting pressure on the quarterback or making plays in the running game. Shawne Merriman has certainly been the focus of our opponents, as we've gone through this season, and even last season. When you have the kind of play we are getting from Shaun Phillips, and then you have a guy like Donnie Edwards, who is effective as both a run and a coverage guy. Then you have Jamal Williams in the middle. There is no doubt it's a very solid defensive front seven."

On if he had to protect Merriman from wearing down as a rookie: "He had a couple of injuries early on in training camp, but for the most part he was fine during our regular season."

On if Merriman is like the late Derrick Thomas: "They are different types. Shaun Phillips is more like Derrick Thomas with that great initial step and the ability to run the edge. Shawn is a bigger, stronger player. He's 260 pounds and has less than five percent body fat. The guy is a remarkable physical talent."

On his impressions of defensive end Igor Olshansky: "He's getting better each day you see him and he's had a long way to travel. He's got tremendous power. He's one of the most powerful players I've ever been around and he works very diligently at it. He's shown the ability and has improved his pass rush skills significantly. I think he will continue to grow and improve because he had a long way to go as it were once we acquired him."

On the peculiarity of Rivers' release: "I'll leave you guys to critic that. We don't care much how it looks as long as their straight, quick, and to the right people. I really don't think it's a concern to us."

On changes over the years with NFL players and their behavior: "I really don't see anything that is unusual. We had things like this going on way back. The thing that has happened is that there is a brighter spotlight on everything that goes on in football than it was when I began. I don't really have any statistical data, I just think it has always been there from time to time, but the focus now is more apparent because of the volume of the coverage in our sport today."

On whether there's anything teams can do differently in that regard these days: "At this juncture, I'll leave that to someone else. We try to make the right choices when it involves personnel. I think that at the end of the day, what you are looking for in the ideal players is a guy who shows up every day for work with his lunch pale and at the end of the day you know you got everything from him that you could. At the same time, he'll make sure that he makes the right choices."

On if Merriman is that type of guy: "He is a guy who works his tail off every day. I think it's typical of great players, albeit early in his career, he might have reached the level you might expect among those who are at the best in his position. The quality that I always identify with the great player is pride. They are driven by a personal pride that they want to be the very best at what they do and they want to be recognized as such. That pride is the one thing that takes the very talented player, who ultimately achieves greatness and separates himself from the player who has tremendous skill, but is never able to reach a level where his performance level approximates the physical skills that he has."

On his impressions of receiver Malcolm Floyd: "He's a terrific young man. He's a very fine, young receiver, who has a couple of touchdowns for us. He's really made terrific progress. I remember we were still up in Carson, when we first had him, and he was long and lanky, and I wasn't quite sure he knew where every body part was going. That same height and length makes him a valuable receiver, because he's going to win a battle over most contested balls. He's 6'5 and that itself is an advantage. Physically his body has become stronger. He has gained some weight, and of course now, over the last year or so, he's become more confident in his role."

On the Chargers wearing their cream-blue throwback jerseys: "I have no idea. I don't know what the procedure is for making that judgment. There was some dialogue about them being the most popular jerseys, but that's certainly not something that I'm not involved in."

On if he could decree for them to be worn every game: "That's not the way things work in this league. There are certain things we have an opportunity to make judgments on and that is not one of them."


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