Continuity Begets Mediocrity

There are many reasons for the Chargers' regression from AFC finalists after the 2007 season to mere pretenders in 2010 and 2011. The biggest problem -- and one no one is talking about -- is every time a key coaching position has opened up, the team has opted for continuity over ability.

Fans love to hate Norv Turner but they often forget why he was hired in the first place.

When Marty Schottenheimer was fired after the 2006 season it was because he lost a power struggle with general manager A.J. Smith, not because he was a poor coach. There is a reason, after all, Smith's drafts have gone in the tank since Schottenheimer left town ... these rookies are not getting coached up like they used to.

Smith wanted Schottenheimer gone but didn't want to disrupt the development of a young team coming off a 14-2 campaign. So instead of searching for the best coaches available, Smith looked for coaches who could run the systems already in place.

He hired Turner to guide the offense. It was Turner who first installed the offense as San Diego's offensive coordinator in 2001. Cam Cameron, an old Turner understudy, ran the offense from 2002-2006 before taking the head coaching job in Miami shortly before Schottenheimer's dismissal.

Ted Cottrell was hired to take over the defense for Wade Phillips, who also became a head coach (Dallas) before Schottenheimer was canned. Cottrell had spent time coaching under Phillips in Buffalo, so he was able to maintain the schemes Phillips had put in place.

In both instances, Smith opted for continuity instead of overall ability.

That same tendency reared its ugly head again this offseason when Greg Manusky was hired as defensive coordinator. Manusky, who was San Diego's linebackers coach from 2002-2006, was familiar with the 3-4 scheme and some of the defensive personnel. That familiarity hasn't helped him, though, as only four teams are allowing more points per game than the Chargers.

With more coaching changes likely on the horizon, Chargers fans must hope that Smith -- or whoever the decision-maker may be -- stops putting such an emphasis on continuity. The only thing these Chargers are continually doing is coming up short, so there is no need to maintain the status quo.

It's OK to go to switch at a West Coast offense; it may diminish Philip Rivers' deep-passing skills, but it also might cut down on his turnovers. It's alright to change to a 4-3 defense, even if it means adjustments for Shaun Phillips, Luis Castillo and others.

Change is coming. The team's top decision-makers must go all-in or be pushed out.

What should the offseason makeover look like? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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