Coach Marty Schottenheimer hopes to buck the trend this upcoming season of a sophomore slump.
Sophomore, and Schottenheimer, being mentioned in the same sentence is a bit odd. Schottenheimer, the NFL's ninth all-time winningest coach with 161 victories, is hardly still getting his feet wet along the sidelines. But a quick look at the two previous men to hold the Chargers' head coaching job behooves him to be on his toes in 2003.
Kevin Gilbride didn't survive his second season, in 1998, as the team stumbled to a 2-4 start.
Mike Riley survived his second season in 1999, but not before etching the Chargers into the NFL history book. Riley's charges when 1-15, tying the league's mark for futility.
Schottenheimer is hoping to build on last year's 8-8 record, the seventh straight season the Chargers have gone without a winning record -- or playoff appearance. But the Chargers' 6-1 start fell by the wayside, and the team dropped its final four games in a free-fall of stunning proportions.
So what lies ahead? Are the Chargers the team that streaked to atop the AFC West last year? On the woebegone unit which couldn't stop opposing teams which registering the No. 30-ranked defense in '02.
Of course, the Chargers' brass is banging the drum that produces a positive beat. It talks of the progress made -- three more wins in '02 than in '01 -- and the offseason moves -- David Boston, Lorenzo Neal, Kwamie Lassiter -- pulled off.
Funny, that sounds just like the beginning of Year 2 for Gilbride and Riley, as the Chargers were certain they had turned the corner.
Schottenheimer, though, hopes the similarities heading into his second season with the Chargers end there.
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