The One That Got Away

Marty Schottenheimer is in control of the fate of all the San Diego Chargers players. He makes the call and the team sticks with it. There is little talk when he hands out the pink slips as his word is final. And a 1PM PST deadline on Tuesday has left nerves at an all-time high.

"Everyone is a little nervous," said one current Charger.

Still the "turk", Marty Schottenheimer, makes the rounds and personally tells anyone who is not making the cut. Some teams use their Director of Personnel and those teams don't have the human touch Marty does. Sure he is a tough-nosed coach, but taking the role of the "turk" on himself shows how much he cares about the team and its players.

The great coaches expect their players to know what he is thinking. Cuts should not come as a surprise, but with so much quality depth for the San Diego Chargers there is bound to be some.

Schottenheimer has a plan and he sticks to it. He is a coach who believes he is going to win, even if the players are not ready for it. Overcome adversity and high expectations are among his mottos.

So now Marty is faced with tough choices. Hanik Milligan is likely out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle and that could mean Marty keeps an extra defensive back, one who may be able to play some safety in a pinch, or come in as a corner and allow a Drayton Florence to move to free safety. Milligan will likely move to injured reserve to save a roster spot.

"We have to be in early and I think we will know before practice," said another young Charger.

Common courtesy dictates Marty telling the boys before practice. Then the wait is over for these players, but the journey may have just begun. Some of these cuts will have a chance somewhere else and if this really is their dream – they will make the plays to see another look. Maybe this year, maybe next – players who are cut today will have another chance.

Maybe these guys will see a practice squad and end up like Rod Smith of Denver – Spend all of one year on the squad, 1994, and 559 career catches later he is going strong.

Or maybe, just maybe, the Chargers will loose someone with potential of former fourth round pick Yancey Thigpen. The 90th overall pick in the 1991 draft spent the first three weeks of the year on the practice squad before playing in game four. He then was back on the practice squad until the last three games of the year. After being cut by the San Diego Chargers he ended up in Pittsburgh and his career took off.

"There is no loyalty in this league, from a player to a coach to an organization. It's a business, and everyone has to look at is as a business," said Thigpen.

In 1993, with Pittsburgh, he had 9 catches, 3 for TD's and was selected a Pro Bowl alternate, on special teams.

In 1994, Yancey stepped up his game catching 36 passes for 546 yards then emerged in 1995 with 85 catches for 1,307 yards, and 5 TDs on way to a Pro Bowl berth.

1996 was full of a variety of injuries holding him to only 12 receptions for 244 yards and 2 TD's, but he bounced back in 1997 to catch 79 passes for 1,398 yards and 7 TDs to earn his second Pro Bowl berth.

On February 14, 1998 Yancey Thigpen signed with the then Tennessee Oilers for 5 years, $21 million, including a $5 million signing bonus. That made him the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL at the time.

The cuts have to come and let's hope Marty makes his choices wisely.

Otherwise we will all be crying about, "the one that got away."

Denis Savage can be reached at

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