Falling under .500 is coach of the San Diego Chargers is the least of the worries of Marty Schottenheimer. Making over the defensive side of the ball will be a lengthy proposition and for the offense, the jury will remain out on them. Schottenheimer is old school and for this San Diego team, old school may be what is needed Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
David Boston, the standout wide receiver signed by the Chargers in the off-season is not expected to play Sunday. Expected to be a major addition for this organization, Boston struggled with hip and heel injuries throughout training camp and was a non-factor in the team's 27-14 loss in week-one against the Kansas City Chiefs.
At the time of the Boston signing, league personnel people questioned the move. Citing that the Chargers offensive scheme did not render itself flexible enough to provide Boston sufficient opportunities in the passing game. Those questions remain to this day. The injuries have hampered Boston since training camp has slowed the growth process down between the star receiver and the Chargers offense. Still, many wondered why the Chargers would reach out and make a significant long-term offer to the former Arizona Cardinals receiver, when he did not really fit into what the San Diego offense is predicated on.
"David Boston is the type of receiver that can dominate when placed in the right situation. Physically, he can muscle any defensive back in the league and yet he has the speed and quickness to run past most cornerbacks," an AFC West personnel scout said. "Boston survived the experience in Arizona, which speaks measures of a young player, but people tend to forget that it was the vertical attacking offense the Cardinals utilized that really spotlighted the abilities of this very good receiver."
"In San Diego, Boston may never again approach the lofty numbers and stature that he gained while in Arizona. It isn't that the offense that the Chargers run under (Marty) Schottenheimer is conservative, it is predictable and yet they still have had some success, but this Chargers team has not given the impression they will be aggressive in the passing game."
For the Chargers to be effective, they must run the football. This theory is no different for the majority of the teams in the league, something special must be in place if a team is ultimately successful without the semblance of a rushing attack. With LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield, the Chargers have a solid running back that has proven to be durable when it matters most, on game-day.
Within lies the issue, both immediate and long-term. San Diego with Marty Schottenheimer as head coach will never become close to the team in Arizona that was limited on options and were basically a passing team. Throwing mercy to the winds with Jake Plummer at quarterback, the Cardinals had quality players at the wide receiver position (Boston, Frank Sanders now in Baltimore and Rob Moore, now out of football) and they utilized them. Until the San Diego defense plays with consistency and gains experience, the Chargers will be forced to open-up the offense, mainly due the Chargers inability to consistently stop the opposing offense. This may be the starting point where Boston and quarterback Drew Brees can begin to thrive off one another.
Schottenheimer is a defense-first head coach, always has been and always will be. Pounding the football, with some play-action is his idea of an offensive juggernaut. As successful as Schottenheimer has been as an NFL head coach, his input and offensive direction has been questioned at every stop along his long coaching career in Cleveland, Kansas City, and Washington. Now, in charge of turning around the fortunes of the Chargers, some of the past is coming to the forefront.
While in Cleveland, the Browns were an offensively challenged team in the 1985 season, Schottenheimer's first full-season as head coach of the team. Possessing two 1,000-yard rushers in Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack, Schottenheimer prevented the team from growing in the passing game. In the 1986 season, with the core of the team from the previous season in-tact, the Browns opened up the offense under pressure from quarterbacks Gary Danielson and Bernie Kosar. The 1986 Browns were a vastly improved offensive team and were an overtime loss in the AFC Championship Game away from the Super Bowl.
"Marty (Schottenheimer) does play the game conservatively to a point. His belief offensively is to manage the game and play it close to the vest, one you run into with this philosophy is you may have a wealth of talent on the field that has the ability to make plays and they become stagnant or feel strangled," Kosar said. "It wasn't until about of a third of the way into the 1986 season that we (the Browns) were able to open-up our offensive strategy, from that period on we were a different football team."
The similarities between those Browns teams and this Chargers group are scary. San Diego has one of the best running backs in the league today in Tomlinson. Schottenheimer is getting his mileage out of the quick and crafty back. Even with the opposition knowing that Tomlinson will be forced fed the football, maintaining the ability to move the chains, much like the early Browns team in Cleveland under Schottenheimer.
Pressure is mounting within the San Diego organization for the team to open-up the offense. Boston was brought to San Diego to add the element of explosiveness on the outside, providing young quarterback Drew Brees and the Chargers offense the opportunity to be a balanced offensive team, one that can compete in the offense-minded AFC West division.
The game hasn't past Schottenheimer by, he just needs to take a look at the past to see where this San Diego team can go.
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