Chargers Tour Coming to an End?

Is Marty Schottenheimer coaching for his future with the San Diego Chargers over the final six weeks, with his first chance to save his job coming Sunday, when the surging Cincinnati Bengals visit San Diego?

That comment would have seemed ludicrous as recently as two Sundays ago, as the Chargers basked in the win over the Vikings, behind the strong play of quarterback Doug Flutie. Sure the Chargers had stumbled from the gate at 1-7, but Flutie gave the team, and the organization, a brief glimmer of hope.

But after the stinker in Denver, it appears everything that is old is new again. As in, who's the coach going to be next year? Who's the quarterback going to be next year? Who's going to right a defense, which like last season, is flirting with the worst ranking in the league?

Schottenheimer's status really hasn't changed on the surface. He has three years remaining on his deal, at some $2.5 million a season, and he is confident he'll ride out this rough stretch.

And the veteran coach is probably right, despite a humiliating loss to Denver. But the debacle in Denver could be looked upon as a turning point for this wobbly franchise, which always seems turned upside down.

The Chargers didn't merely lose. They were red-faced, they were humiliated, and they looked like a team that was playing about two leagues over its head.

Gaining 96 offensive yards will do that. Getting your second first down with 13 minutes to play will do that. Turning the ball over four times will do that.

Schottenheimer will survive the season -- but the Chargers at least have to be competitive from here on out. It's painfully obvious that other teams -- the Bengals, Cowboys, Panthers, even the Texans, to mention a few -- have been as woeful as the Chargers, but somehow rebounded with decent seasons. Instead, the Chargers are floundering about, already guaranteeing their eighth straight non-winning season and all but mathematically eliminated from their eighth consecutive post-season.

Is canning Schottenheimer the answer? Tough to say, as one Chargers official put it, the next guy might not be any better -- see Kevin Gilbride, 1997. But the last-place Chargers can't keep offering their dwindling fan base a product that has reached new lows. And in Chargers' lore that's saying a mouthful. But after being full of themselves exiting training camp, the cold, hard facts are the Chargers look more like an expansion team that a competitive team.

When that happens, heads roll. Whether Schottenheimer's noggin is on the off-season chopping block is something worth watching. What isn't a mystery is his team has won but four times in its past 19 games, and never looked worse.


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