One more go-round in San Diego

Marty Schottenheimer enters the final game of the 2003 season with an 11-20 record as the San Diego Chargers Head Coach. After the game, there will be evaluations done on his staff, the players, but not AJ Smith or Schottenheimer. Fans and media alike have been critical of Schottenheimer and speculation has swirled on whether he would return. On Tuesday, Smith put that to rest by announcing the coaches return for 2004. <br><br>

Consider the staples of a Marty Schottenheimer coached team:

• Penalties kept to a minimum
• Winning the turnover battle
• A stout defense
• Third down conversions
• Red zone efficiency

And the stats from this season:

• The Chargers have committed 119 penalties over the course of the season, third worst in the league behind Minnesota and the dumbest team in America. They are averaging eight per game.
• The Chargers are –12 in the takeaway/giveaway department and the team is 2-25 when they commit more turnovers than their foe.
• The defense ranks 28th in the league and they have given up a league high 36 touchdown passes against.
• Not only has the team had the third fewest third down attempts, they have converted a paltry 32.1% of their attempts.
• The Chargers have had 42 possessions inside the 20 and have scored just 29 times. That is 13 chances for points given away. Conversely, their defense has had 50 opportunities to turn away opposing teams inside the 20 and have allowed them to score 44 times. Making matters worse, the Chargers have scored a touchdown on just 19-of-42 possessions while allowing a touchdown 35-of-50 times.

After every week Schottenheimer preaches that he has taught them all they need to know to succeed. The lessons have not been getting through all season.

The next week, Schottenheimer back tracks on his statements, citing the youth of the players and the learning curve taking longer. That's understandable for the rookies, but care to share how that applies to a defensive line that has been together for two years now?

"It is challenging to say the least," said Schottenheimer. "Each day you are trying to find ways to express the information that you know, once grasped, will enable them to perform better, and you don't obviously bat 1.000. But that in and of itself is a real challenge. These communicative skills that I think you have to have if you are able to do it, ultimately will sink in. Sometimes it takes a while to get it from the classroom onto the playing field."

Communication, such as players, specifically an underachieving Marcellus Wiley, calling out Drew Brees to the media? Without that outburst Brees may never have been benched.

The team is playing hard, there is no question about their heart. They don't enjoy losing, but even their star running back, LaDainian Tomlinson, has said players have mailed it in.

If that is the case, the coach is to blame. All of the bullet points that have made him successful in the past are not being accomplished.

Yet, in 2004, fans get to look forward to more of the double-talk. They get to muddle through the endless "young mans" and "we have not learned to wins". Christmas clearly came early for Schottenheimer, it did not come at all for Chargers fans.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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