The Fall Guy

Someone has to have a visit from the ghosts of Christmas, but their story won't turn out quite as nicely. With Marty Schottenheimer staying, and expected to have a strong say in the returning of his assistants, one of the San Diego Chargers coaches, if not more, will presumably get the axe. The question is, who?

Many can comfortable tell you the coaches that won't be let go after the season concludes this week against the Oakland Raiders. The real trick is figuring out, not only who should go, but also, who will go with the "stubborn German" calling the shots.

First, the coaches that will stay:

Tim Brewster, tight ends coach, heads the list of those who will stay. He has turned Antonio Gates into a threat and made each of his guys among the best blockers at their respective position. Brewster put his neck on the line in securing Gates. He was one of three coaches in the NFL to see his workout and was instrumental in making sure he came to San Diego.

Hudson Houck, offensive line coach, has had to work with spare parts to jerry rig a line each of the past two seasons. Considering they have allowed 26 sacks through 15 games, the job he has done has been sound. He has lost his starters to 39 games due to injuries this year and has moved players around so often the music never stops. He also was instrumental in getting Phil Bogle to San Diego and has molded Bogle and Courtney Van Buren into lineman fans will eventually be proud of.

James Lofton, wide receivers coach, has seen every one of his wide receivers succumb to injury this year. Fielding a variety of receivers, he has made sure each is prepared to block, first and foremost, and as the season hits its final stages…the emergence of Kassim Osgood, an undrafted free agent. Lofton cannot be faulted for Reche Caldwell. Caldwell is his own problem.

No brainer:

Clarence Shelmon, running backs coach. LaDainian Tomlinson has progressed to the point of super stardom, ‘nuff said.

Lack of talent: Many have been critical of Steve Crosby, but can you fault a guy who has not had any talent? His best option at punt returner, Eric Parker, busted two in preseason that were called back and was respectable in the season. He doesn't have a kicker that can hit a long field goal and he can't teach a stronger leg. Leon Johnson is painfully slow and Crosby can't speed him up. The coverage units have been solid all year long and his gameplan to shut down the opposition with higher kicks has worked, although it would have been nice to see someone kick it into the end zone for a touchback just once.

Greg Manusky, linebackers' coach, has made the most of his situation. Besides Donnie Edwards, there is no sideline-to-sideline speed within this group. The lack of that has made him scramble to come up with schemes to put them in better position. It took a while to accomplish, but his point is getting across. Ben Leber and Zeke Moreno have been better of late and next year he should have more speed in his unit to use.

Continuity:

Jerry Holmes, secondary coach, and John Pagano, defensive assistant, should be retained to provide some consistency to what the young group is learning. They are familiar with what Schottenheimer wants to do and Pagano has worked with Holmes almost exclusively this season to better the troops. There are signs of special things to come if the rest of the defense would play along.

On the bubble:

Cam Cameron has to take hits for his playcalling, which is very predictable at times, but can he truly be faulted for an offensive line in shambles and a QB that can't throw an out pattern? He is an interesting case. Plenty of miscues on offense led to him looking worse than he is. Dropped balls and overthrown passes are not his fault.

Who should go, but won't:

Brian Schottenheimer, quarterbacks coach, has not taught his disciples the fundamentals of the game. Brees was benched because the young Schottenheimer has not taught him much of anything. He has never made a quarterback better and is proving to be a detriment. Drew Brees originally learned under Norv Turner and each year since his departure the good knowledge has been eroded from his brain. He will stay because he is a package deal with his dad, Marty. Marty does not have the juevos to drop him.

The ones who should go:

Dave Redding, strength and conditioning coach, should top this list. From an early season spat with David Boston to the constant injury problems with this team, it is clear he has failed to establish any conditioning with the squad. In the NFL, there will always be bumps and bruises, but on the Chargers it means you sit for three weeks. That can't happen if they expect to win.

Wayne Nunnely, defensive line coach, has done nothing to improve his line. In the last two years, pressures on the quarterback have gone down. He has not taught Marcellus Wiley to be creative and show a different move every once and a while. Nunnely has also not utilized his defensive tackles effectively. The run defense troubles of this year can be attributed to Nunnely who continued to allow his ends to race upfield, opening up huge lanes outside the tackles. New blood is needed here.

Dale Lindsey, defensive coordinator, has come at offenses with more vanilla than humanely possible.

"I think primarily you would like to be a defense the can line up and attack and not have people dictate how you play,'' said Lindsey when he was hired in February of 2002.

That is a laugher.

Knowing that his line is not getting pressure, he is afraid to send some help in the form of a blitzer, aka, "attack" as Lindsey alluded to. When he should be playing more zone, he plays man-to-man and vice versa. Last year, he had two defensive assistants and he was supposed to put his staple on the defense this year. Instead he pinned them down and did not use their talent effectively. Not properly evaluating his talent base should lead to his demise. A foreword thinker is needed here.

"One personnel guy I've known for quite some time said (Lindsey) was the best teacher of younger players that he's ever seen,'' Schottenheimer said when Lindsey was hired.

Simply put, he hasn't lived up to the hype.

In the end, maybe no one will go. That would be the ultimate blow to San Diego Charger fans. Marty Schottenheimer is known to be painfully loyal. That has already hurt them in several departments from Tamarick Vanover to Stephen Alexander. He now needs to step up and make someone accountable for the play. He talks so much about it, and how the coaching has failed – prove it by canning those who need it.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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