Who Will Lead the D?

The San Diego Chargers have an opening at defensive coordinator. Dale Lindsey is out and new blood is sought to finish the rebuilding job on defense. The immediate thinking is that Marty Schottenheimer would like to bring more of his own blood to the Chargers organization in the form of his brother Kurt. He may be the only one with this desire as there are many qualified candidates to choose from. A league insider has given us word that there is one front runner already.

Kurt Schottenheimer

Marty and Kurt coached together in the same capacities during their time with the 2001 Redskins. Kurt currently holds the defensive coordinator position in Detroit where the Lions ranked 24th in total defense (335ypg) and 25th in scoring defense (23.7ppg). To put this in perspective the Chargers' ranked 27th in total defense (350ypg) and 31st in scoring defense (27.6ppg).

"(Schottenheimer) wanted to get his brother in as DC, but that doesn't look likely," said one league insider with knowledge of the situation.

Early prediction: Shouldn't happen. Kurt is under contract and Marty may be persuaded to look elsewhere. Kurt would also be an unpopular choice with Charger fans.

Ted Cottrell

The former Jet's defensive coordinator was on the head coaching radar before last season and even interviewed with the Chargers. This season his Jets' defense ranked 8th in scoring defense (18.7ppg) but 21st in total defense (332.4ypg). His ties with AJ Smith (Buffalo) coupled with Marty's attempt to hire him in Washington land him on the frontrunners list.

Early prediction: Has a legitimate chance but probably considered a fall back option at this point. Cottrell is also in the running for the Minnesota opening.

Gunther Cunningham

Currently assistant head/linebacker coach with the Tennessee Titans, Cunningham has an impressive resume. Cunningham coached the defensive line with the Chargers (85-90). The bolts defense led the NFL in sacks in three of the six years he held the position. No stranger to Schottenheimer, Cunningham coordinated Marty's defense in Kansas City (95-98). In 1995, his defense led the league in scoring defense (15.1ppg) and ranked second in yards allowed (284.3). During his four years as defensive coordinator the Chiefs allowed 1,050 points. This tied for the league lead during that span.

Early prediction: Under contract with the Titans but his ties to Schottenheimer make him a probable candidate. A decision on Cunningham will have to wait until the Titans are done with the playoffs. This may open the door for...

Dave McGinnis

Marty believes that McGinnis is one of the best defensive coordinators in the game and he has tremendous respect for his coaching abilities. The Vikings are also interested in his services but his relationship with Marty and the attraction of sunny San Diego give the Chargers the edge.

"Marty has a pretty good relationship with Dave McGinnis," says a league source. "If it happens, it would be quickly, but let's remember, McGinnis is still a head coach candidate and the early front-runner for the Minnesota DC position."

Early prediction: SD Bolt Report believes this is the guy and would not be surprised to see the Chargers make an offer soon. The former Cardinal's head coach and highly successful former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator would fit well with the young Charger defense.

If McGinnis is the guy expect something to happen within the next week or so. The Charger coaching staff will coach the senior bowl in mid-January which creates a sense of urgency to fill the position.

ON A SIDE NOTE: Former Chargers' defensive coordinator Joe Pascale's name has been thrown around a bit. Pascale has a major health issue that may make the demands of a coordinator position overbearing. Pascale's return to the Charger defense would be welcomed by many. Especially Pascale who needs one more year on an NFL coaching staff to become eligible for a desperately needed pension. The medical bills have mounted and Joe is struggling financially. He could be hired in a less demanding assistant or consultant capacity. A great defensive mind like Pascale would only help the Chargers' struggling defense. It's a shame that the Chargers' or any other NFL team has not stepped forward to help one of its fallen comrades.

Will Mortensen can be reached at will.powered@verizon.net

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