Splish-Splash Making a Draft

Splish-splash San Diego Chargers coaches were scouting the draft, on a late Saturday night. A rub-a-dub -- names in the tub, scouts all thinking they're right. But first there is the Senior Bowl, then there is the Combines. Splish-splash the Bolts are number one overall…<br><br> They are thinking and a-scoutin', debating and a-plannin', fighting and a-howlin', free agent and a draftin'.<br><br> Splish-splash the Chargers want to make waves…

"The Chargers are looking to make a solid splash in obtaining personnel," says one NFL scout.

Marty Schottenheimer may be on a small vacation, but his mind is still on his team. The meeting between him and Ted Cottrell for the open defensive coordinator position will transpire Monday. There is an offer on the table from Minnesota for Cottrell, and he is expected to choose early in the week, possibly by Tuesday. Pittsburgh could still be a late entry – they just recently sought permission to speak with Greg Blache of Chicago and plan on interviewing Dick LeBeau on Tuesday.

Ted Cottrell fell out of favor with Jets head coach Herm Edwards this season, but according to Dan Leberfeld, the editor of Jets Confidential, none of the Jets' problems should have been pinned on Cottrell.

"Ted Cottrell is a solid defensive coordinator who got a raw deal in New York," Leberfeld said. "The Jets' horrendous run defense this season was due to bad personnel, not Cottrell's schemes.

"He (would be) a good hire. Players love playing for him because he is a great person. But while he is mild-mannered most of the time, he has given to some excellent fire-and-brimstone speeches in the locker room."

Schottenheimer knows he has personnel decisions to make on his current team by bursting a few bubbles and soaping a few mouths. That will lead into free agency, followed by the Draft, fresh hot water to play with.

The Draft gets all the attention with Senior Bowl a week away, the Combines in Indianapolis in February, and Pro Days throughout March, but the Draft itself is setup by what happens in free agency as well as the compilation of events leading up to the April event.

Back in 1998, when Schottenheimer was still with the Chiefs, personnel moves after a winning season took the team out of the playoffs and it took six years for them to return. Moves will again be made on the Chargers front to improve a 4-12 team, dictated by a frustrating season. Ironically, Schottenheimer was let go after that disappointment in '98.

The Senior Bowl is up first. "This provided them the chance to have a hands-on approach with the players participating," said another scout, echoing the sentiments of Schottenheimer.

The Chargers coaches, what is left of them, began playbook assembly, finished the schedules and practice plans for the Senior Bowl this weekend and were expected to ship them early in the week to Mobile, Ala.

"The emphasis is on being able to show the NFL coaches and scouts what they want to see in practice and being able to competitively play a game where the emphasis is on playing, not thinking," North Squad and Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis said.

The Senior Bowl provides a close-up look at draft-eligible players that Lewis said is a "very accurate" predictor of NFL ability.

"Right now it is far too early what the Chargers draft intentions are," an NFL scout said.

After the Senior Bowl, focus will start to take shape. The team will turn to player evaluation internally and figure out just who they will keep from their own squad and who get thrown out of the tub. There will be plenty to talk about and the drain figures to get a lot of work.

The Combines will follow and they will execute their gameplan at the end of February when cut lists and free agency begins. From there it is on to Pro Days and the Draft that follows.

The whirlwind of activity in the Charger Park tub will be stirring this season. There are multiple reasons why the Chargers want to make the "splash".

The stadium issue is perhaps atop that list. Ownership wants a respectable team. Will that push them away from an Eli Manning? It remains to be seen.

One thing is known, they want to win now and in the future. Fans will be surprised to hear that, but it rings true. New toys and battleships will be introduced into the tub, and the Chargers are hoping it is a good mix.

Expect a busy offseason in San Diego and in May Chargers fans everywhere will again be talking about the excitement of the upcoming season. Unlike 2003, they hope their early hype lives up to its potential. The idea is more splishing and splashing and less flailing and crying.

Note: Remember Mike Sellers of the 2001 Washington Redskins? The one who said, "(The players) basically hate (Marty Schottenheimer). They can't even go to the restroom. They have alarms on their (training camp) doors. I'm glad I left." He just re-signed with the Skins.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

Tim Yotter contributed to this story

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