Scouting the AFC West: Coaches

Who is the best? The worst? What assistant will receive a head coaching job in the near future? Who will no longer be a head coach after this season? How do the San Diego Chargers compare to the rest of the division? After reviewing every position in the AFC West, now tackles rating the coaches in a similar fashion.

Mr. Overrated: Norv Turner (Head coach) Oakland Raiders

Turner has had the "Offensive Genius" halo around his head for the past few years now. This was probably the main reason he was hired by Oakland for the head coaching job despite his lackluster results in Washington. But, the last two offensive jobs Turner has held has provided marginal results at best. Some might say he had no talent while working in San Diego, and some might also be quick to point out the personnel struggles he had at Miami. Regardless, both offenses were mediocre before he came and remained that way until he left . With that said, Mike Shanahan and Bill Belichick would not be where they are today unless they were given second chance to be head coach somewhere.

Mr. Underrated: Mike Solari (Offensive line coach) Kansas City Chiefs

Under the eight seasons Solari has worked for the Chiefs, he has help build one of the best offensive lines in memory. He has the ability of not only developing young players, but also getting free agents to play up to their ability. Kansas City draftee's Will Shields and John Tait (now with the Bears) have seen their recognition sky rocket under Solari's watch; and free agents such as William Roaf, Brian Walters, and Casey Weigmann have preformed far better at Kansas City than at their prior homes. At one time Roaf was considered not only overrated, but over the hill. It just so happens Solari did not think so, and consequently, Roaf is now arguably one of the best in the game.

Old faces, new places: Wade Phillips (Defensive Coordinator) San Diego Chargers

Phillips has quite the task ahead of him. Not only is he inheriting a group that underperformed last season, but he is also bringing in a new philosophy. Will this group adapt to the 3-4? The Charger organization is hoping for anything. And to aid Phillips, it seems as if the organization has cut every player on the defensive front that was making more than the league minimum. San Diego did, though, add some scrappy players in the off-season and had a promising draft. If Phillips can turn this group around this year, he will solidify himself as one of the best defensive coordinators in football.

Is he Yoda or a waste of space?: Hudson Houck (Offensive line coach) San Diego Chargers

Charger fans where drooling when Marty Schottenheimer hired Houck as their line coach. Houck served in a legendary fashion for Dallas and produced some of the best offensive lines the Cowboys had ever seen. In his third year with the Chargers the results have been less than stellar, let alone legendary. Coming into the season the Chargers are considered to have one of the worst offensive fronts in football. But, are they really that bad or are they just a young group who has yet to gel? This season should be the real indicator. Charger fans are not expecting Dallas type production, but it is not unfair to ask for a better product than what they have had to watch for the past two seasons.

Put up or shut up time: Marty Schottenheimer (Head Coach) San Diego Chargers

Martyball has been a failure in San Diego thus far. Hoping to drastically change the dynamic of his team, he fired some key assistant coaches. Fans and analysts, however, were initially skeptical of some of the hirings in the first place. Consequently, Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison were let go because they did not "fit Dale Lindsey's defense". One year removed it was Lindsey who was given his walking papers. Schottenheimer did not create all the problems in San Diego obviously, but he does have to take responsibility for the regression of the team last year. The Chargers are still very young, and now more than ever, they need coach Schottenheimer performing at a level he once did at Kansas City and Cleveland.

Same name, new coach: Al Saunders (Asst. Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator) Kansas City Chiefs.

It is speculated, and practically eluded too by Dick Vermeil, that Saunders is going to be the next head coach of Kansas City. Many feel the reason Vermeil came back for one more season was to ensure this of transpiring. What, on the other hand, happens to Saunders' prospects of becoming head coach if the Chiefs do not win their division? The Chiefs have not had the best success in promoting coaches within the organization in the past. If Saunders does not help orchestrate one of the best offenses in football this season, Kansas City might flirt with bringing in someone from the outside to replace Vermeil. Regardless, if Saunders does get the job, he might find himself unjustly on the hot-seat before he has had a chance to prove his worth.

Not quite there yet: Steve Sarkisian (Quarterback Coach) Oakland Raiders

Sarkisian has the pedigree to become an effective coach. He was a smart quarterback at BYU who learned under one of the all time greats Levell Edwards. Two years ago he help a struggling Carson Palmer bring the Heisman back to Southern Cal. He also did a fantastic job with rising star Matt Leinhart, who many now consider the top quarterback prospect in the 2005 draft. But what is going to happen when he has to instruct players that are significantly older than he? Every coach has to take his lumps sometime, and the next couple of season will probably be dues paying more than anything else for Sarkisian. The future, though, is very bright.

Might not last another season: Gary Kubiak (Offensive Coordinator) Denver Broncos

Of course he will not be fired! Kubiak has been an extremely successful offensive coordinator with Denver, and has coached some of the greatest superstars to every play the game. Under Kubiak, Denver's offense has never fluttered. They have gone through a plethora of running backs, yet have not lost a step in the running game. If Kubiak can help lead this offense to be one the league's best, some team some where will offer him a lot of money to be their head coach. Kubiak has been associated with very successful organizations and has worked under great coaches. He knows what it takes to be successful, and it is only a matter of time before he gets an opportunity to show a struggling franchise how it is done.

On the hottest seat: Marty Schottenheimer (Head Coach) San Diego Chargers

The Charger organization is looking for any excuse to keep Schottenheimer around because they know that a coaching carousal is not the answer to all their problems. The fans, however, have been bitter at Schottenheimer ever since he was at Kansas City. To say he is stuck between a rock and a hard place is an understatement. In fairness to the fans and analysts, Schottenheimer might not have always had the best team in the league, but they were certainly one of the most disciplined. Last season this was not the case. To get control of the problem, the Chargers cut every problem child on the team. If this old/new approach does not carry over on the field in terms of W's and L's, this might be a bitter end to what has been a great career for coach Schottenheimer.

El numero uno: Mike Shanahan (Head Coach) Denver Broncos

Not enough can be said about what Shanahan has brought to this franchise. In addition to the two Super Bowl titles, he has been vital in record breaking rushing numbers, numerous playoff appearances, dominant special teams play, and slew of other achievements. It is a funny thought that some considered Shanahan approaching the hot-seat last season. The Broncos made a change, and low and behold, some are now expecting another Super Bowl run. Shanahan has received a lot of criticism for not winning a playoff game since 1998, but that argument should be moot after this season.


Most flexible: Dick Vermeil

When St. Louis brought Vermeil back into the NFL, most felt he could not adapt to the modern game. Not only did he, but he is now setting the current trends.

Best Motivator: Dick Vermeil

Whether it is crying or yelling, Vermeil's players love playing for him. When Vermeil was hired by the Chiefs it was no shock that a few St. Louis players jumped at the opportunity to relocate to Kansas City.

Best Offensive Mind: Mike Shanahan

Shanahan has had successful offenses every place he has coached. No one can get more out of their strengths and weaknesses than he can. To exemplify this point, he has multiple rings with multiple organizations.

Best Defensive Mind: Marty Schottenheimer

Despite the struggles of the Chargers' defense last season, Schottenheimer has always been known as a defensive minded coach. San Diego will need Schottenheimer's past magic to pull off the successful switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4.

Best game day coach: Mike Shanahan

Shanahan never gets trigger happy nor is he trigger shy. It is hard to prepare oneself against a coach who you know will be at his very best when the most is on the line.


1. Kansas City Chiefs: Denver and Kansas City are virtually tied. But, with the addition of Gunther Cunningham to the staff it is hard not to make this group the top choice in the division.

2. Denver Broncos: Denver has a seasoned group who work very well together. The offensive unit is one of the best in football, and even though their special teams and defensive unit are relatively young, they are extremely formidable.

3. San Diego Chargers: Many feel Schottenheimer has lost his touch. Regardless, he has forgotten more about the game than most any fan could ever know. Maybe the presence of Wade Phillips can give this struggling unit a boost.

4. Oakland Raiders: Norv Turner has to go a long way to prove he can lead a team back to the promise land. Unfortunately for he, Al Davis is not known as a man of patience. If Turner does not get it done within two years, his second chance will be over.

ALL AFC West Team: Coaches

Head Coach: Mike Shanahan

Offensive Coordinator: Al Saunders

Defensive Coordinator: Wade Phillips

In the final addition to the AFC West preview, SDBoltreport will revisit the ALL AFC West Team and designate the starters and reserves.

Byran Martin can be reached at

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