Chargers ponder future of coaching staff

How much is the assistant coaching staff worth? That is a question the San Diego Chargers are debating these days. Perhaps underpaid throughout the first few years of their contracts, Hudson Houck, James Lofton and Cam Cameron, want to start earning their due now that they are without contracts. The Chargers' players have stressed the endearing qualities of their coaches and head coach Marty Schottenheimer has placed a priority on bringing them back.

According to head coach Marty Schottenheimer, new deals for the trio are first on the agenda this offseason.

"That is an area we need to address in the immediate future," said the coach. "We will get to that in the not so distant future."

Hudson Houck took a five man line that had never played together and molded them into a unit that protected the quarterback well and opened up just enough holes for running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

Since he arrived, Houck has turned sometimes mediocre talent into a unit that looked like All-Pro's. Somehow, Houck has been able to mask certain flaws in the line. For instance, the current line does not possess a plethora of players that can pull and lead a sweep to the outside. Houck focuses on using their strength and used minimal pulls within the hashes instead, so linemen didn't have as far to go to open the hole. While it limited Tomlinson's ability to the outside, it allowed the linemen to focus at the point of attack.

Houck has done wonders since his arrival in San Diego and is considered one of the best offensive line coaches in the league.

He has done such a good job that even Schottenheimer didn't think the line could come together as quickly as it did.

We kept working hard," offensive guard Mike Goff said. "Hudson, our offensive line coach, that is one thing he kept pounding into us. It is something we strived for. He has quite a track record for outstanding lines and we wanted to be a part of that outstanding track."

Wide Receivers' coach James Lofton inherited a group of receivers that had potential but had yet to show they were more than complimentary players on the field.

Given a receiver whose confidence had waned in Reche Caldwell, Lofton was able to instill a work ethic in the young receiver and get him to forget his past. Prior to his injury, Caldwell was beginning to blossom as the go-to receiver on the club.

Lofton benefited during the season when Keenan McCardell joined the squad but you can bet it was Lofton who taught Eric Parker to run crisp routes and take advantage of the defenses' tendencies.

"Being able to work with Coach Lofton, he is able to develop a lot of your small details of the game," wide receiver Kassim Osgood said. "Film study, being prepared for the game, knowing what to do, adjustments versus different coverages – you get a lot of disguised coverages in the NFL so being able to read those coverages on the run helped me out a lot."

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron works diligently on matchups and he and Lofton often work in conjunction. It is what makes the San Diego offense click. Reading defenses and trying to get Antonio Gates isolated was one of the reasons for success with the offense.

"The offensive coordinator does a terrific job of putting me in situations," Gates said.

And when Gates is bracketed, Cameron pulls another trick out of the hat and looks to exploit the single coverage on Keenan McCardell or Eric Parker. He trusts in his players and believes anyone of them can step up to the plate on a given day.

The Chargers scored 446 points, good for third most in the league. That is a credit to Cameron and the rest of the offensive staff along with the players themselves.

"It is important for us to have the core of what we are doing together," Schottenheimer added in relation to the coaching staff. "We have a great coaching staff. The dynamic within the groups is very good – everyone pulling in the same direction."

Tight ends coach and assistant head coach Tim Brewster figures to be back with San Diego. Brewster would prefer to hold out for a college gig sometime down the road as he is known for his ability to recruit talent. He was thought to be in the running for the Illinois job but was never seriously considered.

Feelers from three clubs have already inquired about running backs' coach Clarence Shelmon. Shelmon has been with San Diego since LaDainian Tomlinson's second season but there is no telling what priority they have placed on him.

Special teams' coach Steve Crosby is an interesting candidate. His players talk glowingly about his passion but after a year that left a lot to be desired, he could be on the way out. Could he be the scapegoat for the missed field goal in overtime?

Greg Manusky did a terrific job coaching the linebackers in the new 3-4 scheme and the Chargers love his energy and enthusiasm. It would be a tall task replacing his youthful rapport with the linebackers and since that is the heart of the 3-4, look for him to stay.

Wayne Nunnely will likely return. He had, perhaps, the least talent to work with on the line. Besides Jamal Williams, Nunnely was asked to rotate in players who plugged holes but were not spectacular. Igor Olshansky has a shot to become dominant with some leg strength but the rest of the rotation were great depth players, nothing more.

There will surely be a casualty from so many coaches running amok without contracts. Who that is will be determined soon.


SD Super Chargers Top Stories