Chargers built for Schottenheimer

The San Diego Chargers have been built by a foundation that demands strong character. Additions made through free agency, along with a bevy of trades, have been made with locker room leadership in mind. Draft picks are much the same, with a risk here and there thrown in. But is this what Marty Schottenheimer envisioned when he came to San Diego?

Marty Schottenheimer inherited a team full of themselves and slowly began the process of overturning the roster. The mantra in the beginning was adding young talent that could be nurtured and molded into disciples of the Marty Schottenheimer school of thought.

It wasn't long before players, such as Quentin Jammer, were reciting "ultimately" and "we are a far better team at this juncture than a year ago" and the ever popular "quite frankly."

Changes had to be made. Some of the moves weren't popular, such as letting Junior Seau go to Miami or cutting Rodney Harrison.

It could be argued that some of the moves weren't the right moves – especially in the case of Harrison.

But many of the roster cuts hit the bulls-eye, weeding out those who had no desire to leave their hearts on the field for their teammates – see Marcellus Wiley.

"My sense is that you had to get the mindset changed," Schottenheimer said. "That, quite frankly, is the issue we faced here. We had not done well over the past couple of years."

Beginning with youth, the coach, along with general manager A.J. Smith, reshaped the franchise. Youth brought along inexperience and mistakes, but the disciplinarian was on the job.

His belief was simple. Bring football players and he can teach them. If they do not want to be taught, good luck playing for someone else.

It didn't matter if you were drafted or undrafted; everyone got a shot at making the hapless San Diego Chargers. As many hits as they got through the draft, they also procured several key players through the ranks of undrafted.

One quality was shared.

"When you looked at it," Schottenheimer began, "I think what had to take place is, we have the one quality that you have to have, and that is players that play with high energy and play 60 minutes of every game."

Once the team pieced together enough base talent, they went out and brought in players who could be a steadying force in the locker room and on the field.

They didn't sign high priced free agents but instead used a forgotten art form – the trade.

Veterans such as Roman Oben and Keenan McCardell were brought in – two players with Super Bowl rings and known clubhouse leaders.

Even the trade that brought Jamar Fletcher to the club – and ‘ultimately' rid the team of David Boston – turned into a double coup. The former first round pick accepted his role with the team from day one and performed well – and perhaps more importantly did so without a sound.

Team players have become the norm. And that is what Marty Schottenheimer wanted all along. He was aided by the shrewdness of Smith but the mark of the team is clearly that of a Schottenheimer.

Things have progressed so far that the positions that were once open to any and all combatants has dwindled down to crumbs.

"It's become more difficult to get (undrafted) free agents when you're the kind of football team that we are," Schottenheimer admitted after the 2005 NFL Draft. "We have very little turnover."

Schottenheimer already handed pink slips out to those who did not conform to his standards. Today, the team has his stamp on it.

It may have a different mix, especially of younger players, than he previously commissioned to do his bidding, but that is a product of the NFL – where business dictates youth as a necessity to stay on top.

Clearly, the San Diego Chargers are a Marty Schottenheimer team.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net


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