Chargers' coach lacks one thing

Every year there is some team making its last push towards winning it all. San Diego is not that team. The Chargers are built for the long haul but the pressure is on Marty Schottenheimer to produce again and make it past round one of the playoffs.

This zinger is already making its way around San Diego: Russia's Vladimir Putin has more Super Bowl rings that Marty Schottenheimer.

Ouch - but true.

Is this the year Schottenheimer, after so many heartbreaks, finally makes it to the game featuring Roman numerals?

Possibly.

The Chargers are set to build on their remarkable 12-4 season last year, with three Pro Bowlers on offense returning and a defense which is stout against the run and hopefully improved against the pass.

"Some things never change with that guy: don't turn the ball over and play defense," linebacker Donnie Edwards said of his coach. "‘One play at a time' forever in my head will be linked to Marty Schottenheimer. Marty has done a great job of coaching. Taking this team from 4-12 to where we are at now. All the things he changed throughout the year really helped. I think the guys really believe in him and that's why we are where we are."

The where is in defense of the AFC West Championship.

If all the pieces of Schottenheimer's puzzle come together, the veteran coach could be motoring to Detroit for the Super Bowl.

"I am not motivated or driven by anything other than winning," said the coach. "I don't worry about job security. I really don't. And some people may say, ‘Well, you know, that doesn't make any sense.' Well, it does make sense. You do the best you can do. You plan; you prepare; you work. But to sit around and worry about that—it makes no sense to me. I've never worried about it."

That's about the only nugget left off the resume of one of the NFL's all-time winningest coaches. But what sticks in many people's throats when hearing Schottenheimer's name his is unsightly 5-12 mark in the playoffs. Last year was another reminder that Schottenheimer's teams are often like egg nog - put away right after Christmas - as the team was the first in the AFC to be eliminated in the playoffs, a home loss to the Jets.

There's no denying Schottenheimer's regular-season success, 177 career wins. But there's no getting around his postseason woes, in which his .602 winning percentage is the highest among North America pro sports for a coach to have never competed in a league championship game.

"It is what it is," Schottenheimer said of his postseason failures.

Schottenheimer is the fifth NFL head coach to lead three different teams to the playoffs (Chargers, Chiefs and Browns). But it's what he has done once he has got there which people remember. If the Chargers could give their fans an unforgettable season, that might change.

Lightning Quicks:

"In my opinion, he was the best ever." -- Former Chargers QB John Hadl on ex-teammate Lance Alworth who will have his number retired by the team during the 2005 season.


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