Why, you ask? My lack of faith in Schottenheimer stems from the same areas of concern he cited after the Vikings game and the subsequent Niners game.
I wrote at length last season about how winning is a cumulative process that doesn't necessarily follow a linear or logical progression.
What I mean by that is that it's part of a cycle. Success can start by luck, skill, diligence or all of the above. Once it begins, everything seems to fall into place. In other words, sometimes a coach comes in and instills his "system" and the team immediately responds. Other times, the coach (since so many "retire" and then return to the professional ranks) needs to adjust his program to better meet the attitudes and skills of his players. Then there are those situations where the front office assists the coach in his second season towards getting players that will better perform under his teaching philosophy.
Did a last place schedule help? We'll see this year.
Before last year, the Chargers were constantly committing penalties under a coach who was supposed to rid The Organization of the lax attitude that seemed prevalent during the Mike Riley era. Guys like David Boston and Marcellus Wiley openly challenged Schottenheimer's authority, his reputation as a disciplinarian and his ability to motivate today's players. They were shipped off as part of A.J. Smith (and Marty's) "addition by subtraction" theory. By ridding The Organization of these malcontents, they argued, the attitude, chemistry and subsequent performance would improve.
That being said, was Marty Schottenheimer really THAT MUCH (eight games worth) of better a coach in 2004? When Drew Brees hit Reche Caldwell for a touchdown and turned the season around, did Marty's leadership cause it? Once the Chargers started winning, did the Chargers subsequently listen to Schottenheimer's inspirational aphorisms a little more? Only LaDainian Tomlinson and Donnie Edwards came out as big Marty supporters after the 2003 season. Edwards, his former pupil, really had no choice. Also, once the Bolts started seeing success, particularly in the passing game, is it possible that Schottenheimer relinquished more responsibilities to his coordinators and took on more of a motivational speaker role?
There's no question that once the team started to win, Marty became less of a meddlesome micromanager (try saying that five times fast) and more of a likeable curmudgeon.
Unfortunately, he seemed to exact his will in the playoff game against the Jets by wandering on the field like an old ex-con with an ankle bracelet that inadvertently walks too far for his morning paper.
Was he responsible for basically having the Chargers "back into" Keading's field goal attempt after the Bolts reached the 20-yard line? There is no question that he makes the final decision on that sideline. In the 2003 loss at St. Louis and last year's loss to the Colts, he showed his reluctance to kick long field-goals late in the game even in a domed stadium. His reputation was exonerated by the Bolts' success last year and his subsequent Coach of the Year award. He also received a new contract. If he was such a good coach, then why didn't he force Dale Lindsey to abandon the "cover two" and adapt to the personnel we had in 02-03? Was that a situation where the players simply weren't good enough and the coach was powerless to do anything until after the season began?
Wow, I feel like the narrator at the end of the Adam West "Batman" show. These are a lot of hypotheticals. I don't have the answer, but I do love A.J. Smith's philosophy of working one year at a time. I will never fully trust Schottenheimer but hope that he will learn from his conservative missteps, especially in crunch time. I suppose that I will never completely endorse a coach the way that I did Bobby Ross. Incidentally, I remember hearing from someone "in the know" that Boss Ross used to love beating KC even more than Oakland since he didn't like Marty from the days when they both worked for the Queefs.
That's all for this week. Look over the weekend for the first September installment JUSTICE IS COMING at www.justiceiscoming.com. I'll be at the Bob Weir/Bruce Hornsby show in Central Park since my life will once again revolve around the Chargers' schedule starting next weekend. You can imagine my wife's excitement when she wants to make plans.
This issue of "The Justice Files: Isle Of Strong" is dedicated to The City of New Orleans:
"Rolling down to the sea.
And all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream."