Room to grow

No team is perfect in the NFL – well, except the Dolphins and current Colts team. The Chargers, at 5-4, aren't as lucky to be free of blemishes and the bye week is an ideal time to fix the imperfections - and introspection is where it begins.

He's the coach behind a defense that is often lost in the wake of the Chargers' headline-grabbing offense. And while coordinator Wade Phillips' pass defense has room to grow, the run defense is as nasty as ever heading into the bye week.

The run defense is ranked No. 3 in the NFL. It's as young as it is good with linebackers Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips and defensive ends Luis Castillo and Igor Olshansky.

But will Phillips be around next year to see its continuing progress? He hopes not.

Phillips isn't shy in discussing his aspiration to return as an NFL head coach.

He didn't get any nibbles last off-season when two coaches were hired. This off-season, the market for head coaches could be considerably bigger when gauging the various hot seats around the NFL.

"I've been a successful head coach, and not many guys can say that," said Phillips, who went 47-36 in stints with the Bills, Broncos and Falcons.

Phillips has an amazing streak he kept alive last year when coming to the Chargers.

The year's previous team was 4-12 and well out of the playoffs. But last year's squad flipped to 12-4 and advanced to the postseason for the first time since 1995.

"How many guys can come in and in their first year go to the playoffs?" Phillips asked. "I've done it six times as a head coach and a defensive coordinator. I feel like I've got something to offer."

Phillips speculates because he was let go in Buffalo, Denver and Atlanta, some believe there's something wrong with his coaching.

"I think because you get fired, sometimes it carries a stigma that you didn't do good enough and I don't think that was the case," Phillips said. "They don't realize you were in 29-19 (while at Buffalo), which was one of the best records in the NFL.

"But that is up for someone else to decide. Not me."

Instead he takes this week's extra times to decipher how the Chargers can keep containing rival rushing offenses to less than 80 yards per game, and how to improve a 30th-ranked pass defense which is allowing 248 yards per outing mostly from the back end. The Chargers are tied for first with the Seahawks with 27 sacks.

Phillips just hopes others don't sack his chances of again becoming a head coach.

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