Chargers coach keeps team focused

The accolades are en route for this year's Chargers squad. LaDainian Tomlinson is the leading candidate for the MVP award. Shawne Merriman, despite missing four games, is still in the running to be named Defensive Player of the Year. But there's one award unlikely to go to a Charger, although it should – Coach of the Year.

Marty Schottenheimer does not get enough credit for the tremendous job he has done in getting his team prepared each and every week.

"Marty does a great job of making us aware of what is at stake," said safety Marlon McCree.

Remember, Philip Rivers came into this season with zero starts under his belt and a rookie left tackle protecting his blindside. So Schottenheimer started conservative to help those players acclimate. The results were blowout wins over the Raiders and Titans.

The conservative gameplan finally came back to haunt the Chargers in week four, when they gave away a game at Baltimore. So Schottenheimer did what any good coach would do – he adapted. He allowed Rivers more freedom and opened up the offense. That offense now leads the league in scoring and the Chargers are a league-best 8-1 since then.

San Diego has been remarkably stable under Schottenheimer's guidance. They are 8-0 against teams with losing records this season and could very well be undefeated on the year were it not for two late-game defensive meltdowns.

"Everybody in this league can beat you or you can beat yourself," he said. "We have been fortunate to prevail in 10 games out of the 12."

It's not as if Schottenheimer hasn't faced his share of challenges. He lost starting outside linebacker Steve Foley and kick returner Darren Sproles before the season ever started. Also, defensive stalwarts Merriman and Luis Castillo missed four games each during one of the season's most challenging stretches. Shaun Phillips and Marlon McCree have both missed multiple games as well.

But if there is one thing Schottenheimer has proven over the years, it's that he can coach any team into a winner. That is evidenced by his 201 career victories, the most by any active head coach.

Now, he has the Chargers on the brink of their second division title in the last three years. True to form, he will make sure his team doesn't look past the Broncos this weekend, despite the three-game lead the Chargers hold in the division.

"This team is a pretty focused team," running back LaDainian Tomlinson explained. "Marty always reminds us it is one game at a time. Our coaching staff does a really good job of getting us ready for the next game and making us feel like last game was last game and it doesn't mean anything."

"Our focus is Denver," Schottenheimer said. "We haven't accomplished anything yet. We have an awfully good opponent coming in and they made some changes. I think you know the regard I hold Mike Shanahan. All that other stuff I don't really pay attention to it."

His players are paying attention, however, and are now enjoying their third-consecutive winning season. If only the media were following so intently, Schottenheimer would be under heavy consideration for yet another Coach of the Year honor.

SD Super Chargers Top Stories