Vote of confidence

Chargers GM A.J. Smith seems to always make the right moves. He traded the maddeningly inconsistent Eli Manning for a trio of Pro Bowlers in Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding; he signed Marlon McCree as a free agent last offseason and the pass defense jumped 14 spots in the rankings; and he drafted well, from high picks like Luis Castillo to late ones like Shane Olivea.

But A.J. Smith is in the middle of making a monumental mistake, one he could correct by publicly uttering just one sentence: "Marty Schottenheimer will be the head coach of the San Diego Chargers in 2007."

The feud between Smith and Schottenheimer has been well documented, but this is the time of year to bury such petty differences for the sake of team success. There are rumors swirling that the Chargers must enjoy ample postseason success in order for Schottenheimer to be retained.

The mere thought of Schottenheimer being dismissed on the heels of his most successful season is as ridiculous as the Lions retaining Matt Millen.

After all, the Chargers overcame a substantial amount of adversity this season. Steve Foley and Darren Sproles went down before the season began; Merriman and Castillo missed a combined 10 games due to injury; and Terrence Kiel and Cletis Gordon provided off-field distractions.

Oh yeah, and Schottenheimer fielded the league's highest scoring offense despite relying on a first-time starter at quarterback and a rookie left tackle.

Through it all, Schottenheimer prepared his team to win each and every week. The Chargers' 14-2 record is the best in the league. Had it not been for late defensive collapses in Baltimore and Kansas City, this year's team may have been historically good.

But regular-season success is nothing new for Schottenheimer, whose 200 regular-season wins rank fifth all-time. It's his 5-12 postseason record that rouses the skeptics.

That concern is legitimate, especially given the talent on this year's squad. There are those who believe that if Schottenheimer can't win big with this group, he can't win the Big One period.

That is a bunch of malarkey. Schottenheimer is a tremendous coach and should be respected as such.

Playoff football is inherently the most pressure-packed time of the season. If there are concerns about Coach buckling under the pressure, why not alleviate the pressure of playing for his job?

It is time for Smith to do the right thing. He should let the public know that – no matter the team's postseason results – Schottenheimer will be back in 2007. And not like Nick Saban, when he said he wasn't going to coach Alabama.

Smith should say he it and he should mean it.


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