Smith upset at coach, eyes future replacement

The relationship between A.J. Smith and Marty Schottenheimer continues to worsen – assuming it hasn't hit rock bottom already. The two disagreed on whether to re-sign Drew Brees and again on whether to put Donnie Edwards on the trading block. The latest point of conflict is Schottenheimer's decision to decline an offer for a contract extension.

As has been reported, Schottenheimer was offered a one-year, $4.5 million extension with a team option buy-out of $1 million for the 2008 season. He declined the extension, leaving him as a lame-duck coach and irritating Smith in the process.

Smith has privately voiced his disapproval of Schottenheimer's decision. According to Smith, Schottenheimer will either merit a long-term extension with a deep postseason run following the 2007 season or he will leave thereafter.

If he earns an extension, the one-year add-on and any talk of utilizing the buy-out would become moot. If not, then the $1 million buy-out is money Schottenheimer wouldn't otherwise receive when his contract expires following the 2007 season.

Smith believes it would have been in the best interests of both Schottenheimer and the team for the extension to be consummated - aiding in the hiring process for top assistant coaches and securing their own to deals beyond this season. He also believes Schottenheimer's personal wealth is a primary reason the coach was able to pass on a potential $1 million payday.

It should be noted, however, that Schottenheimer's declination is not entirely inexplicable.

The Giants faced a similar situation with Tom Coughlin following the 2006 season and offered him a one-year extension with no buy-out included. Since Schottenheimer won six more games and advanced one round further than Coughlin did last season, it seems unreasonable to expect Schottenheimer to accept a less-enticing deal.

Smith immediately followed talk of Schottenheimer's possible departure with talk of a potential replacement – Bill Cowher.

Smith believes Cowher still wants to coach and is only leaving Pittsburgh due to a lack of financial compensation. Cowher is expected to be back on the sidelines for the 2008 season.

Cowher would be an interesting fit in San Diego. Prior to Super Bowl XV, Cowher was known as a great regular season coach incapable of winning big games. That same criticism appears to be the only substantial knock against Schottenheimer.

There would be several benefits to bringing in Cowher, should Schottenheimer not be retained beyond this season. Cowher places a similar emphasis on discipline and fundamentals and would utilize the same 3-4 defense currently in place.

Then again, Schottenheimer could very well lead the 2007 Chargers to a Super Bowl win and render all of this speculation useless.

The Chargers were fortunate that the lack of collaboration between Smith and Schottenheimer did not have a noticeably negative impact on the team in 2006. They can only hope to be so lucky next season.


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