Lightning Quicks: Coaching and Competition

There is never a dull moment in Charger-land. Marty Schottenheimer is worrying about filling out his coaching staff while LaDainian Tomlinson is worrying about the coaching staff in Hawaii. Also, a third Chargers coach departs, leaving an intense competition behind.

Now Hiring

San Diego lost its third assistant coach of the offseason when Greg Manusky accepted the defensive coordinator job in San Francisco. The Chargers had already lost offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who took the top job in Miami, and tight ends coach Rod Chudzinski, who accepted the post as Cleveland's offensive coordinator.

Cameron has since been replaced by Clarence Shelmon, who spent the last five years coaching the team's running backs. This is Shelmon's first coordinator gig and he faces a tall task in maintaining last season's productivity.

"We have our work cut out to replace Cam," Schottenheimer said.

Manusky has yet to be replaced, but assistant linebackers coach John Pagano would seem to be the early favorite.

"I wanted to get an NFL-experienced guy," San Francisco 49ers head coach Nolan said. "If the guy had coordinated, that would have been good as well, but I wanted someone with NFL experience, someone who had been around it, seen it done the right way. It would have been hard for me to take somebody, no matter how good he was, from a system that I didn't have a lot of respect for. I've got a lot of respect for the system Wade Phillips uses."

Chudzinski will likely be replaced by someone from outside the organization. That someone will be a very lucky fellow, as the position of tight ends coach in San Diego is one of the league's elite positional jobs. No group of tight ends is better than the Chargers' trio of Antonio Gates, Brandon Manumaleuna and Aaron Shea.

Not All Sunshine and Coconuts

The dominant story line regarding the Chargers and the Pro Bowl is the sheer volume of players going. The team is sending 11 players to Hawaii and that doesn't include Philip Rivers, who pulled out with a foot injury.

Another story to watch will be the interaction between LaDainian Tomlinson and Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who will be leading the AFC squad. Tomlinson was upset with the lack of class shown by the Patriots after New England ousted the Chargers from the playoffs, believing such poor behavior to be a reflection on Belichick.

"He hates the guy," said one Chargers coach of Tomlinson's feeling towards Belichick.

Hopefully, the feeling isn't mutual, as Belichick will be inundated by San Diego players at the Pro Bowl. Chargers players will constitute about a quarter of the AFC roster.

Hot Spot

Inside linebacker was assumed to be the team's spot of highest turnover in 2007. Instead, it may be the spot of greatest competition. Randall Godfrey had intimated that last season would be his last, but he is reportedly considering coming back as the result of his continued strong play and of last season's abrupt ending.

The early word is "50-50" on his return, according to a source familiar with his thinking; he continues to mull his decision at the Super Bowl in Miami.

If Godfrey returns, that would leave Stephen Cooper, Matt Wilhelm and Tom Dobbins to fight for one starting position. Cooper and Wilhelm each signed five-year extensions last year, while Dobbins was drafted in 2006 with an eye towards competing in 2007.

Godfrey is a free agent who would have to sign a new deal before returning.


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