Was Nix pushed out to make room for Mueller?

There was a shakeup -- for the second straight offseason -- on the second level of Chargers Park recently. What exactly happened is still not clear. What is evident is that respected assistant general manager Buddy Nix is no longer with the club. The team said he retired in a press release which didn't include a comment from Nix.

Nix said that retirement wasn't exactly the term that best fits his decision to leave an organization which could be on the verge of reaching the Super Bowl.

"I've been working 47 years in this business and sometimes you stay at a place long enough that you need to make a change," Nix said.

General manager A. J. Smith was quoted in a Chargers release as saying Nix "retired" and mentioned his "long, distinguished career in coaching and scouting."

But Nix said he's open to working again and had already fielded calls from several prospective employers.

"There was no resignation that I know of," Smith said. "There was a retirement and then after that, we restructured.

"I'm a little confused, too. We'll have to find out what went from a retirement to a resignation."

Nix is intent on working on his golf game, but he didn't close the door to other work as well.

"I still feel like I'm 40, but I know I'm more than that," Nix, 68, said. "I've already had a several calls ... let's see what happens."

Nix was among the executives arriving from Buffalo -- where he scouted for eight years -- to turn around the woeful Chargers. He was hired in 2001 as director of player personnel and elevated to assistant general manager in 2003.

"I think that I'm most proud of us winning,' Nix said. "When we went from 5-11 and that kind of stuff to be able to go to winning and expecting to win, that was big. And that was old (former general manager) John Butler's thinking."

The exit of Nix, who was under contract, prompted a revamping of the front office. The biggest change is Randy Mueller coming aboard.

Mueller was the Dolphins' general manager the past three years but didn't survive the housecleaning in wake of the team's recent 1-15 season and Bill Parcells' arrival.

Nix said he was unaware the Chargers were hiring Mueller, a 22-year NFL executive, but speculated "he will do a good job."

Before going to Buffalo as a scout, Nix was a longtime college football coach. His keen eye for talent can't be overlooked and his loss is a big one for the Chargers.

Nix declined to provide any specifics on why he left. It was roughly 14 months ago then-coach Marty Schottenheimer was fired when team president Dean Spanos grew tired of what he termed the dysfunctional relationship between Schottenheimer and Smith.

"I enjoyed my time there but it was just time to let somebody else do it," Nix said. "Let some of them young guys do it."

OT Corey Clark
Ronald Martinez/Getty

--The Chargers were bent on getting help at cornerback, offensive tackle and running back in the recent draft. Check. Check. Check.

Well, kind of on the second check.

Desperate to add depth on the edges of the offensive line but derailed by the early run on tackles in the first round, the Chargers had to adjust.

They did get a young prospect in Corey Clark, but he didn't come until the seventh round. While interested in his potential, Clark is likely headed to the practice squad if he makes the team.

So Chargers general manager went to "Plan B" and that entailed signing veteran tackle L. J. Shelton to a two-year contract.

It wasn't long ago that the Chargers were set at the line's most critical position. Last year on opening day, it had two youngsters as bookends -- left tackle Marcus McNeill and right tackle Shane Olivea -- and a decent backup in Jeromey Clary.

But Olivea lost his fire -- according to Chargers executives -- got sloppy and was beat out for a job by Clary. It was Clary who started the final five games and three playoff contests and Olivea was shown the door this offseason.

That left McNeill, Clary and Tony Pape, a practice squad player, as the team's posse of tackles.

So Smith struck fast in securing Shelton, who has 125 career starts in his nine NFL seasons. He started all 16 games last year at right tackle for the 1-15 Dolphins; Shelton has also seen time at left tackle and right guard.

"We were thin at the (tackle) position and were determined to find a talented player," Smith said. "We believe we've addressed the need with L.J. Shelton."

The Chargers hope they don't need Shelton in a sense where one of their starters falter. McNeill is a two-time Pro Bowler, but he would be the first to admit his second year wasn't as solid as his first. But he rallied in the season's second half in protecting quarterback Philip Rivers' blindside.

And while Clary did grade out fairly well in his stint as a starter, the Chargers needed to protect themselves in case he stumbled.

"L.J. is going to come in here and compete," Smith said. "We like our starters but, everyone knows how important we believe it is to have depth. L.J. will provide that."


OT L.J. Shelton
Andy Lyons/Getty

--The Chargers hoped to draft an offensive tackle high in the draft, but when that didn't materialize, they signed veteran L.J. Shelton to a two-year contact. "We took a different route to shore up the tackle position," Chargers GM A.J. Smith said. "I feel a lot better about the situation now."

Shelton can play guard or tackle. He started all 16 games at right tackle for Miami last season. Shelton's younger brother, Tim, is a basketball player at San Diego State.

--The Chargers' minicamp will be held May 2-4 at Chargers Park. This will be the first look many get of the Chargers' draft picks and the 17 undrafted free agents they signed. Three previously undrafted free agents made were in last year's opening-game lineup: TE Antonio Gates, ILB Stephen Cooper and LG Kris Dielman.

--C Nick Hardwick is still hobbling around in a boot after undergoing offseason surgery on his foot. The initial medical opinion form the team was that rest would heal an injury which cost him four games last year. But that wasn't the case and the late date of his surgery might prevent him from being ready for the opener. "Man, they really messed up with Nick," one of his teammates along the offensive line said.

As was the case when Hardwick was down last season, veteran Cory Withrow is expected to replace him.

--The Chargers, no doubt, are a dynamite team. But does any other team have two top-level executives with 1-15 records on their resume? Randy Mueller, who was hired in the wake of Buddy Nix's departure, was with the Dolphins last year when they won once. And Ed McGuire, the team's salary-cap guru who was promoted to assistant general manager, was calling the personnel shots in 2000 when the Chargers went 1-15 the first year after Bobby Beathard's retirement.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That sounds awfully permanent. I don't know what I would do if I wasn't working." -- Former Charges assistant GM Buddy Nix after the team announced he had retired in a press release.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--RB Tyronne Gross (not tendered as ERFA).
--OT L.J. Shelton: FA Dolphins; terms unknown.
--LB Derek Smith: FA 49ers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--OT Jeromey Clary: ERFA; terms unknown.
--WR Malcom Floyd: ERFA; terms unknown.
--CB Cletis Gordon: ERFA; terms unknown.
--CB Steve Gregory: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Marques Harris: RFA; tendered at $1.47M; terms unknown.
--DT Brandon McKinney: ERFA; terms unknown.
--G Scott Mruczkowski: Potential RFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Billy Volek: UFA; $9M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
--CB Drayton Florence: UFA Jaguars; $36M/6 yrs, $12M SB.
--S Marlon McCree (released).
--FB Lorenzo Neal (released).
--OT Shane Olivea (released).
--K Dave Rayner: Not tendered as RFA/Dolphins; terms unknown.
--RB Michael Turner: UFA Falcons; $34.5M/6 yrs, $15M guaranteed.

SD Super Chargers Top Stories