Was Firing Cottrell a Desperate Act?

Desperate teams do desperate things, so color the Chargers desperate. Shocked about reaching the bye week at 3-5, the Chargers booted defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. Many considered Cottrell's job safe, as he was hired by general manager A.J. Smith. But Cottrell got the boot, his old job going to linebackers coach Ron Rivera.

If only it was as simple as that.

The Chargers fired Cottrell because the defense was bad overall and the pass defense stunk.

So Cottrell and his read-and-react defense was deemed expendable.

That's fine and it's tough to argue the logic of trying something fresh. And it's easier canning one guy instead of the defense's starting 11.

But Rivera, as talented as he may be, can't rush the quarterback, can't wrap up on ball carriers, and can't be the one not to make a stupid penalty.

Cottrell was an easy target and that's not to say the barbs were without merit. But when mixing the tar and feathers, don't overlook:


SS Clinton Hart
Donald Miralle/Getty

--A defense without Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman, among the most disruptive players in the league.

--A safety tandem of Eric Weddle (first year as a starter) and Clinton Hart that is consistently out of position or whiffing on tackles.

--Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jamal Williams is showing his age. While still dominant on occasion, he can't give the steady push inside that he once did.

--Antonio Cromartie stopping by San Diego on his way to Canton, Ohio. Cromartie led the league with 10 interceptions last year then told everyone he was going to rewrite the NFL record book with 15. In trying to do it, he is jumping routes and going for the big play instead of supplying consistent coverage.

--Defensive ends Luis Castillo and Igor Olshansky disappearing for long stretches of games.

--The inside linebackers, while better of late, have struggled against the run. The outside linebackers are nowhere near the production level once hoped before -- prior to Merriman getting hurt.

So while the defense will get a charge out of Rivera running the show and the Chargers bashers will turn their attention elsewhere, this is not going to be an easy fix.

The Chargers, though, have eight games to prove otherwise.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell was in no mood to explain him being the scapegoat for the unit hours after he was canned. "I don't feel like talking right now," Cottrell said. "Maybe later on. Give me a call later on, but I just don't feel like talking right now."


LB Coach John Pagano
Getty

--John Pagano will work with the inside and outside linebackers with Ron Rivera, the former inside linebackers coach, being elevated. But Rivera is expected to have his nose in all three areas of defense, which is ranked 28th overall and 32nd against the pass.

"There will be some things that I will help in terms of the linebackers as I will the other positions," Rivera said. "Coach (Turner) would like to have me move around from one spot to the other and just kind of see how things are being done."

--Coach Norv Turner said the defensive shortcomings can't all be laid at Cottrell's feet.

"As I said, it's never one guy and it's everyone doing their job," he said. "Ultimately, somewhere along the way I have to make the decision of how are we going to get to where we need to get to. That decision was made in terms of the coaching but we have a lot of issues that we need to handle to get to where we want to go."

--The team will practice just once during the bye week. The players are still talking about getting their body clocks back in order after spending 11 days on the road in two different countries.

--New defensive coordinator Ron Rivera didn't sound as if he was going to make lineup changes. That said, he did admit he is going to evaluate every player on his unit.

--Four of the Chargers' next five games are at home, starting with the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 9. In fact, the Chargers play the Chiefs twice in the second half.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Times Norv Turner has fired his defensive coordinator during a season. He also canned Ron Lynn while with the Redskins in 1996.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I hate to get into hypotheticals. The trend was there and that's what concerned me." -- Coach Norv Turner, when asked if watching the Saints' Drew Brees carve up the Chargers for 339 yards and three touchdowns was the last straw for the Ted Cottrell defense.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

While the team is two games under .500, which is not acceptable to an organization hoping to go to the Super Bowl, there isn't expected to be any changes to the starting lineup on either side of the ball.

PLAYER NOTES

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson will rest his toe this week. Tomlinson is coming off one of his best games of the season when collecting 160 total yards against the Saints.

--CB Antonio Cromartie has been struggling of late and some think his hip isn't right. He won't work this week.

--CB Quentin Jammer might sit Thursday; he left Sunday's game with severe cramps in his hamstring.

--ILB Stephen Cooper is nursing a sore knee and won't work this week.

--DE Igor Olshansky had zero tackles in the loss to the Saints. Olshansky, a former second-round pick, is a free agent at the end of the season and not expected back.

--TE Antonio Gates is as healthy as he has been the whole season and his hip and toe should only get better over the bye. The team needs a fit Gates for the stretch run.

INJURY IMPACT: The Chargers have no serious injuries and everyone is expected to play Nov. 9 against the Chiefs.


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