Offseason recap from the Coach and GM

Marty Schottenheimer and John Butler sat down to discuss the season with the media on Tuesday. After an 8-8 season a lot of questions remain and some were answered, while others remained cryptic.

Marty Schottenheimer (MS) and John Butler (JB):

MS: "The season came to a conclusion far sooner than we had anticipated. I think it's important at the outset that we understand that. This organization is never going to be satisfied without winning.

"It's a 16 game journey and we add em up at the end and obviously in the end we came up short. I think the best way for me to characterize my sentiment at this time is I am very disappointed but I am by no means discouraged because our football team came to work everyday with a purpose and that purpose was to improve. Obviously as the season unfolded we were not able to match the things that we did in the first part of the year.

"I said to my wife, ‘ya know had it been 4-4 and then 4-4 we probably wouldn't feel as disappointed as we do now.'

"If you're looking for one place to lay some blame, lay it on me because as hard as I tried over my 4 inaugural seasons as a Head Coach in this league with 4 different teams the most I have been able to win is 8."

JB: "Now you tell me," he said laughing.

MS: "Those 16 games are defined week to week and then ultimately at the end and it doesn't matter if you are the San Diego Chargers, the Miami Dolphins, the NY Jets, they only count em at the end. We obviously didn't get the things done that we wanted to get done. That's where the disappointment lies.

"When you coach, you teach. When you teach, you hope to learn. We made progress in that regard. We learned some things. Unfortunately, we also had the difficulty of lessons that often times down the road prove to be to your benefit," said Schottenheimer. "My experience has been, some of the things I have done incorrectly have ultimately been the things that I've done far better because of the discomfort that comes from doing it (not as well) as you would like to do it.

"I believe our football team gave everything they had to the organization, and while we came up short, it's merely one stone laid in part of this journey.

"You look at our ability early in the season to get a stop in the Arizona game, to get a takeaway in the New England game, to convert and score a touchdown in the New England game. You go back and you trace it and in the end of the year we failed to do that. We didn't do that. If you don't do that in this league, you're going to lose, because everybody has the ability on any given Sunday to win.

"It's great theatre but it's tough on coaches, its tough on organizations.

"We've made some progress, but our goal is always going to be to win the championship. That's the standard by which we measure it. I say that we have not learned how to win because we have not gotten to the point where have learned how to win a championship.

"We've made progress. In the second half of the season, my greatest feeling is about what's happening in the kicking game. We're much better in the kicking game. These young guys finally figured out what it is we were trying to do.

"Offensively, I think we had five games where we were over 400 yards of total offense. The disappointment is what happened defensively. We're not going to hide behind it. You can't give up over 400 yards in this league and expect to win. We have to solve that problem. That's my disappointment. Our inability after going through the first part of the year where we found a way to win, defensively we had an opportunity to get a stop and we didn't get it done. In those games, we failed to make the plays that we had to make. That's where the end result came up on the negative side of the ledger.

"You can take a number of the games that we lost…make another first down on offense. We failed to convert third down and one in Kansas City. It all comes down to your football team. Some weeks, your offense is going to perform at a high level and your defense is going to struggle. Conversely, it may go the other way the next week. Ultimately, the outcome will be determined by your whole football team.

"With the talent level here, if we play the way we are capable of playing, it's good enough to win with. I believe that. The caveat here is, you have to play to your optimum abilities and we did not always do that.

"For me to sit here and suggest coaching or the inability well enough to win, to suggest that that isn't an element in this is not the case.

"We failed on the coaching side in this regard. When things got tight for us in a number of games, we abandoned the technical and fundamental skill that is the difference between wining and losing football games and that is coaching. We had mental errors that produced the inability to make conversions on third down and third and one and third and two and that's coaching, and I am never gonna hide from that.

"Do we have everything we need to win a Championship personnel-wise? No. Only one team is ultimately gonna walk outta there and say ‘Hey our talent was good enough to win a Championship'. That's the NFL.

"Hell all we had to do is win one of four and we would have got in. We didn't do that, and that's a combination of performance by our players and performance by coaches, or the lack of."

Bend don't break:

MS: "We won early by the way. Against New England we gave up over 400 yards. By and large we did. We took advantage of the skills the players had. I always have subscribed to a philosophy that you find out what your players are capable of doing, and you do that, and that's what we did."

The players feel the same:

MS: "This is the first time I have heard that any of them disagreed with that and they all had an opportunity in the formal meeting yesterday to express their feelings and nobody expressed that to me. Not a single one of the 63 I talked to."

Players talking to Dale Lindsey about that:

MS: "I was not aware of that. If in fact they have an interest in something like that, they missed a step, they should talk to the Head Coach, that's the guy they should talk to and they had the opportunity to do that."

Will Rodney Harrison be back next year?

MS: "We have no idea at this juncture."

Will LaDainian Tomlinson be back next year?

MS: "We have no idea. We sure hope so."

You can't say Tomlinson will be back?

MS: "Anything can happen."

JB: "Everywhere I have been in the past, we have always had, and probably no one needs it more than I need it what I call a clean off period where emotions don't get into all the thoughts and reaction, we look at cap, we look at all your football team and have a chance to visit with your coaches for their evaluation at the conclusion of the season. We sat back and we wait and we give ourselves some good time until the emotions are gone and now you can just really look at your football team and say what do we need. We do need better personnel everybody does, every year you gotta improve. That's why we have the draft, that's why we have free agency where you are trying at all times to get better. Coach Schottenheimer did a hell of a job we were 5-11, now we're 8-8, we're working hard to try and get better. A couple things go right for us and we'll all be sitting there smiling better. It didn't happen. So right now when you ask about players, and coach and I have not visited, Coach spent the whole day yesterday talking with players. I had a lot of things going on yesterday. Never at the end of the season has the next day have I ever spoke with everybody, cause you have so many things, players leaving, coming and going. They are the most important element to me. I like to see a lot of those people before they leave. Several weeks from now, and we got some bowl games coming up that are very important next week and the week after. We are not putting the team off but were gonna sit back and we'll sit down as a staff and we will evaluate and talk and hopefully at that time with clear minds have a good sense of what we want to get done, what we are gonna approach. So right now when you ask about people that's not fair to say ‘Yeah, No' and that may change drastically."

Happy with all the players:

JB: "There's a lot of things that go into it when you talk about your football team Trying to do everything we could with peoples skills best fit in, well you gotta look to see what you are going to do to and if they still fit in, which way you are gonna go. Do you need help other places too? There's a whole bunch that goes into it with the free agency and the cap."

You can't give season ticket holders assurance that the best running back in team history is going to be back next year?

MS: "He's gonna be back, he is gonna be back."

So what's the deal with Harrison? Is he coming back?

MS: "I told Rodney when I visited with him (Monday) everything that is going on in regard to Rodney is speculation. That's all it is because no decision has been made."

Why cant you say with a certainty but you can about LT?

MS: "LT is how old? Those are all parameters that make up a decision. We have made no decisions at this juncture," he said. "We are less than 72 hours away from the final game of the season. We don't make decisions in that time frame, because what happens is too often emotions drive that course rather than good judgment and prudence. This organization, as long as I am here, we are not gonna make judgments of that nature until we have an opportunity, as Mr. Butler suggested, before we can sit down and evaluate that information. That's the way it will be."

Certain guys we know will be back?

MS: "And LT is certainly one of them."

And certain guys will not be back?

MS: "That's accurate as well. I need an opportunity to sit down and to look with the staff at everybody that is here. Sit-down and discuss it with John and the personnel department and then we will be able to arrive at the best decisions relative to our personnel. Hey, we have a number of areas that we need to improve. I don't want do it at this time. This is not the proper time in my mind. Until I have the benefit of the perspective of the personnel department and my coaches which I haven't had the opportunity to do, it would be premature for me to do that."

When then?

MS"I don't know, somewhere down the road, somewhere in the next 30 days, I don't know."

JB: "Here is what takes place at the end of the season when you are having your evaluations. We are in the process of going to a lot of post season all-star games and I am meeting with Nate James and Buddy Rich and Jimmy Rae I wanna know we just came back from meetings two weeks ago. A lot of times I got to be able to tell the coach if we don't have the particular individual or we can't upgrade that spot via draft or free agency then we are not helping ourselves. We have to get everything together before you really decide, are we really gonna be able to upgrade this spot or can't upgrade this spot.

"People a lot of times use the cap as an excuse. We don't use the excuse here, there is X amount of dollars which you can use and you gotta use it. That's what we're trying to do here. But you gotta have production out of those people.

"I can't tell you exactly. Going into next year I want to say we're about 2 million over from Ed McGuire who I think is just one of the best in the business at the cap. He knows how to work that just Boom, Boom, Boom. He keeps such a close view on it; that is really his baby, and of course I think you need a guy that is really sharp at that. I rely on that one individual that has our salary cap.

"You will see some teams have 25 million; I think one of those teams close to that is Arizona. Some teams, I understand Oakland is some humongous number over but they may have their own plans and ideas on ways to do it.

"Our plan as it has always been is to try and get this gentleman (Marty Schottenheimer) to my right the best football players we can worked under that cap to make this a Championship football team. See that's where I still got it made in the shade. I hear all these things, what are we gonna do, how are we gonna do this, how are we gonna do that. Every day I walk into a place where I got people who say ‘Let's go attack them', I love that. The optimism is so high we're hurt, we're hurt for a little bit but we're gonna jump right back and fight again.

"It just hurts like hell because we wanna win so bad, I know you want to win so bad our fans want to win, and yeah it hurts. For some reason after 48 hours and being with this guy and the other guy, were right back at it so we're going to attack it.

"I know at the start of the year everybody and maybe rightfully so to, said the offensive line they can't play, they can't do this, they can't do that. Those kids they played their hearts out, did a hell of a job. Every year it changes, it changes during the course of a year like sometimes the buildings go downhill injuries happen. There is gonna be times to when you have to match up players to a scheme. Again when we sit down and really look, and I want to hear from the coaches, and the coaching staff just where we need help it makes it a lot clearer.

"Again, not having the chance yesterday and throughout the year, I am so busy and I don't try and bother coach, he is so busy and yesterday we were both at different ends of the spectrum for what we had to get done. We haven't sat there and like the coach said, maybe a couple weeks or a month. I do form opinions but I want to make sure my opinions are backed up with real facts."

MS: "I understand the interest of trying to have this information and trying to make it available to our fans; they're entitled to know it, but this is not the appropriate time because right now we want to be accurate.

"There's no reason for us to sit here and speculate that, well, we need to do this, we need to do that. At this point what we have to do is make sure we get the right information. And that can only be done, in my opinion, on the basis of the dialogue that takes place between coaches and the personnel people and John Butler and I.

"I could sit here and play buddy and tell you well we need tight ends we need defensive backs, we need defensive linemen, but I am to going to do that. Right now we need an opportunity to evaluate this outside of the framework, or the emotion of a season just concluded."

Why the wait on talking about personnel?

MS: "When you star talking about player and personnel moves, you're making a big mistake if you do it until you have had an opportunity to analyze it thoroughly. The information you get from me post game is totally different, has nothing to do, we are gonna make this change or we are going to make that change.

"We had a number of breakdowns. We failed to get first downs when we could have; we failed to stop people when we could've the latter part of the season. The bottom line is at this juncture, we need to sit down and talk about it before we make any judgments. There is no rush to judgments for us in this regard."

Playoff teams have in common:

MS: "One of the things they do and this is not a subtle innuendo here, by and large, they stayed healthy. That has become a very, very significant part of success in the NFL. There is one team that is an exception to that that's in there right now, but by and large that's one of the things."

Loss of Jamal Williams:

MS: "I hear everybody speculate about the secondary this and the secondary that. Pass defense is not just coverage and its not just rush. It is the ability to get the coordination between the two, where you can be effective. We have not been effective with the pass defense. The numbers don't lie, we're 32nd in the league, you can't get any lower than that, but that doesn't mean that its secondary related, it could be (defensive) front related. There's any number of things and before we make a judgment as to what we're going to do personnel-wise, we are going to evaluate it to make sure that we do it right.

"When you take any player, who is the kind of performer that Jamal Williams is out of any defensive football team, it's gonna have a negative impact on what you do regardless of who you put in there. The explosive aspect of it, the guy is arguably one of our best defensive players. So a guy like that, that is not available to you, it hurts.

"Now you have never heard me talk about injuries throughout this whole season and there has been a reason, but hey, let's deal in the reality of it. We lost our top receiver and two offensive tackles in the course of a four week period of time. That hurts, but you know what, you don't talk about that during the season because if you do you are alibi-ing. But the reality of it is we had injuries. Other teams had injuries, but final analysis is this, we started 6-1 and probably weren't a 6-1 team. We finished 2-7; we are not a 2-7 team either. What we gotta do, is wee gotta find out why that team…I am not worried about the team that was 6-1, I am worried about the team that was 2-7 cause that is where we had the issues that we have to address."

On confidence:

MS: "I had no reason to doubt their confidence when it was 6-1, but success is an absolute, confidence is like a vapor and it can turn. Our inability defensively to stop people the last three games is a problem for us.

"That is our No. 1 predicate for everything we do is to find out what our players do best, and to do that. We actually played a considerable amount of man-to-man over the latter part of the year and the results, unfortunately, were not as good as they were earlier in the year."

On Marcellus Wiley:

JB: "There's somebody else we didn't mention who played with a lot of heart and a lot of toughness this year under a lot of adverse situations physically, he just wasn't the same guy. And that happens unfortunately and nobody feels worse about it than he did I could tell in his eyes I have been with him for so long. Next year I expect the greatness to come right back out. Those things happen during the course of the year. You gotta fight through it.

"I think a lot of guys played their hearts out and did things at some point. This team today, some of the decisions that have to be made are very, very tough. That's what this game is today, it is a salary cap type of game and that's why before you make decisions and talk about stuff today, you sit down and take all of this into consideration on what took place during the course of the year."

On letting Wiley go being tough for Butler:

JB: "The emotions are so tough and you fall in love with a lot of players and one day I had to do the same thing with Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith all in one day. Unfortunately you have to do that at times and that's what you have been put into this situation that those things may have happened but again, I refuse, I wont ever speculate until I have everything in front of me and I hear what's gotta take place and then from there we will do accordingly what we have to do for the best of this football team."

On Drew Brees:

MS: "The biggest benefit to him was the opportunity to go play every down with the exception of those where we had in Buffalo. He has made, I think, considerable progress in the area of being able to react under the true pressure that is part of playing the game in the NFL. A she said to me yesterday, ‘You know there are a couple of throws I wish I had made and if I had made em; we would have been in position to covert'. He completed a little over 60% of his passes and as he becomes more and more comfortable being in the pocket when the bullets are live, I expect to see that number go up two or three percentage points."

The Biggest Struggle for Brees:

"Nothing really jumps out at me that he really struggled with."

Flutie back?

JB: "Those are things I have to sit… I didn't have a chance to discuss with the coach. I don't know those things and again I hadn't allowed myself to do that. I think people must think we talk all the time on personnel during the season. There may be times coach needs somebody, but for your whole team, they have had so much to do and we're looking at personnel and you don't do that to mess up the team and at the end is when you really do that. So for me to something, right now I don't know how we look at it. I will get a chance to express my opinion as will everybody else and come to a conclusion. We will know before long…"

On Field goals:

JB: "Last year especially was very, very tough. It was a very difficult situation and we didn't get it done and we need to get it done in the kicking part of it and I can let the coach address that, how he felt about it, and towards the end I thought Steve (Christie) kept us in some games and did some things.

"I keep going back to it and nobody ever wants to admit to it but as I stated then I will state again today, John Carney had his chance to be here with the San Diego Chargers and it didn't work out and he went somewhere else and we wish him nothing but the best. That's something we will sure take a look at to."

MS: "One thing in regards to personnel and I am echoing what John said a few moments ago, whether you agree with the decision in personnel or you disagree with the decision in personnel, every decision we make in personnel there is one final question that we ask. This player, his presence here, will he in fact give us a better chance of winning a Championship? And if the answer is yes, then we keep him. If the answer is no, we don't keep him. And the final analysis, the difficult one, is where you are unsure, and that uncertainty is all a part of this process that has to take place between now and over the course of the next 30 days or so."

JB: "It comes Sunday, when it really counts, Coach better have the player he wants and desires in there. Not what John wants or John feels best…Coach has gotta have the people he feels best with. He coaches them on Sunday, not John Butler.

"I have never with Coach Schottenheimer or any coach I have ever been with; ever had, ‘I want the final say'. It doesn't work that way if you are good together I don't think. I just wanna make sure that the Coach has every information in hand, how I feel about it and you'd be surprised how well it does work out. Whatever it takes to be winners is what I wanna do."

MS: "I don't think the uncertainty exists once you have dialogue about it. The uncertainty exists right now where you don't have the information. You don't have the information that you are comfortable with in making the choice. He and I have never disagreed; there was always speculation between Carl Peterson and I disagreeing. Carl Peterson and I worked together for ten years and only two we had that we ever disagreed. In both those times he had the authority to make the choice and he made the right choice. The choice I would have made would have been the wrong choice. We will have a consensus. It will come to a point through dialogue of discussion and research. We'll have a consensus."

JB: "This is what Pro football is all about. When you are fortunate to be around real good people and you know it inside and out, this is what it is. It's not some big secret. It's not some dark voodoo that people want. It's a wonderful great game that we are privileged to be a part of."

On potential surgeries:

MS: "Justin Peelle is gonna have a procedure done. He had trouble with that ankle so he wants to make sure he does not have to go through that again.

"(Toniu) Fonoti, I don't know that that is going to be surgery. Have they made that decision John?"

JB: "I have no idea; I just learned that he has a quad tear."

MS: "They have to explore it and find out whether it will require surgery."

Toniu Fonoti's weight:

MS: "I think he is better served carrying it at his age then it would be if he was considerably older. He has managed his weight throughout the course of the season quite well I think. He was overweight a couple times, but I thought he managed it reasonably well."

On restructuring contracts:

JB: "I have asked players in the past, again we are going to have to sit down and see what our make up is and where we do sit on the cap. I am not even quite sure how much is the cap gonna be this year. Now there has been a new team added to the agreement, we had one figure it was gonna be about 3 million dollars more from last year onto this cap so when we get that final cap number we'll know. Plus we will know exactly too if we start to do the makeup of our football team just what type of monies we will have to work with. I haven't even sat down to see which person we may be talking about.

"Sometimes it even helps the player stay around and have some more time in the NFL. So they are not run out in certain situations. It all depends; each one is a different case."

MS: "We are not anywhere near satisfied with the results of the season."

On if you could play the season again:

MS: "That isn't going to happen; I don't know how to respond to that. There is always gonna be change. You'd like to think that you are gonna be able to add players that will upgrade you and make you better. Everyone in the league strives to do that."

The rebuilding going as expected:

JB: "My mindset is always one of I want to be 16-0 every year. In real life we know that can't be done. People point out 13-19, (the Chargers record over the last two years) somehow find a way to win four more games and all of a sudden we're 17-15. That didn't happen. The only thing I can say from 1-15 to the point they are right now, I have seen guys in the last two years that I admire tremendously. They put their hearts out, a lot of things haven't happened well for them. They fought like hell, I am so proud of them. I'd take them all with me if I could. You can't do that all the time but that 13-19 is what it is. We are gonna work…nobody is gonna work as hard as us in this league that's one thing. As long as I can still draw breath we are gonna work this, and we are gonna get to a point where we need to be. That I can guarantee you."

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