First Look: The San Diego Chargers

As the season turns to late December and the playoffs, coach Marty Schottenheimer's playoff woes leap to the forefront of the conversation. While Schottenheimer has left little doubt he's among the all-time great coaches in the regular season, his 5-12 postseason mark is an eye-opener.

"It is what it is," Schottenheimer said, matter-of-factly.

Here's another fact: If Schottenheimer doesn't get the Chargers deep in the playoffs, he could be gone. Never mind he has helped flipped a woeful franchise with three straight winning seasons and two AFC West title in two of the past three years.

General manager A. J. Smith seldom speaks with Schottenheimer and their relationship is frigid even on the warmest of San Diego days. But the powerful Chargers, who defeated the Chiefs 20-9 on Sunday, might be the team to take Schottenheimer where he has never been as a coach: the Super Bowl.

"I've thought about it and I think it will be more special for us to be able to be the team that finally brings him that championship," said MVP candidate LaDainian Tomlinson. "It'll be very special and I think it will be a moment that he has been waiting for a long time. But he would be so deserving of the moment."

Schottenheimer is making his 13th run in the playoffs and his second with the Chargers. The 2004 Chargers had a first-round bye then stumbled at home to the New York Jets in overtime. Three times Schottenheimer has advanced to the AFC Championship Game, twice in Cleveland and once in Kansas City. Each time, Schottenheimer's teams fell short.

"It is somewhat surprising," said Tomlinson of Schottenheimer being snake bit in the playoffs. "For whatever reason it just hasn't happened for him.

"He's had some tough breaks. He's been very, very close, probably as close as a man can come. You're talking about a yard. Hopefully, it's not a yard this time that denies him."

Quarterback Philip Rivers, who has flourished as a first-year starter under Schottenheimer, said a championship run is never far from his coach's thoughts. "Maybe not in a direct way of speaking of a championship, but in a way of saying this is one of the best teams he has ever been around," Rivers said. "He's expressed many times how he feels about this team and what we can accomplish."

But before getting there, the Chargers have some work to do. They finish their road season in Seattle on Sunday, and then welcome the Cardinals in the regular-season finale. "And obviously for us players it means something for a guy who has had as many teams and as many wins and as many runs as he had. We know we got something special going. We understand the excitement of the town and the city and that is what everyone wants to talk about, the Super Bowl all that stuff. But we can't get caught up in that stuff.

"We have to understand we have an opportunity, a fine team and a group that can accomplish a lot. But as far as I can see what we have is a unique focus. It's easy to say to take it one game at a time, but it's hard to do. If we continue to do that, that will give us a shot."

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Az-Zahir Hakim was signed as a free agent. He was inactive his first game with the Chargers.

--Versatile RB Michael Turner (hamstring) was back after missing two games and contributed by rushing 25 yards for a first down on a fake punt.

--WR Malcom Floyd (ankle) was put on IR.

--WR/PR Eric Parker is being bothered by a sore neck, which forced him from Sunday's game.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson received a blow to the jaw but it wasn't considered serious.


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