It's The Coaches, Stupid?

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In the beginning of 2007, most Charger fans were screaming for Marty Schottenheimer's head after the debacle against the New England Patriots. Fans had enough of "Martyball" and wanted a change of guard. Sure, Marty was somewhat an inspirational coach, with his "One play at a time" mantra. But that can only take a team so far. So, we saw that the team was capable of execution, but poor coaching decisions in the playoffs showed Schottenheimer the exit. But like many will argue, exactly how much responsibility should fall on the coaching staff?

Enter Norv Turner. Last season, the team sputtered at the start, no doubt the regime change contributed to this. And if one made a case to argue that coaching was to blame, they would be hard pressed to find someone to counter them. But they eventually found their stride with good offensive plays called which lead to a respectable playoff run. The defense, anchored by Shawne Merriman, was stalwart through most of the season. Forced turnovers were aplenty, interceptions were bountiful and sacks were volumenous. And the offense (when everyone was healthy) was banging on all twelve (eleven?) cylinders.

But something about this season is appallingly different. The most glaring being the absense of Merriman. The D has lost it swagger, its tenacity. To me, some players are going through the motions. It looks like new defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is trying to right the ship, and he did to some degree by keeping the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the endzone and calling some plays to put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. But every single team we've played this year has thrown for over 200 yards, with many over 250 and 300. Completely unacceptable and thus prompting the departure of Ted Cottrell. But now that Cottrell is gone, the last 2 games showed more of the same pass defense. So, while a coaching change might have been necessary, what about the players? When are some of these guys going to be held accountable? If Chargers GM AJ Smith says the players are "On Notice", then its time to act and call these players out. And they know who they are.

Offensively, execution is the sticking point. I think Turner is calling the right plays, though I would like to see him mix it up a bit more. We are at times too predictable and when a defense knows exactly what you're going to do, its nearly impossible to execute a play to the best of your abilities. To Phillip Rivers: Like it or not, you are the leader of this offense. So when you have a bad day, the O has a bad day. LT has become relegated to a support role. And while teams still respect him, its apparent he's not the #1 priority anymore as simply containment is the key to defending him. Bottom line is you can't turn the ball over deep into an opponent's territory, or anywhere on the field for that matter. So until Rivers can manage the game like he has in seasons past, the offense will continue to struggle.

All of the players need to ask themselves "Am I doing everything I can on each and every play to help this team win?". I'm tired of seeing such a talented team underachieve.

November 19, 2008

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Rob Zepeda said... Nov 19, 2008, 12:03:00 PM

The thing that bothers me is that Norv Turner seems to too easily excuse Philip Rivers when he makes a costly mistake. Maybe its Turner’s background as a Quarterback, but the guy always seems to have an excuse for each and every interception that Rivers makes. Offensive turnovers should be inexcusable, especially when your defense can’t create any for themselves.

Mike said... Nov 19, 2008, 2:04:00 PM

I second both of your opinions. The AFC West is pathetic and there was still a good chance of winning the divison. But, after the lose at Pittsburgh this is really getting heart breaking. And the icing on the cake is LT is thinking about pulling a Barry Sanders on us. But I really hope that's just him venting his frustration. But you got it right "I'm tired of seeing such a talented team underachieve."

Pete said... Nov 20, 2008, 9:29:00 AM

I agree that AJ Smith should call out players that are on notice. We are in position to extend certain players but if we make the wrong decision either to resign them or let them go, we could be shooting ourselves in the foot.

Obviously letting Drayton Florence leave via free agency was a no-brainer but what if we franchised Michael Turner instead of letting him walk? Where would our team be right now?

Anonymous said... Nov 21, 2008, 5:04:00 PM

Pete, even with Michael Turner the team would be where it is today. One man is not making this a playoff calibre team. The defense is the problem. Not the coaches, not the play calling, not the "lack of commitment" from LT. It's the 27th ranked defense. Guess who else has a defense ranked that low: Rams (2-8), Lions (0-10), Chiefs (1-9), Browns (4-6). Is it coincidence that the top 10 teams have the top 10 defenses? No. SD's defense is a joke.

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