In the midst of the negativity surrounding the Chargers now that Ron Rivera is their former defensive coordinator and the new Carolina Panthers’ head coach, there have still been some positive vibes emerge from the team over the past few days.
The fact that Head Coach Norv Turner axed special teams coach Steve Crosby immediately following the season to save his own image has already been discussed, but the possible replacement had not yet been determined. Until now that is as the Bolts have selected Rich Bisaccia, special teams coach from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to take over the same position for the Chargers.
This isn’t a flashy hire by any means, but it’s difficult to get the public too terribly excited about special teams. Still Bisaccia boasts quite the resume as a special teams guru with the Bucs as he has been there since the 2002 trip to the Super Bowl. He was the only member of Jon Gruden’s coaching staff to survive Gruden’s dismissal in 2009 and had a Bucs special teams unit ranked in the top ten in every statistical category of note this past year.
Both Turner and Bisaccia offered great comments about their newfound partnership in San Diego with Turner saying: “Rich’s special teams have had success in this league. He’s been with Tampa Bay for nine years, and their teams have been consistently good to excellent. He helped them win a Super Bowl. Rich is a high-energy guy that I know will bring out the best in our players.” That energy will definitely be an added perk for the locker room which appeared to lack inspiration at times during the 2010 season.
Of the chance to come to the Bolts, Bisaccia said: “This is a tremendous opportunity for me to be part of a winning organization and work with Norv Turner. There’s a real opportunity here to win it all. I’ve worked with Jon Gruden, and now I have the opportunity to work with Norv. These are two of the best coaching minds in football. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Although some would argue a change in special teams coaches was not necessary, Turner used Crosby as his scapegoat after the season and now Bisaccia is the man in charge. This could be a blessing in disguise if the locker room embraces this new personality as he seems to have a definite energy about him and could really give this club the shot in the arm that they have been missing over the last few seasons.
As for the aforementioned defensive loss with Rivera heading to Carolina, the Bolts have a laundry list of potential candidates to fill that new void. One of the more intriguing names mentioned is former Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt who spent 16 years in the league prior to signing on with Pitt in 2005.
Wanny and Norv Turner were the offensive and defensive coordinators respectively of the Dallas Cowboys dynasty beginning in 1992. This reunion makes a lot of sense for several reasons, but bringing back the glory days is certainly near the top of the list. Neither of these men have been all that successful as head coaches in the league, but no one can question their X’s and O’s knowledge of the game. Wannstedt could be the ideal fit to continue the upward trend for this Bolts defense heading into next season.
Another name on the tips of tongues has been Greg Manusky who should be familiar to Bolts’ fans as he was a special teams player in San Diego during his playing career and coached linebackers under Wade Phillips from 2002 to 2006. Manusky was most recently the defensive coordinator in San Francisco with a 49ers team that ran a 3-4 system quite well, but their new head coach Jim Harbaugh is cleaning house with the current coaching staff. Don’t be surprised if he is a serious candidate to land the gig with the Bolts in the end.
There’s no denying that coaching plays a big role in determining the outcomes of games, but personnel doesn’t hurt either and the Chargers will have a better chance to upgrade in that area this spring as well. Last offseason’s trade of cornerback Antonio Cromartie to the New York Jets featured a conditional third round draft pick that could elevate to a second if he met certain requirements.
With the Jets advancing in the postseason last weekend, San Diego’s pick is officially a second rounder now giving the team two second round picks as well as two third rounders. The additional third round choice is courtesy of the Charlie Whitehurst deal last year to the Seattle Seahawks. This will give the Bolts five picks in the top 100 players of the upcoming draft and a great deal of added flexibility to maneuver as necessary via trades when the time comes. General Manager A.J. Smith has plenty of need areas to address in the NFL Draft and hopefully these deals from last year aid him in fulfilling those tasks.
Now it’s your turn. How would you assess the newest addition to the Bolts’ coaching staff in Rich Bisaccia? Now that the team has lost Ron Rivera to the Panthers, who is the best fit to assume his role as defensive coordinator for the Bolts? Will this Chargers’ defense take a noticeable step backwards in 2011 as a result of Rivera moving on to greener pastures or will they continue to succeed? Who do you feel is the best possible candidate to fill-in for Rivera as the leader of the Chargers defense? With five picks in the first 100 of the 2011 NFL Draft, what areas of need do you expect the team to focus on? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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