I for one have no problem finding a victor in this battle. While the next few seasons will definitely solidify who remains in the head office position for the franchise, I find Marty Schottenheimer in a very deep hole if he plans on catching up with the great decision making of A.J. Smith. How can I be damning my beloved Charger's head coach you ask? Allow me to elaborate.
While Marty has a notable .614 win percentage and has taken his teams to the playoffs an impressive 12 out of 20 years as head coach, he has a combined five wins and 12 losses as a head coach in the playoffs. His teams have gone one-and-out eight times, many times being favored going into the game. Only once has he got past the second round of the playoffs, in 1993, with the KC Chiefs.
With all due respect to his very impressive regular season career, Marty is a proven loser when it really matters. Marty's struggles were most poignantly reflected for Charger fans by the horrendous play calling in the fourth quarter of the 2004 1st round game against the Jets; Relying on a rookie kicker, from 40+ yards out, in the rain, by making no attempt to legitimately attain a 1st down, leaving the door open for the Jets and eventually shutting the door on yet another teams Super Bowl dreams. Running draw plays with the game on the line because Marty cannot coach with the same nerve he has during the regular season.
The Chargers had the talent, and Marty had the coaching ability, but he always cracks under the pressure of the playoffs. His conservatism made way for another missed opportunity, and yet another early off-season.
Then in 2005, after the season was out of hand, Marty surprisingly decided that Drew Brees would play in the final game of the season. Many months later it was reported that Marty had a huge bonus coming to him if the Chargers were to get ten wins. Assuming this was his reason for starting Brees, the “team-first” coach sure made a very selfish decision on that day. His decision, which ended in disaster, is most likely the reason A.J. Smith and company decided that Brees could not be signed to the kind of contract he was requesting.
A.J. Smith, on the other hand, was promoted to G.M. in 2003 and has made some of the most impressive and gutsiest draft day decisions in the history of the NFL.
I think most people would say that Shawne Merriman is worth at least as much to a franchise as Eli Manning. Well guess what, for the price of Eli Manning we got not only Merriman but also two draft picks which attained two up and comers in Philip Rivers and Nate Kaeding. Barring Eli going down as the best QB in NFL history, the Giants were routed in this deal. For all we know Rivers could have an even better career, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The only pick I’ve been genuinely disappointed with was Sammy Davis, but hopefully the trade for Rashaun Woods will be a real gem. The Chargers now sit with one of the most stacked teams talent wise, and better yet have about twenty million in cap room to do with as they please. The future remains bright for S.D., as long as A.J. is around to guide it.
Two days from now A.J. will go back for another round of what he does best, Draft day 06’, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Hopefully Marty will grow out of his playoff choke mode, but if he doesn’t, the Chargers are too good and overly due for a Super Bowl. I’ll be the first to ask for Marty’s resignation if this year doesn’t show we’re headed in the right direction, and I hope A.J. Smith is there to collect it if he does.
Ironically, both of their futures in the NFL will rely heavily on the teams’ performance this year. Regardless of who’s to blame, they need to work together, or they may both get canned.