On the Clock: San Diego Chargers
By Jeremy Green
Over the next month, "SportsCenter" will put every NFL team "On The Clock." Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.
The Chargers are the most talented team in the business. There is a reason this team had the best record in the NFL in 2006 (14-2). San Diego is loaded on both sides of the ball. Nevertheless, the state of the team is clearly a big question. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer was well respected by players and treated very poorly by the Spanos ownership group and general manager A.J. Smith. The manner in which they dealt with Schottenheimer clearly will not sit well with the players. Also no longer with the team are offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (now the head coach in Miami) and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips (now the head coach in Dallas). The Chargers must overcome the way the front office handled the coaching situation.
The biggest addition is head coach Norv Turner, who has his third head coaching job. While he is generally regarded as a solid offensive coordinator, Turner's teams in Oakland and Washington underachieved with him as head coach. From a personnel standpoint, Smith has been outstanding. The Chargers have not added a free agent this offseason and don't need to. Smith has done an excellent job adding players through the draft. More importantly, he has done an excellent job extending contracts of players he drafted and keeping them off the market. The biggest offseason addition was getting guard Kris Dielman back after he went out to test the market. They also did a good job getting OLB Shaun Phillips, center Nick Hardwick, right offensive tackleShane Olivea, ILB Matt Wilhelm and ILB Stephen Cooper signed before they were allowed to hit the market.
The biggest loss is clearly Schottenheimer. Say what you want about his 5-13 postseason record, this is a guy who has won 205 games in the NFL and knows how to coach. From a personnel standpoint, the team lost ILB Donnie Edwards. Smith has never been a fan of Edwards, but Edwards played at a Pro Bowl level last season and kept the defense together when Shawne Merriman was serving a four-game suspension and Shaun Phillips was hurt. The team also released starting SS Terrence Kiel. He had off-the-field issues this past season and was released to send a message that the team wants to clean up the locker room. Veteran WR Keenan McCardell was waived and ILB Randall Godfrey is an unrestricted free agent who was not brought back. Both players are clearly on the downside of their careers.
The biggest questions this team faces are: How will it react to Schottenheimer's firing and will the players buy into Turner's program? It is almost unfathomable that a team that went 14-2 could have a new coach, but that is the situation San Diego finds itself in. From a personnel standpoint, this team is as talented as any in the NFL. It has all the pieces in place for another Super Bowl run except for a No.1 WR. The biggest thing this team needs is a playmaker to take the pressure off TE Antonio Gates and RB LaDainian Tomlinson. If the Chargers can find a No.1 WR, they are as good as anyone on paper.
Mock draft: Chargers
The Pick (No. 30 overall):
WR Robert Meachem, Tenn.
Todd McShay: The Chargers would be thrilled if the speedy Meachem fell to them at No. 30 overall. If Meachem is off the board, South Carolina WR Sidney Rice would be a possibility