Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Schottenheimer takes charge of Chargers

Receives $10 M, four-year deal from San Diego

The Associated Press

        SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Chargers hired former division rival Marty Schottenheimer as coach Tuesday, hoping he can end their six-year playoff drought.

        Schottenheimer becomes the fourth head coach in six seasons for the Chargers, who have won just six games the last two seasons. They are 23-57 since Bobby Ross, the only coach to get them to the Super Bowl, was forced out after the 1996 season.

        “We have young talent here complemented with experienced veterans like Junior Seau,” Schottenheimer said. “This is a young football team and a football team that I'm confident we can turn in the right direction very quickly.”

        Schottenheimer, 58, will make about $10 million the next four seasons, some of which will be paid by the Washington Redskins, who fired him Jan.13 after one season. He replaces Mike Riley, who was fired Dec.31 after San Diego lost nine straight games to finish 5-11.

        Schottenheimer is 153-93-1 in 16 NFL seasons, including 104-65-1 from 1989-98 with the Kansas City Chiefs. His Chiefs and Cleveland Browns teams reached the playoffs 11 times, although his postseason record is 5-11.

        The Chargers have made the playoffs just three times in the 18 seasons they've been owned by Alex Spanos, all under Ross.

        The Chargers' last playoff game was a 35-20 home wild-card loss to Indianapolis on Dec. 31, 1995, 11 months after they were embarrassed 49-26 by San Francisco in the Super Bowl.

        Since then, every NFL team except Cincinnati and the expansion Cleveland Browns have made the playoffs at least once. Cincinnati hasn't made the playoffs since 1990.

        Schottenheimer reportedly will be paid about $4.5 million over the first three years of the deal by the Chargers, with the Redskins paying about $3 million to make up the difference of the $7.5 million he was owed when he was fired. The Chargers will pay him $2.5 million in the fourth year.

        Schottenheimer was 8-8 with Washington, which fired him because he refused to surrender his authority over player personnel moves. That opened the way for Steve Spurrier to be hired.

        With Schottenheimer being hired, Chargers offensive coordinator Norv Turner opted out of the remaining three years of his contract to pursue the Miami Dolphins' offensive coordinator job.

        Turner, a former Redskins head coach, was the only member of Riley's staff to keep his job and was one of three candidates interviewed for the head coaching job.

        During Schottenheimer's decade in Kansas City, the Chiefs-Chargers rivalry was a wild one. The teams delighted in pounding one another, and animosity and frustration brewed easily, with eight of 10 games from 1990-95 being decided by six points or fewer.

        In 1993, toward the end of a 28-24 Chiefs win over the Chargers in Kansas City, Schottenheimer ended up jawing with San Diego tackle Stan Brock during a scrum near the sideline.

        “Those Kansas City teams we played were beasts,” Chargers running back Terrell Fletcher said. “He always had good teams out there.”

        From 1992-95, the Chargers and Chiefs took turns winning the division title.

        Although the Chiefs reached the AFC championship game once in Schottenheimer's tenure, his teams were notorious for collapsing in the postseason. His Browns reached the AFC title game twice, losing both to John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

        The Chargers thrived under Ross, but have slumped since he lost a power struggle with then-general manager Bobby Beathard.

        Kevin Gilbride went 6-16 before being fired six games into the 1998 season. Interim coach June Jones bolted for Hawaii at the end of 1998, choosing what was then the worst Division I-A program over Ryan Leaf and the Chargers.

        Riley was hired from Oregon State in January 1999 without ever having held an NFL job. He showed promise with an 8-8 rookie season, but the Chargers were 1-15 in 2000, the worst season in franchise history. The Chargers had losing streaks of six, 11 and nine games during Riley's tenure.


        Tight end Jeff Thomason was made eligible for the Feb.18 expansion draft that will stock the Houston Texans. Cornerbacks Darrel Crutchfield and William Hampton, linebacker Ryan Schau and wide receiver Gari Scott also were exposed.


        Troy Edwards, once considered Pittsburgh's star receiver of the future, was one of five players left unprotected for the expansion draft.

        Also on the Steelers' list were fullback Jon Witman, long snapper Mike Schneck, offensive lineman Roger Duffy and wide receiver Will Blackwell.

        Edwards, a former Biletnikoff Award winner at Louisiana Tech, was a first-round draft pick in 1999 and caught 61 passes as a rookie. But he lost his starting job a year later as Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward emerged as 1,000-yard receivers.

        Edwards spent this season as a third-down receiver and a special teams player. His 81-yard kickoff return keyed a 34-24 victory at Tennessee and he had a 12-yard touchdown run against Minnesota.

        • Jay Hayes was fired as special teams coach after the team allowed four special teams touchdowns in its last four games. Hayes is the only assistant let go from the team although coach Bill Cowher gave offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements permission to talk to other teams.

        Mularkey, voted the NFL assistant coach of the year by the Pro Football Writers, will interview for the Tampa Bay coaching vacancy. Clements will interview for offensive coordinators' jobs with Buffalo and Jacksonville.

        Cowher also said defensive coordinator Tim Lewis and defensive backs coach Willy Robinson have agreed to new contracts.


        John Pease was promoted from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator. He takes over for Gary Moeller, who left after one tumultuous year during which players openly questioned his plans.

        • Norv Turner has opted out of the three remaining years on his four-year contract with San Diego and said he already has talked to his friend Dave Wannstedt about becoming Miami's offensive coordinator.

        “We're going to get together and work the thing out,” Turner said. “We'll just see what happens.”

        The Dolphins are looking to replace Chan Gailey, who was hired as Georgia Tech's coach.


        The team hired former Florida defensive coordinator Jon Hoke as defensive backs coach. Florida ranked ninth in NCAA Division I in total defense, fifth in scoring defense, 12th in rushing defense and 13th in passing defense this past season.


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