As a Chargers fan, I can’t bring myself to celebrate the departure of Ted Cottrell. Sure, he was the architect of an underachieving defense who made Art Shell seem animated on the sidelines. Sure, he had no idea how to use the incredibly talented personnel given him by GM A.J. Smith. And sure, it’s not his fault Shawne Merriman is out for the season even though the D pulled this exact same shit last year. In reality, Cottrell is just a patsy for the Chargers’ botched 2008 season.
In no way will I use this firing to defend Norv Turner or even A.J. Smith, who just wanted to hire a coach he could boss around while spanking himself with a riding crop. I may have made that last part up. The fact is, this is the most talented team in the NFL, with the league’s best player, LaDainian Tomlinson, and they are 3-5. Firing Ted Cottrell doesn’t suddenly make the players play harder or better, and it doesn’t make Norv Turner a better coach. Usually when this kind of move is made, it means the head coach is trying to save his own job. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this were the case with “Mediocre” Norv Turner, though it would be the first game of chess in which he’s succeeded at this level.
Speaking of Norv, this mess isn’t all the defense’s fault. His offense, yes HIS offense, doesn’t hold on to the ball. The Chargers typically lose the time of possession battle by about four to five minutes per game. They were within a minute in the New Orleans game, but Buffalo held the ball for ten minutes more than the Chargers the week before. Even in the win over New England, the Chargers lost the TOP battle by about three minutes. The Dolphins the week before held the ball for 13 minutes more than San Diego. The defense can’t win if they’re on the field all the time, and they just happen to be leading the league in that category too.
The real winner in this situation is Ron Rivera. All he has to do is show a slight improvement in the defense and he’ll be the prime candidate to replace Norv Turner if the Bolts don’t make the playoffs. He’s had a year and a half in the 3-4, which should be enough for such an excellent defensive mind. Lest we forget, Rivera was the real genius behind the Bears’ defense during their Super Bowl run. He must be one terrible interview to not get a head coaching job after that season, by the way.
Do not be distracted, Chargers fans! Ted Cottrell is but a red herring. The real culprits are still in charge of the team. And, while A.J. Smith shouldn’t be going anywhere due to his personnel genius, his coach needs to be gone if the Chargers don’t make the playoffs. Whether they ran Marty Schottenheimer out of town or not, Turner was a bad hire. Despite the team’s success last season, he has proven to be a creator of mediocrity as a head coach and nothing more. He’s not a bad guy, or stupid. Quite the opposite. This team needs strong leadership, a firm hand, and he isn’t it. Maybe Rivera is, but I’m starting to like this Singletary guy too.
Let the Chargers play their best in 2008 and try to get into the playoffs. Should they get in, no one will want to play them. Should they miss the post-season, those responsible – whoever they are – must go. They must be dealt with swiftly and with extreme prejudice because LaDainian Tomlinson deserves to be part of a winner and, goddammit, I want my Super Bowl title!
So here’s hoping this small move has a real effect on the team and they start looking reminiscent of that 14-2 team from a couple of years ago. The potential is there, but the reality is so much more disappointing.