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It's wait and see on Marty's job status

SAN DIEGO (Jan. 2, 2007) -- As his San Diego Chargers rest up for a playoff run they hope will end with the franchise's first Super Bowl victory, it remains to be seen if that's how far coach Marty Schottenheimer needs to advance in order to keep his job.

While Philip Rivers' sore right foot and LaDainian Tomlinson's freshness after a sensational, record-setting season are the main concerns for the Chargers entering the playoffs, Schottenheimer's job status will at the very least be a sideshow.

That's even though no one is saying much about it.

Schottenheimer's relationship with general manager A.J. Smith has been icy for months. It got so rocky after Drew Brees was allowed to leave as a free agent in the offseason that team president Dean Spanos called them into his office on a Saturday and told them to start pulling in the same direction.

That relationship doesn't appear to have thawed much even though the Chargers went an NFL-best 14-2 and wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

When the topic of Schottenheimer's future came up, the coach, whose contract runs through next season, replied: "You're asking the wrong guy."

Smith isn't tipping his hand on what recommendation he'll make to Spanos once the season ends.

"We make all our decisions at the end of the year," Smith said. "All the coaches, everybody."

The pressure could be on Schottenheimer, who said these Chargers -- with nine Pro Bowlers, including league MVP front-runner Tomlinson -- are the most-balanced of the 13 teams he's taken to the playoffs.

Although Schottenheimer joined an exclusive club with his 200th regular-season victory Dec. 31, his playoff record is an unsightly 5-12. He has a five-game losing streak dating to 1993 and his teams have been one-and-done eight times.

Schottenheimer said there haven't been any discussions regarding a contract extension.

"I don't think there should be," said Schottenheimer, who has coached the Chargers to 35 victories and two AFC West titles in the last three seasons. "Absolutely not. We've got work to do. Let's not put the cart in front of the horse."

Schottenheimer was reminded that Smith has extended the contracts of several players, some during the season.

"But they weren't 63 years old," the coach said with a chuckle.

The most either man will say about their relationship is that it's fine.

Schottenheimer said he hasn't had any conversations about his job performance with Smith during the last six months.

"Nor do I think there needs to be at this point in time," Schottenheimer said. "There's a place and time for everything. Right now for us it's trying to get where we can win three more games."

All Smith would say about his relationship with Schottenheimer was, "Everything is fine."

Asked if they communicate regularly, he said: "I answered your question. That's all I've got to say about it."

One thing Schottenheimer does know is that having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs doesn't assure a thing beyond a first-round bye and at least one home game.

Schottenheimer has had the AFC's No. 1 seed three times before, dating to 1986 with the Cleveland Browns, and is still trying to get to his first Super Bowl.

That year, his Browns made it to the AFC Championship Game before John Elway pulled off "The Drive" and got the Denver Broncos into the Super Bowl.

In 1995 and '97, Schottenheimer's Kansas City Chiefs had the No. 1 seed and were upset in their opening game both times.

The Chargers go into the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak.

"The important thing, I think, and Pittsburgh a year ago would have proved it, you have to be playing well as you go into it," Schottenheimer said. "Then there's no doubt or uncertainty. You feel good about what you've been doing."

While Pittsburgh had to play all its games on the road as the No. 6 seed en route to its Super Bowl victory, the Chargers will be starting out at home, where they went 8-0 for the first time.

"I know this -- I would rather play at home," Schottenheimer said. "You have a routine and you have an opportunity to go about your business the way you have."

The players were off Monday and Tuesday and will have short practices Wednesday through Friday.

Schottenheimer said an MRI on Rivers' sprained right foot showed no structural damage. He was hurt in the team's 27-20 win against Arizona in which he threw two touchdown passes.

The Chargers' first opponent will be New England, the New York Jets or the Kansas City Chiefs.

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