SAN DIEGO (Feb. 12, 2007) -- Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer was late Feb. 12 in a shocking move by team president Dean Spanos, who cited a "dysfunctional situation" between the coach and general manager A.J. Smith.
Less than a month after San Diego's NFL-best 14-2 season was wrecked in a home playoff loss to New England, Spanos cited the exodus of both coordinators and other assistants in firing Schottenheimer. The coach had a year left on his contract.
"When I decided to move ahead with Marty Schottenheimer in mid-January, I did so with the expectation that the core of his fine coaching staff would remain intact," Spanos said in a statement. "Unfortunately, that did not prove to be the case, and the process of dealing with these coaching changes convinced me that we simply could not move forward with such dysfunction between our head coach and general manager.
"In short, this entire process over the last month convinced me beyond any doubt that I had to act to change this untenable situation."
Schottenheimer didn't immediately return messages left on his office and cell phones.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was hired as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys on Feb. 8, following offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and two other assistants out of town for better jobs.
Although Schottenheimer said last week that change was inevitable, Smith sounded concerned, saying, "Both in the same year -- Wow."
Tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski became Cleveland's offensive coordinator, and linebackers coach Greg Manusky was hired as San Francisco's defensive coordinator.
Running backs coach Clarence Shelmon, who's never been a coordinator, was promoted to replace Cameron. Shelmon accepted only a one-year contract due to what had been Schottenheimer's lame-duck status.
Three days after the 24-21 playoff loss to New England, Schottenheimer declined the team's offer of a one-year extension through 2008. Spanos and Smith seemed visibly angry that the coach turned them down.
Schottenheimer has been at odds with Smith since the 2005 season, apparently over personnel decisions by the GM.
With a regular-season record of 200-126-1 with Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington and San Diego, Schottenheimer is the most successful coach never to have reached the Super Bowl.
His 5-13 playoff record has taken on a life of its own. The loss to the Patriots was his sixth straight in the postseason dating to 1993, and the ninth time a Schottenheimer-coached team lost its opening playoff game. His teams have failed four times to capitalize on the home-field advantage that comes with owning the AFC's No. 1 seed.
He was 47-33 in five seasons with the Chargers, including 35 wins and two AFC West titles in the last three seasons.
Led by league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers were thought by many to be Super Bowl-caliber. But they had four turnovers and made numerous other mistakes in losing to the Patriots, their first defeat at home in the 2006 season.
Speculation grew following the loss that Schottenheimer might be fired, due in part to the front office's expectations of a deep playoff run and his icy relationship with Smith.