SAN DIEGO (Feb. 14, 2007) -- The San Diego Chargers began their coaching search so quickly that the first candidate to be interviewed ran into the guy he hopes to replace.
Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary met with team executives Feb. 14, less than 48 hours after Marty Schottenheimer was fired.
The former Chicago Bears great said he crossed paths with Schottenheimer, who was still cleaning out his office.
"I saw him and said hello," Singletary said.
Singletary, interviewing for a head coaching job for the third time since early January, thinks he's ready to move up after four seasons as an assistant.
"There's no doubt in my mind," Singletary said after emerging from his interview. "Absolutely."
Schottenheimer was fired Feb. 12 by Chargers president Dean Spanos, who said there was a "dysfunctional situation" between the coach and general manager A.J. Smith. San Diego was an NFL-best 14-2 last season before falling apart in its playoff opener, a 24-21 loss to New England.
Shortly after being fired, Schottenheimer said he had no working relationship with Smith.
"I don't have a whole lot of working knowledge on what happened in the past," Singletary said. "It's unfortunate, but every organization has something going on and I think for me, I'm just really excited to have the opportunity to come here and make the most of the opportunity."
The Chargers are generally regarded as having the best talent in the NFL, led by MVP LaDainian Tomlinson.
"All you have to do is turn on the film," Singletary said. "You can watch the offensive side of the ball and watch them run up and down the field, throw the ball and move the ball. I see a lot of potential on that side.
"Look on the defensive side of the ball and there's a lot of exciting things happening so there's a lot to get excited about here. The nucleus of a great team and having a great run is very exciting, very intriguing about this team."
One thing the Chargers need, Singletary said, is "leadership ... somebody to come in and really bring everybody together and get everybody on one page. If that happens, something very exciting is going to happen here."
After retiring in 1992, Singletary spent 10 years as a motivational speaker. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, he began his coaching career in 2003 as the inside linebackers coach of the Baltimore Ravens. After two years in that job, he became assistant head coach-linebackers with the 49ers in 2005. Last season his title was assistant head coach-defense.
Singletary said he's heard the talk about his relative lack of coaching experience.
"If I hadn't played the game, if I hadn't been around the game as long as I've been around it and if I hadn't coached it for the time that I've coached it in the role that I've been in, I think I might agree with that," he said. "My question is always, 'Do you want experience or do you want results?' I think that's what I'm all about."
Singletary also interviewed for the head coaching jobs with Atlanta and Dallas. The Cowboys' job went to Wade Phillips, who had been the Chargers' defensive coordinator. Singletary interviewed last year for the Detroit Lions' job.
Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, the son of former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan, is scheduled to interview Feb. 15.
"He's been ready for a long time," Buddy Ryan said by phone. "He deserves a good shot."
Baltimore's defense gave up the fewest yards and points in the NFL last season.
Other candidates the Chargers have received permission to interview are Norv Turner, a former head coach with Oakland and Washington, and Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.
Turner was offensive coordinator with the Chargers in 2001. He's currently the 49ers' offensive coordinator. He interviewed for the Dallas Cowboys' head coaching job that went to Phillips.
Singletary and Rivera also interviewed for the Cowboys job.
Spanos said that the exodus from Schottenheimer's staff -- two coordinators became NFL head coaches and two assistants became coordinators -- contributed to a difficult situation that resulted in the coach being fired.