Drop Dead Ted: Firing Cottrell Could Save Season

Eric GomezAnalyst IOctober 22, 2008

Last season, when the Chargers slumped to a 5-5 start, commentators pointed to San Diego's coaching staff, led by Head Coach Norv Turner and Defensive Coordinator Ted Cottrell.

As San Diego's luck turned, resulting in an eight-game winning streak before falling in the AFC Championship Game, Turner and Cottrell were excused from all criticism.

The excuse used by local media and pundits to explain this reversal of fortunes was simply that the coaches were adapting to their new players and adjusting their playbooks to their strengths.

After a year-and-a-half of working closely with the team—what's the excuse now, boys?

The Chargers' record stands at a mediocre 3-4, with their upcoming game against the New Orleans Saints in London having the potential to send them two games under .500 to their bye week.

Despite injuries to Antonio Cromartie, Derek Smith, and, of course, Shawne Merriman this season, San Diego's defense has been but a shadow of itself in recent past, ranking 28th in total defense.

Meanwhile, San Diego's offense has had to weather injuries to Nick Hardwick, Marcus McNeill, LaDainian Tomlinson, Chris Chambers, Buster Davis, and Antonio Gates.

MASH unit and all, the Chargers' offense ranks sixth in the league with 27.4 points per game.

What's with the major discrepancy between units?

Whereas Norv Turner and the offensive personnel have been plugging away with whomever is at their disposal, not modifying the scheme drastically and trying the same things with starters and reserves alike, Ted Cottrell has neutered his defensive unit.

With Merriman gone, pressure on the QB has all but vanished, and zone defenses have become the norm. The result? Quarterbacks picking apart the defense with short passes and utilizing the run without deterrence.

Missed tackles have also painfully become a staple of the Chargers' defensive unit, and while San Diego possesses one of the best secondaries in the league, "prevent" defense schemes and soft coverage have allowed teams to move the ball easily.

The best example of Cottrell's mishandling of the secondary is evident in the team's first two games. In their final drives, both Carolina and Denver navigated through long fields against a San Diego defense that sat back and did not pressure the QB.

The result? Two quick losses and the digging of a hole that the Bolts may not get out of.

While it is nearly a guarantee that switching head coaches in the middle of a season will kill any team's Super Bowl hopes, changing an ineffective coordinator would most likely inject life into any squad.

With San Diego staring at a bye week after their trip to London, I suggest that—win or lose, Cottrell take a separate flight.

To his home.