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A lot is on the line for Chargers

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Aug 9, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    <strong>August 9, 2005</strong>
    Source: <a href="http://www2.dailynews.com/sports/ci_2924680">LA Daily News</a>

    SAN DIEGO - For a guy whose voice arrives well before the rest of him does, it seems unlikely that Carl Mauck could go anywhere unnoticed.

    But that will be the challenge for the Chargers' new offensive line coach this season to remain as anonymous as the players he coaches.

    Mauck, a former Chargers center and coach, returns to replace Hudson Houck, who left for Miami after taking five linemen who weren't with the Chargers in 2003 including a pair of rookies and molding them into one of the best units in the NFL last season.

    Since all 22 starters and virtually all the coaches return for the Chargers, many eyes will be on the offensive line, which was a catalyst in their dramatic turnaround, from 4-12 in 2003 to 12-4 last season.

    "We've been asked about it all (offseason)," offensive tackle Roman Oben said.

    Around the NFL, Mauck isn't the only new assistant who will be under scrutiny. The Patriots must replace the two coordinators who helped them win three Super Bowls in the last four years, Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis, now the head coaches in Cleveland and at Notre Dame, respectively.

    Tennessee's search for an offensive coordinator led it to Norm Chow, the architect of USC's offense on back-to-back national champions. The Titans are one of 13 teams with new offensive coordinators.

    While Chow has never coached in the NFL, two aspects won't be so foreign, a high roster turnover and the reliance on young (inexpensive) players. Such salary cap consequences have placed a premium on good coaching not just on head coaches, but on the teachers and technicians who serve as assistants.

    Alex Gibbs was lured to Atlanta a year ago as the offensive line coach for $1 million per year. When Nick Saban became Miami's head coach, he induced Houck and Minnesota offensive coordinator Scott Linehan by paying them in excess of $800,000 per year more than doubling their salaries.

    Putting a dollar figure on an assistant's worth isn't easy.

    When the Chargers made the playoffs last year, it marked the fourth time Wade Phillips arrived as a defensive coordinator for a team that was no better than .500 the year before and helped it into the playoffs the next season.

    On the other hand, after Linehan's departure, Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper is on his fourth offensive coordinator and second head coach in seven years. The offense, he says, has barely changed.

    "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Culpepper said in a recent interview. "As long as players understand what you're supposed to do, and you're not doing a whole lot of new stuff, you'll be fine."

    That would seem to apply in San Diego, except that the two coaches the departing Houck and the incoming Mauck have as much in common as an X and O.

    Houck, a center at USC in the early '60s who never played in the NFL, did most of his work with the Rams in '80s and the Cowboys in the '90s, helping develop small-college prospects like Doug Smith and Larry Allen into perennial Pro Bowlers.

    Houck makes his points quietly, as if he were in a classroom. Mauck makes his as if he's in a barroom.

    Built like a stevedore with a vocabulary that's just as salty Mauck's gravelly admonitions can be heard from one end of the Chargers' practice facility to the other.

    "Let's just say he's fiery," said Chargers center Nick Hardwick, smiling. "He carries himself like he still wants to play."

    When he was coaching at a college all-star game last January, Mauck bolted across the field to take a swing at an opposing coach for calling a blitz in a game where blitzing wasn't allowed.

    Mauck, apparently, has lost little of the intensity that fueled a 13-year playing career in which he started 156 consecutive games at center. Among his 20 seasons as a coach, he was in San Diego from 1992 through 1995, a stint that included the team's only Super Bowl appearance. In Detroit, Mauck's line allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL in 2002 and 2003, but he was out of football last year.

    "It's a minor adjustment," Hardwick said of the coaching change. "We had to feel him out at first and he had to feel us out, but he knows what we can do and our abilities.

    "We had to change our vocabulary around a little bit, which took a little getting used to, but it wasn't a big deal. We're the same guys out there on the field. When it gets hot out there, we're the ones that have to take care of the business, not the coach. He can only get us prepared so much."

    Oben, who told The Sporting News just before Houck left that "if there were a Hall of Fame for offensive line coaches, Hudson would be the first guy to be inducted," is more pragmatic now.

    "Change happens in this business and you've got to let it happen," said Oben, who is playing for his eighth coach in 10 seasons. "Whoever they brought in was going to get a group that worked hard, a group that cared about the details of their assignment, and a group that had a lot of pride. That factor was a constant no matter who coached us."

    Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer hasn't often struck out when hiring line coaches. Among the others who have worked for him are Gibbs, Mike Solari of Kansas City, Howard Mudd of Indianapolis and Joe Pendry of Houston.

    "Every time I've lost an offensive line coach, we've gone out and found a good one," said Schottenheimer, who does not allow his assistants to be interviewed. "I consider us very fortunate."

    He also does not expect Mauck to be Houck.

    "The only time you get in trouble as a coach is if you try to be somebody you're not," Schottenheimer said. "As long as you are who you are, that's all that matters."

    Especially when everyone's watching.

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