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Chargers are model of consistency in topsy-turvy AFC West

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    By Kevin Acee

    DANA POINT – For all the outcry in San Diego over an 8-8 season and the fretting about an icon that might have departed, the Chargers are the paragon of consistency in the AFC West.

    “It's a crazy time in this division,” Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable said Tuesday at the NFL owners' meetings.

    While the Chargers have been the NFL's fourth-winningest team over the past five seasons, they won the division with a .500 record in 2008. And, over the past two seasons the AFC West is tied with its NFC counterpart in having the lowest combined winning percentage (.383) of the league's eight divisions.

    “It's a down time,” Cable said. “It's a proud division. I expect it will bounce back.”

    If so, it will do it with mostly new blood.

    Cable in 2009 will begin his first full (presumably) season as the Raiders coach. Todd Haley is the new head coach in Kansas City, and Josh McDaniels is the new head coach in Denver. The Chiefs, after 20 years with Carl Peterson as general manager, hired Scott Pioli in that capacity. And Denver promoted Brian Xander to general manager and made other front office moves after years of head coach Mike Shanahan being the team's top football executive.

    It makes Norv Turner's two full seasons, in which the Chargers won two division titles, look like an institution and A.J. Smith's six-year tenure as Chargers general manager seem like a lifetime.

    “The division is going to be different,” Turner said. “It's going to be important for us to get a handle. ... We've got a lot of work to do.”

    All four division coaches spoke Tuesday of the challenges posed by the unfamiliarity the teams will have for one another, with the Chargers being the only team not to make significant systematic changes.

    While Cable coached the Raiders for the final 12 games of last season, he hired a new defensive coordinator this offseason. Haley, who spent the past two seasons as the Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator, will definitely open up the Chiefs offense. And not only does Denver have a new defensive coordinator and several new defensive players, its offense will evolve under McDaniels.

    “The system Denver is going to run is going to be very much like what New England did on offense,” Turner said. “I think there is some of that influence anyway. And Haley's background is similar to the New England background. Offensively (Arizona is) very much spread out. Denver and Kansas City, they're going to throw the football, and we're going to have to defend the pass.”

    There is a thread tying the hirings in Denver and Kansas City. Pioli was vice president of player personnel in New England from 2002-08 and was considered instrumental, along with head coach Bill Belichick, in building that consistent winner. McDaniels spent the past eight seasons in New England, the past three as offensive coordinator.

    Smith, who has transformed the Chargers from cellar dwellers when he took over in 2003 into division champions four of the past five seasons, has watched the changes with a certain level of concern.

    He has long been an admirer, even studier, of the Patriots. Now he sees New England Midwest and New England Rocky Mountain on the Chargers' schedule four times a year.

    “You got Denver and Kansas City with New England Patriots' philosophies going to those franchises, and it's well documented what I think about how they do their business and how they operate,” Smith said. “That scares me a little bit. I just feel that they are going to get it done and get it done right.”

    McDaniels said there definitely is a New England way of doing things.

    “That's what I know,” he said. “ ... I'm proud to have been a part of it. I'm not sure I'd want to do something a whole lot different.”

    But, taking a break from answering questions about his relationship with Jay Cutler (he said he's committed to Cutler as his QB but wouldn't rule out any option, including a trade), he laughed when told of Smith's comments.

    “I don't know why,” he said. “They kicked our butts last year. I don't know what he's scared of. I'm more scared of him.”

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