Chargers are not meeting pre-season expectations

San Diego achieved an
NFL-best 14-2 record last season.

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Oversold or underachievers?

Which best describes the San Diego Chargers, the most disappointing team in the AFC?

With the Chargers having spent much of the season in a stupor, the argument can be made both ways.

About the only thing the Chargers have going for them heading down the stretch is that they play in the anemic AFC West, where they now share the lead with the Denver Broncos at an unsightly 5-5.

That’s not what anyone expected from a team that entered the season considered part of the AFC’s Big Three, along with defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis and New England.

The Chargers look nothing like the bunch that went an NFL-best 14-2 last year under Marty Schottenheimer, leading the league with 492 points and 61 sacks.

That season was defined by LaDainian Tomlinson’s record-setting romp en route to being voted league MVP.

This one might be best summed up by All-Pro outside linebacker Shawne Merriman getting knocked on his rear end by 5-foot-7 bowling ball Maurice Jones-Drew in their latest loss.

A season that started with fans slobbering about a Super Bowl has disintegrated to the point that some are now resigned to wondering who’s going to be made the scapegoat if the “Good Ship Norv, A.J. & Deano” doesn’t stop taking on water.

Taking the nautical theme a step further, All-Pro fullback Lorenzo Neal on Monday raised this warning:

“Right now it’s like a ship heading toward an iceberg. We’ve got to get this rudder fixed. We have everything going our way. We’ve just got to fix this rudder and steer away from this iceberg and get headed into clear water so we can open up again.”


The Chargers’ spin is that coach Norv Turner represents continuity, simply because he installed the current offensive scheme back in 2001 when he was the coordinator and Tomlinson was a rookie.

If continuity was so important, why not keep the guy they had? Schottenheimer’s playoff flops were legendary and he and general manager A.J. Smith couldn’t stand each other.

But at least Schottenheimer could get his teams into January during a career in which he won 200 regular-season games.

Now he’s golfing and spending time with his grandchildren while cashing some $4 million worth of checks signed by team president Dean Spanos, who suddenly fired the coach in February.

Had Spanos fired Schottenheimer immediately after the mind-numbing playoff collapse against New England, he could have promoted defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Instead, Phillips was hired as Dallas’ head coach and has the Cowboys off to a 9-1 start.

Schottenheimer’s final indiscretion apparently was insisting on hiring his brother, Kurt, to replace Phillips. Spanos, the owner’s son, who in turn employs his two sons, said no, and the Martyball era was over.

As fans have watched San Diego’s defense lose its aggressiveness — with the exception of Antonio Cromartie’s league-high six interceptions — they’re wondering if things would be worse under Kurt Schottenheimer than they are under Ted Cottrell.