AFC West: Bill Cowher

One of the most impactful coaches in AFC West history is Marty Schottenheimer

Schottenheimer was a commanding, successful head coach in both Kansas City and San Diego. He turned both franchises into winners.

Fair or not, Schottenheimer is famous for his team’s failures in the postseason. Often dominant in the regular season, Schottenheimer teams were 5-13 in the playoffs. While Schottenheimer never won big when it counted, some of his protégés have.

Schottenheimer is famous for his coaching tree. It is one of the most impressive in NFL history. Two of his former assistants, Bill Cowher and Mike McCarthy have won Super Bowls as a head coach.

Schottenheimer also affected several other coaching careers. So, while he never won the big game, Schottenheimer’s NFL impact is undeniable.

Will Chiefs go after a big fish?

December, 31, 2012
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Monday’s events make the Kansas City Chiefs' head-coaching job one of the most intriguing openings in the NFL.

It makes me wonder if Kansas City owner Clark Hunt is priming to go after a big-name coach.

There are clearly some indications that that could be the case. Hunt fired coach Romeo Crennel but said this about general manager Scott Pioli in a statement announcing Crennel’s dismissal: “The entire football operation will remain under review, and there may be additional changes to come. No final determination has been made at this point on the future of general manager Scott Pioli."

[+] EnlargeRomeo Crennel, Clark Hunt
Zumapress/Icon SMIClark Hunt now shifts his focus to finding a new coach to replace Romeo Crennel.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Hunt will lead the coaching search and then he and the new coach will discuss Pioli’s future.

That means the team will not be hiring another high-powered general manager. It seems like the coach will have more power than Pioli. I think that means Pioli will likely go. Remember, four years ago, Hunt kept coach Herm Edwards on board until he hired Pioli. The reverse may be in play here.

I just don’t see it working between Pioli and a new coach unless the choice is someone like Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz or former New England assistant and current Penn State coach Bill O’Brien.

But it seems like the focus is more on the future, instead of making it work with Pioli.

So, perhaps Hunt will go for a big fish such as Oregon coach Chip Kelly. There has been some speculation Hunt could be interested in former Eagles coach Andy Reid.

However, a wrinkle in that, though, is the report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that the Chiefs will interview Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter this week. Koetter is not an experienced NFL coach and he is not considered a big-ticket candidate. I’d have a hard time thinking Koetter is prepared to give any input on the future of the general manager.

But it’s early in the process. There is a lot to play out. But Monday’s steps show that Hunt is going about his search in a way that was unexpected. Hunt has a reputation for being immensely private, and he doesn’t show his cards much. The word is even his closest confidantes are in the dark.

Hunt apologized to the fans in his statement Monday, and he used strong words like “embarrassed.” He knows Kansas City fans are fed up. He saw the empty seats in beautiful Arrowhead Stadium. He knows dramatic changes are needed.

So, this might be the time for a big splash. If Bill Cowher ever would want to get back in the NFL, maybe it could be for the team for which he was the defensive coordinator from 1989 to 1991.

I think anything is on the table, and I think coaches will listen to Hunt.

Of course, the biggest ding on this team is the lack of a quarterback. That is a huge problem and the Chiefs will have to figure something out, perhaps bringing in a bridge veteran opposed to staking its future to a risky rookie from a weak quarterback class. But there are a lot of things to like about this team.

It is a talented roster with a lot of salary-cap room. After all, the Chiefs had five Pro Bowl players despite going 2-14. They also have the No. 1 pick in the draft. The fan base is good and the team’s facilities are top-notch.

This is an attractive situation.

For those who think Hunt will not shell out financially for a big-name coach, remember that Pioli was the general manager prize four years ago and Hunt got him. Hunt may think it is time to go for it again, this time with a high-profile coach.

AFC West coaching possibilities

November, 30, 2012
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We are exactly a month from the end of the NFL regular season. Thus we are a month and one day from the start of the first process of the 2013 season: the firing of head coaches.

With five games remaining, both the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers have to be considered prime candidates to make a coaching change. The Chiefs are 1-10, and Romeo Crennel has to be in danger even though he is in his first full season as coach. In San Diego, Norv Turner’s team is 4-7. It was a major surprise that the team kept Turner after last season. I don’t see any way he makes it to another season, barring an unlikely playoff berth.

The coach firings might not be the end in both cities. If Crennel is fired, general manager Scott Pioli will likely suffer the same fate. I get the feeling Kansas City owner Clark Hunt wants to keep both Pioli and Crennel, but the fan fury is so great, I doubt he'll be able to. San Diego general manager A.J. Smith may also be on the firing line, but I can see a situation where he is kept and Turner is not.

There is always a chance Oakland owner Mark Davis can lose patience and end the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen tandem after one season (or just get rid of coach Allen). But I believe Davis will stick with the current situation despite a disappointing first year.

With potential change in the air, let’s look at some of the coaching candidates, in alphabetical order, who could be available:

Brian Billick
AP Photo/Gail BurtonBrian Billick went into broadcasting after he was fired by the Ravens in 2008.
Bruce Arians, interim Indianapolis head coach: I’m intrigued by Arians. The longtime offensive coordinator is doing a fantastic job with Colts coach Chuck Pagano out because of his fight with cancer. This is a unique situation. Teams could hire a coach who may lead a team to the playoffs without any restrictions -- and what an audition Arians is having. He has worked with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. I could see the Chargers being interested in pairing him with Philip Rivers. The Chiefs could also be a fit for Arians.

Brian Billick, former Baltimore head coach: Billick is interesting because he is a Super Bowl-winning coach who might be reasonably priced. He has a reputation for being a strong offensive mind and a strong leader. He could fit in both San Diego and Kansas City, and I think he could work with an established general manager.

Bill Cowher, former Pittsburgh head coach: When Cowher decides he wants to come back, he will likely have his pick of jobs. I’m not sure if any of the AFC West jobs would be more attractive to him than others. Still, Cowher has a history in Kansas City and is the dream coach for many Chiefs fans. But he may be way too pricey for the team.

Jack Del Rio, Denver defensive coordinator: Del Rio has done a terrific job in Denver and had lots of head coaching experience in Jacksonville. I have a feeling he may remain Denver’s defensive coordinator, but he could be a reasonably priced option for the Chiefs or Chargers.

Jon Gruden, former Oakland and Tampa Bay head coach: The most frequent question I get from readers is this: Is there a chance Gruden could come back to coach the Raiders? I’ve heard that countless times since Gruden was fired by Tampa Bay after the 2008 season. My answer now is the same as always: Probably not. There have been plenty of opportunities for Gruden to come back to Oakland and it has not happened. Never say never, but I’d be surprised. If there is a fit this offseason in the division, I’d say it would be San Diego. I think Gruden -- some reports say the University of Tennesee wants to hire Gruden -- would love to live in San Diego, and he’d love to work with Rivers. I’m not saying Gruden is a favorite to end up in San Diego, but it wouldn’t shock me.

Chip Kelly, University of Oregon head coach: See Cowher. Kelly will get his pick of jobs and he will cost a ton. I’m not sure he’d fit in the AFC West, although working with Rivers could be intriguing to him.

Mike McCoy, Denver offensive coordinator: He is going to be a hot candidate. I think the preferred destination for McCoy, a former Panthers assistant, is to go to Carolina if the Panthers fire Ron Rivera; he is highly regarded there. I could see him receiving interest from the Chiefs as well. He is young, bright and won’t break the bank.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly/David Shaw
AP Photo/Paul SakumaOregon's Chip Kelly, left, may be too pricey for the AFC West; Stanford's David Shaw could fit better.
Wade Phillips, Houston defensive coordinator: The only reason I put Phillips on this list is if Smith remains in San Diego. Smith admires Phillips from Phillips' days as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator. I think he’d be a candidate if Smith is making the choice.

Andy Reid, Philadelphia head coach: Reid is very likely entering his last month in Philadelphia after a tenure that started in 1999. The word around the league is that he will get instant interest. If Reid doesn’t opt to take time off, I could see San Diego being a fit. He has a home in the area and he’d work well with Rivers. But would the Chargers want to replace Turner with a veteran coach who just flamed out after a long stay with a team?

Rex Ryan, New York Jets head coach: It is no sure thing he will be fired, but there’s a chance. I think he could get some interest in the AFC West. He was a finalist in San Diego when Turner got the job. I think the Chiefs could also be interested. They have the makings of a good 3-4 defense -- Ryan’s specialty. Putting him in a small media market could also save Ryan from himself occasionally.

David Shaw, Stanford University head coach: This is one of my favorites. I can really see Shaw ending up in San Diego. He was born there and may be one of the hot young coaches available. I think he’d be perfect for San Diego whether Smith is there or not. His father, Willie Shaw, was a longtime NFL assistant. David Shaw played for Bill Walsh. He worked for Al Davis. He was an assistant to Jim Harbaugh and he has coached Luck. And he has won as a head coach. If I was hiring a coach next month, I’d seriously investigate this 40-year-old.
Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, held Thursday:

DENVER

Bill from Corona CA.: Does the pick of Thomas over Dez Bryant (taken two picks ahead of Bryant and a GREAT pick looking back) make up for the pick of Tebow a few picks later?

Bill Williamson: Two different things because you don't want to waste the No. 25 pick. But standing alone, the choices of Thomas over Bryant ended up being one of the few smart things Josh McDaniels did in Denver. It was criticized at the time. Looks brilliant now.

KANSAS CITY

Nick from York, NE.: Rumors are abound about Bill Cowher coming to KC to coach, have you heard anything about this, or is it all hot air?

BW: Cowher would be a great choice and it would fire up the fan base. But do the Hunts to want to swallow all the money it would take to make it happen? The way the fan base is right now, they might not have a choice.

OAKLAND

Rob from Louisville, KY.: Do you see the Raiders getting rid of Seymour and Kelly next year?

BW: Right now, I'd guess yes. More changes are coming and the team needs to get younger. I'd say Seymour is a more likely chance to go, but I can see both of them being in their final days as Raiders

SAN DIEGO

Hugh from Milwaukee: BW, outside the usual re-treads (Cowher, Gruden, etc) and with a 7-9 season the horizon, who are some names out there to consider for the Bolts? Not a chance Norv is back.

BW: Chip Kelly, Bruce Arians? Both may be high-radar guys. I think because of Rivers, the Chargers will look for an offensive-minded coach if they make a change and those guys could be possibilities.

AFC West mailbag

December, 31, 2011
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Weekend mail call:

Dan from Virginia Beach, Va. wants to know if Oakland guard Stefen Wisniewski will get any love for offensive rookie of the year.

Bill Williamson: No chance. It will be Carolina quarterback Cam Newton or Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton. That, though, doesn’t mean Wisniewski hasn’t had a good year. He’s been terrific and he had the look of a 10-12 year stalwart on Oakland’s line. He is smart beyond his years and he looks incredibly comfortable on the field. He was a great pick at No. 48.


Patrick from Phoenix wants to know if Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is in danger of losing his job because the Broncos gave up 81 points in the past two games.

BW: No chance at all. It would be a fallacy to pin Denver’s two-game losing streak on the defense. Against New England, the Denver offense fumbled three times in its territory in one quarter. The Denver defense held the Patriots to two field goals and a touchdown after the offensive miscues. At Buffalo, Denver allowed two interception returns for scores and a punt return for a score. The defense gave up one touchdown and four field goals. The defense is not the problem and Allen has a bright future.


James from La. wants to know if the Chargers will go after a high-dollar coach.

BW: The big-money coaches who will be available are Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden. Each coach has been connected to the San Diego job. They would be very pricey and I’m not sure San Diego ownership wants to go that route. But if the Chargers think they are a coach away from getting their Super Bowl and new stadium dreams answered, it could be worth it.

Chat wrap: What to expect Sunday

December, 29, 2011
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Here are some highlights of our AFC West chat, which was held Thursday:

DENVER

Matthew from Thornton, Co.: The Broncos have been blown out the past two weeks. How likely is it that "Tebow Time" starts up again Sunday against the Chiefs?

Bill Williamson: It all depends if Tebow Time equals Turnover TIme. That has been the difference.

KANSAS CITY

Jersey Raider from Manchester, N.J.: I think the Chiefs/Broncos game comes down to KC's ability to stuff the run? What say you?

BW: Yeah, and Denver can't turn over the ball and the Chiefs need to score touchdowns rather than settle for field goals.

OAKLAND

Mike from Denver: So who do you like in the Chargers-Raiders game? Sadly, I don't trust the Broncos to take care of business against KC.

BW: I think Raiders get it done. I don't see the Chargers being into it, especially against a more physical team that has so much more on the line.

SAN DIEGO

Leland from Denver City, TX.: I'm hearing Fisher and Cowher. If AJ is gone, is Cowher the leader? Are there any other prominent names out there?

BW: This is how Cowher comes: If he wants to coach next year (he says he doesn't), Smith is not brought back and Spanos family wants to shell out big money. I could see Fisher as a fit either with Smith or without him. He'd cost some bucks, too, though.

Coaching carousel revving up in S.D.

December, 25, 2011
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Now that the San Diego Chargers have been eliminated from the playoffs, expect to hear many names connected to the possible coaching job.

The New York Post reported the Chargers have interviewed former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher and that he is interested.

Cowher, however, has maintained he will not coach next year and the San Diego Union Tribune reports that two sources inside the San Diego organization “unequivocally and vehemently” denies that Cowher has been interviewed.

Norv Turner may be fired after two straight seasons without a playoff appearance. If Cowher was indeed ready to return to the field and the Chargers are ready to open up their wallet, I think it would be a great pairing. But this is the early stage of the process in San Diego.

In other AFC West news:

There is concern in Denver about the persistent Brian Dawkins' neck injury that knocked him out of the loss at Buffalo on Sunday. It is too early to tell if the injury will keep him out of next week’s critical home game against Kansas City.

If the injury does keep Dawkins out next week, he could have played his last game in Denver or even his last game. Dawkins is 38 and he has been Denver’s emotional leader since he joined the team in 2009. This injury, however, may signal the end of a great career.

Why hiring Romeo Crennel makes sense

December, 23, 2011
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Romeo CrennelAP Photo/Charlie RiedelRomeo Crennel made a big splash in his first game as the Kansas City Chiefs' interim head coach.
When the Kansas City Chiefs fired coach Todd Haley earlier this month, names such as Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, former Titans coach Jeff Fisher and Rams offensive cordinator Josh McDaniels emerged as possible replacements. .

All are high-profile coaches who would evoke emotions and excitement of varied degrees. Buried below the bigger names, though, was the candidacy of Kansas City defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who was named the interim coach immediately after Haley was fired and considered a candidate, but perhaps not a leading candidate

However, that all changed last Sunday when Crennel’s Chiefs beat previously-perfect Green Bay in his first game as coach. Now, Crennel is considered by many as the top candidate. If the Chiefs -- who still have a heartbeat in the AFC West division race -- play well in their final two games against visiting Oakland and at Denver, Crennel, 64, could all but wrap up the job. He is already being endorsed by key figures in the organization.

The following is a look at why the Chiefs’ brass may decide to make Crennel the permanent head coach:

He’d get along with Scott Pioli: This is a paramount. Haley wasn’t fired because his injury-ravaged team was 5-8. He was fired primarily because he butted heads with Pioli, the general manager. This is a critical hire for Pioli. If he blows this one, his time in Kansas City could end.

Pioli must hire someone he is sure he can trust and someone he could work with. Pioli goes way back with Crennel, back to the Patriots' success in the early 2000s, and he is a big reason Crennel is in Kansas City. There would not be any coach-GM friction.

He just wants to coach: One of the reasons there wouldn’t be any friction is because Crennel is the good-soldier type. He is a lifer coach who is focused on teaching his players. He is not a new-school coach who wants his fingerprints on the playbook and everything else.

“Romeo trusts Scott Pioli and his ability to build a roster that can go to the Super Bowl. All Romeo would be interested in doing is coaching the team,” his agent, Joe Linta, said.

He’d bring stability to the program: The Chiefs are an interesting team. They are a building, young program that has already tasted success. This group won 10 games and the AFC West division title last year. The Chiefs, though, have been decimated by injuries this season and played virtually the entire year without young stars Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki, and they have gone a long period without quarterback Matt Cassel. All of these players are expected to be healthy next year. This is not a depleted franchise.

Retaining Crennel would prevent the Chiefs from having to adjust to a new coaching philosophy. The learning curve would be essentially wiped out and the Chiefs could go to training camp next year raring to go.

Players like him: Interim coaches don’t get Gatorade baths -- as Crennel did after the Green Bay shocker -- unless they are respected by the players.

There is no doubt Kansas City’s players like the affable, fair and above-board Crennel. The players chanted his name in the locker room after Sunday's win. Fullback Le'Ron McClain said after the game that Crennel had an instant impact on the team and he has players' support for the full-time job.

“That was a head-coach thing. We got that from Romeo,” McClain said. “What a statement we made. It’s great for him, for his future here. I know a lot of guys hope so. I know he had us ready to play this week and we showed it, from the first drive on out.”

He’s a calming force: Haley clashed with a lot of players. That is not Crennel’s nature. Teams usually look for polar opposites when they look to replace a coach, and that would be the case here. Crennel is different than Haley because he is not a screamer. Haley was volatile and would often blow up. Crennel is more of a listener. He is firm and he is not a pushover, but screaming is not Crennel’s first approach. That could be refreshing for the locker room, and I bet Pioli would welcome that tact as well.

He knows the Patriot Way: Pioli has modeled his teams after the Patriots, where he had great success as an executive with New England and was part of three Super Bowl championship teams last decade.

Crennel was the defensive coordinator on all three teams. Pioli and Crennel share the same vision. I think Pioli would be very interested in moving forward with a head coach who shared the New England experience with him.

He has head-coaching experience: Crennel showed his head-coaching experience in the Green Bay game. It was his 65th NFL games a head coach. That type of experience is always appealing to a team. Crennel was 24-40 in four seasons (2005-08) as the head coach in Cleveland. The record in Cleveland wasn’t great, but there were some front-office and talent issues there that made it a difficult situation.

“He is smart and could be one of those guys that does well with his second opportunity,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc., who worked in Cleveland with Crennel for a short period. “He did get a ton out of a Derek Anderson-led Browns team a few years ago and the players love and respect him.“

He could build a good staff: Hiring McDaniels as head coach may be a difficult sale considering he flamed out in Denver and he is part of a failing staff in St. Louis. However, if Crennel is hired as the head coach, McDaniels could be a terrific option as offensive coordinator if the Rams’ staff is sent packing. McDaniels has worked with both Cassel and current Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton (a pending free agent). A staff headed by Crennel with an offense led by McDaniels could be appealing. Plus, Jacksonville interim coach Mel Tucker was on Crennel’s staff in Cleveland. He’d be an attractive defensive coordinator candidate.

He won’t break the bank: Unlike Fisher and Ferentz (and other big hitters such as Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden), Crennel would be reasonably priced. That would appeal to ownership. Combining Crennel’s numerous positive attributes and his relatively low price tag, this could be a perfect pairing that may have begun with the Chiefs’ derailment of the Packers’ pursuit of perfection.

AFC West mailbag

December, 22, 2011
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Midweek mail call:

Rick from Phoenix wants to know if I think the Kansas City Chiefs will pursue Bill Cowher to be their coach.

Bill Williamson: I don’t see that as a fit. First, Cowher has maintained he will not coach next season. Also, I don’t see Cowher wanting to work with a powerful general manager like Scott Pioli. Cowher would likely want to call his own shots. The coach will not get that opportunity in Kansas City.


Pete from S. Lake Tahoe, Calif., wants to know if I think Oakland coach Hue Jackson could be in danger of losing his job.

BW: I don’t think so. Jackson should be safe. He gets along with Mark Davis, the son of the late Al Davis. The Raiders want to build some stability and they believe in Jackson. The Raiders may bring in some front-office help for Jackson, but expect to see him on the sideline in Oakland next year.


Paul from Kansas City wants to know if San Diego fired Norv Turner and Kansas City makes Romeo Crennel the interim coach, could we see Turner end up as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator.

BW: It’s an interesting question. If Crennel -- a defensive specialist -- is hired, he will look for a strong offensive coordinator. Turner could be interested. I think Josh McDaniels -- if the Rams’ staff is fired and if he isn’t hired as the Chiefs’ head coach -- would also interest Crennel. But if Turner is available, I could see him being on the Chiefs’ list.
The San Diego Union-Tribune has an interesting story indicating general manager A.J. Smith could be fired along with coach Norv Turner after the season.

It is wildly expected that Turner will be fired and there have been speculation Smith could be in trouble as well. The Union-Tribune story quotes a source saying there's a 75 percent chance Smith will be fired.

If Smith is fired, the story reports, he’d be on the list of candidates in Oakland.

I think the Chargers' ownership feels the need to completely move away from this regime and start over even though firing Smith would be expensive. If Smith is fired, I could see the Chargers going for a big-name coach to lead the team, such as former Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

As for Smith ending up in Oakland, the Raiders would be wise to consider such an experienced leader as Smith. But I’m not sure that is the direction the Raiders would go. I could see them looking at a young personnel man to work in concert with coach Hue Jackson such as Green Bay personnel man Reggie McKenzie.

This will all occur down the road, but it is shaping up to be another interesting offseason in the division.

Meanwhile, Brandyn Dombrowski is doubtful to play Monday night at Jacksonville because of a foot injury. That means newly claimed tackle Jared Gaither could play more. Rookie defensive end Corey Liuget is questionable to play with a fibula issue.
Philip RiversHarry How/Getty ImagesUnder Norv Turner, Philip Rivers and the Chargers never delivered on championship potential.

The championship window has closed in San Diego.

Once considered the best roster in the league, the San Diego Chargers have seen impressive depth dwindle, they’ve gotten old in key spots and they have lacked toughness. The result has been a steady decline in the last two years.

“They are one of the most confusing teams I’ve ever seen,” Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. said. “You expect so much from them and then they don’t deliver … They should be so much better, but then you watch them and they can’t do it. I just don’t get them.”

The Chargers -- widely considered as a Super Bowl contender going into this season -- stagger into a Monday night game at Jacksonville on a six-game losing skid. It is the Chargers’ longest such streak in 10 years.

After starting 4-1 and looking like a playoff team, San Diego is now 4-7 and apparently on course to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season. After owning the AFC West for four years, the Chargers are 13-14 since the start of the 2010 season.

When a rift developed between general manager A.J. Smith and coach Marty Schottenheimer after the Chargers went 14-2 in 2006, Smith hired Norv Turner to take a stacked roster to the Super Bowl. That probably won’t happen. Turner, who is 45-30 as Chargers coach, is expected to be fired unless the Chargers, who are three games behind in both the AFC West and the AFC wild-card races with five games to go, make a miraculous playoff run. Smith's job could also be in danger, particularly if San Diego ownership wants to break the bank and make a run at someone like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden. There have also been indications that the team is open to continuing with Smith as the top football decision-maker.

However, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Saturday that the team may be leaning toward firing Smith.

The Chargers have long been lauded for their roster of big-name talent. In the past decade, they drafted potential Hall of Famers in LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers and signed potential Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates. They also drafted Shawne Merriman, who had a strong first three years as a premier pass-rusher before disappearing because of injuries.

All the Chargers have remaining from that group is Rivers, who turns 30 this month, and Gates, who is 31 and who has been dealing with serious foot injuries for three years.

Whoever coaches the Chargers in 2012 – Cowher and Jeff Fisher are already being mentioned as potential candidates – will have some work to do. Some solid core players remain, starting with Rivers, who is struggling through his worst NFL season. Still, the Chargers probably will have to be rebuilt in several areas.

“They aren’t as deep as we always thought they were,” Horton said. “They have problems on the offensive line, their receivers aren’t that strong and the defense doesn’t pass rush anymore."

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thinks San Diego has some core players -- but not a ton of them, and some of them have question marks. Williamson says Rivers, receiver Vincent Jackson, Gates, guard Kris Dielman, defensive tackle Antonio Garay, linebacker Shaun Phillips, cornerback Quentin Jammer and safety Eric Weddle are all players who can help the team in the future. Williamson also thinks the team’s last two first-round picks, running back Ryan Mathews and defensive lineman Corey Liuget, have a chance to be core players.

Jackson, who has been inconsistent this year, is a free agent after the season. The Chargers may place the franchise tag on him. Rivers, Gates, Dielman (out for the season with a concussion), Garay, Phillips and Jammer will be 30 or older next season. Still, Williamson believes a coaching change could help provide a spark.

“It’s not all Norv’s fault, but he is not maximizing his team’s potential, which is obviously a key component to his job,” Williamson said.

Horton said he believes that if the Chargers do make a coaching change, they need to bring in a taskmaster. There have been whispers among scouts the past couple of years that the Chargers get outmuscled too often. There have been times when San Diego has been manhandled on both lines, including a few instances against the more physical Raiders.

“I like Norv, but I get the feeling they are not playing hard for him,” Horton said. “They always look soft to me, and they often don’t play with a sense of urgency.”

Still, the Chargers have not been blown out this season and they could have won all seven of their losses; indeed, they have made crucial fourth-quarter (or overtime) mistakes in each of their losses. Turner said this week that effort is not a problem.

“Go through the tapes and there’s great effort,” Turner said. “These guys play hard.”

The players I have talked to in San Diego’s locker room know that change is likely to come, and they say they feel bad that Turner is probably going to be the person to pay for the team’s failures. But it is clear that the Chargers’ time as elite playoff contenders is over. If they are going to re-open their Super Bowl window, it will probably be with new leadership.
With Norv Turner virtually assured of being fired as the coach of the 4-7 Chargers, a team that has lost six straight games, it is natural for names of potential successors to be bandied about.

Among the names are usual suspects Bill Cowher, Jeff Fisher, Jon Gruden and Brian Billick. More names will emerge, however.

One name to keep an eye on is Philadelphia coach Andy Reid. Even though there have been indications that Reid, who has been the Eagles coach since 1999, may be safe, restless Eagles fans want Reid to pay for the Eagles’ disappointing 4-8 season. If the Eagles continue to falter, Reid could be let go.

I have been asked often if I think Reid would be a good fit in San Diego and my answer is a resounding yes.

Reid is an upper-echelon coach. Don't be swayed by the Eagles’ poor season. If Turner is fired and Reid is available, he should be a top candidate.

I think he would be a fit in San Diego if general manager A.J. Smith stays or if he is let go. Reid has worked with general managers in Philadelphia and he doesn’t seem like he’d have a problem having a football boss.

He’d be a good fit with quarterback Philip Rivers, and I think he could do nice things with the Chargers’ offense. Reid, 53, is one of the more respected coaches in the NFL, thus, he’d likely be able to attract a strong coaching staff.

Reid is from Los Angeles and would likely love to go to San Diego.

I think the only question if Reid is fired is if he’d want to take a year off. Often, when coaches end a long relationship with a team, they want to take a year off -- see Jeff Fisher and Mike Shanahan.

If Turner is fired, it could be too appealing for Reid to pass up if he’s available. I’m not saying this is a sure pairing. But if everything falls into place, I could see it happening.

Chat Wrap: Cowher to Chargers?

December, 1, 2011
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Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday.

DENVER

Anthony from Albuquerque, N.M.: What’s the chances of Brady Quinn remaining with the Broncos next year and competing with Tebow for that starting job?

Bill Williamson: He's a free agent. He may want to move on. If not, I could see him signing a team-friendly deal to be a backup.

KANSAS CITY

Chris from Lee’s Summit, Mo.: Don't you think a Kyle Orton that knows only 50% of the playbook would be a better option than Palko who knows the whole playbook?

BW: Yes, I do. I think Orton needs to play. Why pay him if you don't play him?

OAKLAND

Adam from NY: I’m thinking lock up Bush long term for the Raiders and not McFadden. What say you?

BW: I think I'd try to lock them both up first, but that may be hard. Bush is very good. McFadden is special. But the problem is he can't stay healthy, so I get your reasoning.

SAN DIEGO

Jason from Chicago: Do you think the San Diego Chargers will fire Norv Turner and A.J. Smith and bring someone in like Jeff Fisher or Bill Cowher to be the next head coach?

BW: It is almost a certainty Turner will be gone. Smith may be safe. But if he is gone, too, Cowher could be in play if the Chargers want to spend big. They may have to regain the trust of the fan base. Fisher could be a possibility if Smith sticks around.

AFC West mailbag

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
4:00
PM ET
Mid-week mail call:

Future from Fla. wants to know if I think the Kansas City Chiefs could draft Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Bill Williamson: I don’t think drafting a quarterback in the first round will be the Chiefs’ first priority. I think they will look at improving both lines first. At this point, it seems like a long shot to me.

Jake Dunne from East Lansing, Mi. wants to know if I think there is a chance Peyton Manning could be Denver’s quarterback next season.

BW: I actually could see it if the Broncos go away from Tim Tebow, which may be unlikely if he continues to win. Manning ending up in Denver is a long shot and a lot would have to happen. First, the Colts would have to decide to either trade or cut Manning. And again, the Broncos would have to decide to move away from Tebow. But I can very much see John Elway being interested in adding a future Hall of Famer to his roster even if it were for the short term. We have seen the impact Manning can have on a team. So, if the Colts make him expendable, I think Denver would be on the list of teams that would have a legitimate interest in Manning.

Steve from Fallbrook, Ca. wants to know if I think Michigan coach Brady Hoke could be a candidate to coach the Chargers if Norv Turner is fired.

BW: I can see why you asked that question, Steve. Hoke was popular in San Diego as the coach at San Diego State. But I think he is very happy at Michigan and he may be better suited to coach in the college ranks, anyway. It’s an interesting thought, but I not sure he’d be a candidate. I think the Chargers will look for experienced, former NFL head coaches. One name to keep an eye on may be former Baltimore coach Brian Billick. Big names such as Bill Cowher and Jeff Fisher will continue to surface as well.

League honors Seabass

November, 29, 2011
11/29/11
9:40
PM ET
In an honor that should stun no one, Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski was named the AFC special-teams player of the week.

There was no denying Seabass this honor. He kicked a club-record six field goals – four of 40 yards or longer – in Oakland’s 25-20 victory over Chicago on Sunday as the 7-4 Raiders stayed a game up on the Denver Broncos in the AFC West.

Janikowski’s strong performance was an indication that he was finally recovered from a hamstring injury that had been bothering him for weeks. It was also just part of a solid overall day for the Raiders' special teams: Punter Shane Lechler neutralized star Chicago return man Devin Hester with a team-record 80-yard punt. Lechler, too, was a worthy candidate for the award, but there was no way it was not going to Janikowski.

AFC WEST NOTES UDPATE:

The San Diego Union Tribune looks at the Chargers coaching situation and passes along the names of Bill Cowher and Jeff Fisher as potential replacements for Norv Turner. My thoughts? Expect many names to surface for what could be an appealing job

Denver quarterbacks used his arms, legs ... and his words to help the Broncos win at San Diego on Sunday. The Denver Post reported that Denver coach John Fox asked Tebow to address his teammates Saturday night. It is just another indication that Tebow is becoming an invaluable part of the franchise.

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