AFC West: Steve Crosby
It remains to be seen whether Kuharksy’s idea will gain steam or not. However, after reading the superior résumé for Bisaccia, it’s easy to see the Chargers got themselves a fine coach and that San Diego fans should hope their special teams coach doesn’t go anywhere. Bisaccia was hired from Tampa Bay last month to help a disastrous unit.
Check out these quotes about Bisaccia:
“I coached a long time, he’s one of the best coaches I’ve worked with and I’m not just trying to be his agent or publicity manager,” former Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden said of Bisaccia. “He’s a tremendous football coach, great with players, smart, works his butt off. I’d hire him as a head coach. If I was in position to interview people and look for quality candidates and he’s certainly one of the best I’ve been around.”
“He’s gotten the best out of everybody, and for me, being around him since 2002, I jumped at the opportunity to play for him on special teams despite being a starter on defense,” former Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks said. “I wanted to be part of what he was doing with other guys, I was a little jealous. I even inserted myself in practice as a punt returner. I really did want to be a part of what he had going on with our core group of guys on special teams.”
San Diego needs Bisaccia to make a big impact. He replaces Steve Crosby after the Chargers’ special teams directly resulted in several of the Chargers’ seven losses. San Diego was ranked No. 1 in total offense and total defense in 2010. However, its special teams’ issues that brought down the team.
Former San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera dipped into the Chargers’ staff and has tabbed Chargers’ tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski as his new offensive coordinator, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Chudzinski was a favorite on the Chargers’ staff and he was a key part of the No. 1 overall offense in the NFL.
The Chargers previously replaced Rivera with former San Francisco defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and hired Tampa Bay special teams coach Rich Bisaccia to replace the fired Steve Crosby.
Bisaccia replaces Steve Crosby. He was fired after a terrible season on special teams in San Diego. The Chargers were ranked No. 1 on offense and defense in the NFL. But they finished 9-7, partly because of several issues on special teams.
Bisaccia has a strong reputation around the league. While his challenge is big, the Chargers did improve on special teams at the end of the season. If the team is healthy in 2011, this unit can turn around rather quickly.
With this job filled, San Diego now has to find a new defensive coordinator to replace Ron Rivera. He was hired as the head coach in Carolina on Tuesday. Among the candidates expected to be considered are former NFL head coach Dave Wannstedt, San Francisco defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and current San Diego assistants Steve Wilks and John Pagano.
Arrow indicates direction team is trending.
Final Power Ranking: 14
Preseason Power Ranking: 8
Biggest disappointment: The season as a whole. There’s no way the Chargers expected this season to unfold the way it did. They finished 9-7 and saw their four-season reign as AFC West champions end. The Chargers finished the season ranked No. 1 in total offense and total defense. Yet, special teams problems and injuries took a toll. The unit seriously hurt the Chargers for the first three quarters of the season, so it’s no surprise that the Football Outsiders ranked San Diego’s special teams last in the NFL. The team fired special teams coach Steve Crosby after the end of the season. The Chargers also were battered, especially at receiver and linebacker. They used 73 players, one off the NFL record. Quarterback Philip Rivers completed passes to 17 players. In the end, the Chargers’ record was a lot worse than what this offense and defense showed they were capable of doing.
Biggest need: The Chargers’ No. 1 ranking on both sides of the ball shows that this is a very talented roster. Assume the Chargers will be healthier next season and this should still be a good team. But it could always use some depth. Expect the Chargers to look for help at safety, linebacker and defensive end. If this team could find a pure pass-rusher in the draft, it would help immensely. The Chargers could also use offensive line depth and perhaps another receiver, especially if they don’t put the franchise tag on free agent Vincent Jackson. San Diego should be well equipped to get what it wants in the draft with extra second- and third-round picks coming. The Chargers will have five picks in the first three rounds, which will give it trading power and the ability to stockpile picks.
Team MVP: Rivers. At 29 years old, the quarterback just gets better. Expect him to get some NFL MVP votes. He is the third player to have a passer rating of 100.0 or more for three straight years, joining Steve Young and Peyton Manning.
The numbers lie: The 2010 Chargers showed that statistics aren’t everything. Since 1970, five previous teams led the NFL in total offense and defense. All five made the playoffs. The Chargers had a plus-119 point differential in 2010, fifth best in the NFL. It was the highest plus-point differential for a non-playoff team since the 1991 San Francisco 49ers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
However, one day after the Chargers’ disappointing season ended, the team announced that Crosby’s contract will not be renewed for the 2011 season.
“We appreciate Steve’s hard work and dedication to this team over the past nine seasons,” Turner said in a statement released by the team.
It is not a surprise that Crosby was let go, but it is surprising that he was let go after the team stuck with him during a terrible stretch. The Chargers had major issues on special teams during the first 11 games of the season before settling down. Five of the Chargers’ seven losses were affected by major problems on special teams.
Earlier in the season, San Diego -- which had to deal with having five long snappers after a 17-year veteran David Binn was lost for the season on opening day -- the Chargers had every imaginable collapse on special teams, including having five punts blocked. Punter Mike Scrifres had one punt blocked in his previous six NFL seasons.
Still, Turner backed Crosby, saying the problems were due to players making plays and not because of Crosby's coaching. San Diego did improve in the area toward the end of the season but finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
San Diego led the NFL in total offense and defense, but its special teams issues helped undermine those accomplishments. In the end, it cost Crosby.
In an interview with a San Diego radio station, Turner’s boss, San Diego general manager A.J. Smith, also backed up Crosby and pointed to mental mistakes made by players.
“Well, I don’t think it was the coaching part of it,” Smith said. “ If it was the coaching part of it then it would be scheming and that sort of nature, but when we break it down we’ve had some mental errors. So the question is, why are we having mental errors? And if they continue to happen then of course you get new players or if it spreads around and starts to be a lot of different players, so I do think it is a player problem and we need to address that on the punt coverage. Now we had the same situation on the other coverage and we made some changes and we’ve got a unit coming together. When we get other players back too who have done it and are familiar with it. We think that continuity in anything is going to help you, but we haven’t had it. So it has been piecemeal and a few other things, but we’ve also had some veterans along the way uncharacteristically cause some of these problems … ”
Smith knows the Chargers could have a much better record than its current 4-5 mark if it weren’t for the special-teams miscues. San Diego is ranked No. 1 in the NFL in offense and No. 2 in defense.
“Well, just my estimation, when in hindsight when you look back this is what you do, I just feel that if we didn’t have those terrible situations, which is only hypothetical a little bit, maybe we could have had ourselves three more victories in three of those games?” Smith said. And that is just me looking back at it after the fact when it is going by the board, and then the numbers of course would have changed. But we don’t have them and you are what your record says you are as Coach Parcells made famous many years ago. So the San Diego Chargers are four and that is all we got”
“You know, there are about five guys I’d let go before him, and that would be the five guys that have had mental errors and giving up blocked punts,” Turner said. “He’s not out there doing it. He gets them ready to play. I can put a tape on Friday of a guy doing it right, and then not doing it right on Sunday. That is not Steve Crosby. He does a great job getting these guys ready, and we’ve had some issues. It has been different guys. In two or three cases, it has been a guy that has been put into a new position because of an injury, and they haven’t handled it very well.”
If that is not a rousing endorsement of a coach I don’t know what is. San Diego has had special teams issues all season. Sunday, it essentially had its fifth punt of the season blocked. But it officially goes down as a deflection because it traveled 1 yard. Whatever. It was a blocked punt. There have been five other blocked punts in the entire NFL this season.
Turner vowed that the issue will be fixed between now and the Chargers’ next game, Nov. 22 against Denver.
“Over the next five (practices), we are going to fix the issues we have in the punting game,” he said. “We will not have another punt blocked for the rest of this season.”
Turner is usually not one for blustery talk, so for him to make this claim, he must believe it.
- Meanwhile, San Diego no longer leads the NFL in total offense and total defense. It is still No. 1 in the NFL on offense, but it fell to No. 2 in total defense.
- Green Bay parted ways with veteran cornerback Al Harris. He must go through waivers. The four AFC West teams are pretty set at cornerback. If I had a guess, I’d say his best chances of landing in the division are Oakland or San Diego as a backup, but I don’t feel very strongly about either landing spot.
- Oakland offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s name has already surfaced on a list of potential hot coaching candidates. After the job he’s done in the past few weeks in Oakland, he deserves to be on the list.
Denver is on a bye this week.
Kansas City: Mike Vrabel, linebacker: Vrabel, 35, played like he was in his prime in the Chiefs’ overtime win over Buffalo. He had 11 tackles in the game. He was all over the field. Vrabel is no longer a dominant tackler, but he is a smart player and expect him to be ready for the Chiefs’ vital game against Oakland on Sunday.
Oakland, Stanford Routt, cornerback: Routt may have a big role for the Raiders. With Nnamdi Asomugha dealing with an ankle injury and Chris Johnson coming back from a concussion, a lot may be asked of Routt against the Chiefs. Kansas City is a run-first team, but Routt may be challenged by Matt Cassel at times.
San Diego, Steve Crosby, special teams coach: Crosby’s unit has to start improving. It has made one silly mistake after another all season. Crosby likely is not going to be fired during the season. He’d likely already be gone if that was the case. But it is his job to ensure his players improve and don’t repeat mistakes. It has to start happening Sunday against Houston.
Instead of game planning and trying new ways to bust the wedge and to protect his punter, Gary Zauner was about to take a swim at his Arizona home. Asked if he desired to become a special-teams coach in the NFL again, Zauner, 59, didn’t hesitate.
“No, because I don’t want to be asked questions about why my special teams are bad,” said Zauner, who now owns his own special teams consulting firm, which specializes in working with kicking specialists. After 13 years as an NFL special teams coach, Zauner clearly had enough of the pressure of coaching the unappreciated third phase of the game.
Zauner feels for his friend Steve Crosby, the special teams coach of the San Diego Chargers. Known as one of the better special teams coaches in the NFL, Crosby is under scrutiny because his once air-tight unit has been disastrous through the first five games.
San Diego (2-3) could easily be 5-0 if it weren’t for its dreadful special teams. In San Diego’s three losses this season, the special teams have surrendered 30 points. The Chargers have lost the three games by a combined 22 points.
San Diego has allowed a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown at Kansas City, two kickoff returns for touchdowns at Seattle and two blocked punts at Oakland in less than five minutes, which resulted in a touchdown and a safety. Football Outsiders believes the Chargers are on their way to having perhaps the worst overall special-teams unit in the history of the NFL.
“It’s every phase of the special teams in San Diego,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “It is killing a good team. It’s a brutal way to lose. It’s so repetitive. It’s just a massive problem for an otherwise really good team.”
San Diego coach Norv Turner scoffed at talk that Crosby would be fired earlier this week when he responded to a question about the assistant’s job security by saying: “Don’t be silly.” Miami coach Tony Sparano didn’t have the same patience after Week 4 when he fired John Bonamego following the Dolphins’ special-teams miscues that directly led to 21 points for New England in the spotlight of "Monday Night Football."
“I’ve been there before,” Zauner said. "When I had good players on special teams, I was a good special teams coach. When I had bad special-teams players, I was a bad special-teams coach … Steve Crosby is a fine special-teams coach. He’s one of the best. He’s the not the problem.”
So, what is the problem in San Diego?
“It’s probably several little things,” Zauner said.
How can the problems be fixed?
“It’s not that easy,” Zauner said.
Added Scouts Inc.’s Gary Horton when asked how the Chargers can turn around their fortunes on special teams: “I wish I knew the answer. It’s just baffling.”
Zauner said there are no quick fixes for broken special teams during the season, just some Band-Aid solutions. Zauner said the Chargers can kick to the corners of the field to try to cut down on long returns and ask punter Mike Scifres to try to punt with a better hang time but not worry about punting as long as he usually does. To guard against blocked punts, perhaps the team could put starting offensive linemen on the line. Zauner said putting more starters on the coverage teams can help too.
“It really comes down to personnel,” Zauner said. “You either have good special-teams players or not.”
The Chargers are missing two key players and it is clearly making a huge difference. Coverage ace Kassim Osgood signed with Jacksonville as a free agent because he wanted a chance to play receiver, which wasn’t an option in San Diego. The team doesn’t have the coverage aptitude it had with Osgood, even though San Diego kept 28 defensive players on the original 53-man roster in an attempt to load up on quality special-teams coverage players. Often, the best special-teams players are backup linebackers and defensive backs.
In addition to the Osgood departure, San Diego is playing without long-snapper David Binn for the first time since 1993. Binn is known as one of the best snappers in NFL history. He was lost for the season at Kansas City with a hamstring injury he suffered while trying to make a play on rookie Dexter McCluster’s team-record punt return.
In the next two weeks, two of Binn’s replacements, James Dearth and Ryan Neill, were lost for the season with injuries. The team is on its fifth snapper of the season after going 17 seasons with only one. Ethan Albright was released this week in favor of rookie Mike Windt. Zauner believes the loss of Binn and subsequent flux at snapper have created obvious timing issues.
Scifres has had three punts blocked in the past four games. He had one punt blocked in six previous NFL seasons. There haven’t been any blatant issues in the place-kicking game.
“They miss Binn and Osgood,” Zauner said. “Those are big losses and the Chargers are feeling it. ... Those are hard players to replace.”
Still, Horton said there are more issues. He studied film of the two blocked punts against Oakland and saw clear trouble.
“On one of the [blocked punts], the guy came in unblocked,” Horton said. “Something is going on there. I know they work on it and they watch film, but something is not working there. I don’t know the answer, but it has to be fixed. They have to fix it.”
The special-teams trouble in San Diego could sink the team, and there are no sure solutions. Perhaps that’s why Zauner would rather swim during football season.
1. Steve Crosby, special teams coach, San Diego Chargers: San Diego head coach Norv Turner has said Crosby will not be fired because of his unit's follies and the issues may not all be Crosby's fault, but the truth is, his unit is killing the Chargers. Despite the fact that San Diego is the No. 1-ranked offense and No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL, it is 2-3. The reason: San Diego has allowed 30 points on special teams in three losses. It's getting ridiculous, especially after Sunday's performance in which Oakland scored nine points on two blocked punts in the first five minutes of the game.
2. Oakland Raiders' pass defense: Lost in the thrill of Oakland's stunning win over San Diego was the fact that the Raiders were savaged by Philip Rivers. Rivers threw for 431 yards. He had 380 yards at the end of the third quarter. That has to be cleaned up. Oakland has the No. 31-ranked run defense. If the pass defense, which is ranked 10th, falters, Oakland will be in big trouble.
3. Kansas City Chiefs' third-down offense: Kansas City converted one of 10 third-down plays in a 10-point loss to the Colts, wasting a fine defensive effort. The Chiefs have to learn to extend drives and find the end zone. Kansas City had to settle for three field goals in the game. This is a team on the rise, but it has to find a way to keep drives alive.
1. Jason Campbell, quarterback, Oakland Raiders: Campbell showed his new team he can make plays to help it win. Campbell spelled an injured Bruce Gradkowski and led Oakland to two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 35-27 win. After playing terribly in his first six quarters in Oakland, Campbell redeemed himself in his second chance.
2. Kansas City Chiefs' defense: Usually teams are not excited after 10-point defeats, but the Chiefs should be encouraged after losing 19-9 to the Colts, even though it was the team's first loss. Romeo Crennel's defense made Colts quarterback Peyton Manning work for what he got.
3. Malcom Floyd, receiver, San Diego Chargers: Floyd showed why the Chargers' offense is ranked No. 1 without holdout receiver Vincent Jackson. Floyd had 213 yards receiving against Oakland. He is growing as a No. 1 receiver. He is fast and he can make the impossible catch. Floyd and Rivers can be a special combination.
This is a blow for Denver. Ayers, the No. 18 overall pick in 2009, was the Bronco’s best pass rusher with linebacker Elvis Dumervil out for the season with a chest injury.
Expect Denver to scour the waiver wire for help at outside linebacker, but there is little available. Also, safety Brian Dawkins is out for the next 2-3 weeks. Dawkins is Denver’s leader and the loss will also hurt the team.
The Chargers announced left tackle Marcus McNeill has been activated. It was expected since he had to spend three games on the roster exempt list after ending his holdout. Cornerback Fred Bennett and safety C.J. Spellman were cut.
San Diego coach Norv Turner shot back at a comment made by Tony Dungy with some pretty funny scoreboard material. My take: good for Turner. Defend yourself.
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. has a look at how strong Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali has been playing.
The Chargers will not fire special teams coach Steve Crosby, Turner said. The special teams have allowed 30 points on special teams in five games.
The Football Outsiders look at how strong Denver quarterback Kyle Orton has been.
Recap: The Chargers’ maddening season continued. In their third road game of the season, the Chargers killed a dominant performance with special-teams blunders and offensive turnovers to fall to 2-3.
Biggest area to fix: special teams. I hate to be redundant, but the Chargers’ biggest problem remains horrendous specials-teams play. Oakland blocked two punts in the first five minutes of the game that resulted directly in nine points for the Raiders. In three losses, San Diego has given up 30 points on special teams. At the very least, special-teams coach Steve Crosby is on notice.
Biggest area to build on: offense. The Chargers have been dominant on offense all season. That didn’t change against the Raiders. Quarterback Philip Rivers was brilliant. But the team did commit three turnovers, including a killer fumble from Rivers that resulted in the game-sealing touchdown for Oakland in the final seconds of the game. Slop is hurting the Chargers, but they are getting yards, no doubt about it.
What to watch for: The Chargers will try to win on the road for the first time this season in St. Louis. If the Chargers lose to the Rams and fall to 2-4, they may have to reach for the panic button.
OAKLAND -- Three weeks ago, Jason Campbell was being compared to JaMarcus Russell, another Oakland Raiders whiff at quarterback.
Sunday, he was the catalyst behind ending The Streak.
In one of the most wild and entertaining games of the young NFL season, Campbell was the unlikely hero of an unlikely Oakland victory in a game that had mind-numbing twists and turns. Oakland stunned San Diego 35-27 to complicate and tighten the AFC West. The win also ended the Raiders' 13-game losing streak to the Chargers, which was the second-longest streak of dominance in the NFL (New England has beaten Buffalo 14 straight times).
But now the Raiders have a leg up on the Chargers thanks to the forgotten man.
“It feels good after everything I’ve been through,” a composed and humble Campbell said Sunday evening. Campbell was the recipient of the game ball from coach Tom Cable, who may have taken himself off the hot seat with the win.
The Raiders' organization lauded Campbell for being the savior of the franchise when it acquired him in a draft weekend trade with Washington. Oakland soon cut ties with Russell, a major flop after being the No. 1 pick in 2007. This summer, Oakland owner Al Davis compared Campbell to Jim Plunkett, a hero of the Raiders’ glory years.
However, the good feelings about Oakland’s new quarterback didn’t last. He was replaced by spunky backup Bruce Gradkowski after six quarters. Gradkowski sparked Oakland to a win over St. Louis. Gradkowski kept the job because he gave Oakland’s offense life that Campbell couldn’t.
Gradkowski’s free-wheeling ways fit with Oakland’s athletic skill position players and his never-say-die approach helped him survive poor offensive line play.
However, Gradkowski went down in the first quarter Sunday with a shoulder injury. He played one series to open the third quarter, but it was clear he couldn’t perform at a high level.
Campbell, however, could and did. After a sluggish start, Campbell led Oakland on two long drives in the second half.
“I picked up Jason against St. Louis and he picked me up today,” Gradkowski said. “It’s exciting.”
Gradkowski said he should know more about his immediate future Monday. If Gradkowski has to miss some time, Oakland is now confident again in Campbell. Sunday, he managed the offense very well and was much more mobile than he was in his previous stint. He completed 13 of 18 passes for 159 yards.
Oakland, San Diego and Denver, which lost at Baltimore on Sunday, are all tied for second place in the division at 2-3. Kansas City, which became the final NFL team to lose with a defeat at Indianapolis on Sunday, leads the division with a 3-1 record.
Had Oakland lost this game, it would have been 1-4 and the team would be in a major hole. Now, there is hope.
The call: It won’t make up for the Tuck Rule Game in New England for the Raiders. Nothing ever will.
But the Raiders saw a major call go their way Sunday in a game in which the ball seemed to bounce in Oakland’s direction all day long.
Oakland had just taken a 28-27 lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by Michael Bush, who had 104 rushing yards on 26 carries subbing for the injured Darren McFadden.
Still, there was 3:39 remaining and Philip Rivers was having a brilliant game.
Rivers, who threw for 431 yards Sunday (two weeks after throwing for a franchise-record 455 yards in a loss at Seattle), brought San Diego deep into Oakland territory, as he had done all game.
Needing a field goal to take the lead, Rivers brought the Chargers to Oakland’s 23, but a penalty knocked them back to the 33. On second-and-20 with 58 seconds remaining, safety Michael Huff blitzed and hit Rivers, forcing him to fumble.
The ball bounced towards the Chargers, but ended up in the hands of Oakland safety Tyvon Branch, who scooped up the ball and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown, giving Oakland a 35-27 lead.
Of course, the play was reviewed. But replays showed that Rivers’ arm was not going forward when he was hit. It was oh-so-close. But it was the right call.
“We were due for one,” Cable said.
Something has to be done in San Diego: Simply put: the San Diego Chargers are blowing their season.
This isn’t one of the classic San Diego slow starts. This is the case of a team killing itself. In all three San Diego losses, all on the road, the Chargers imploded.
San Diego dominated the Raiders. But it killed itself with terrible miscues. Special-teams disasters and fumbles -- same old 2010 Chargers.
Oakland blocked two punts in the first five minutes of the game, which directly resulted in nine points. San Diego, which had a punt blocked earlier in the season, allowed three return touchdowns in its previous two losses. Giving up 30 points on special teams in five games is not going to fly.
You have to start wondering about the job security of San Diego special teams coach Steve Crosby. Is it all Crosby’s fault? Of course not. But the Chargers cannot keep letting the special teams lose games. They are too talented.
However, the special teams are not the lone culprit. San Diego has committed 13 turnovers in five games. San Diego fumbled twice in the red zone Sunday, including once at the goal line in the first half.
These are no longer pesky little problems. They are costing San Diego games and perhaps a chance to defend the division for the fifth straight time.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Top pick Tyson Jackson realizes the NFL is tough.
My take: It is going to get a lot tougher, Tyson. You just finished a rookie minicamp. Wait until training camp and the regular season. You better be prepared, though, Mr. Jackson. The Chiefs took you with the No. 3 overall pick and expect you to make an immediate impact at defensive end.
The Raiders have signed receiver Sami Parker after he tried out during last weekend's minicamp.
My take: Parker is a journeyman and he will have to fight to make the roster. But Oakland needs all the help it can get at receiver.
San Diego's special teams feel prepared for a rule change.
My take: There was a rule change that limits wedge formations on kickoffs. As San Diego special teams coach Steve Crosby explains, the Chargers weren't much of a wedge team anyway, so it shouldn't be a big problem. San Diego has been one of the better special teams units in the league and I expect it to continue.