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NFL: Chargers keep Schottenheimer

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Marty Schottenheimer might be down to one last chance to get the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl.

Three days after the talented Chargers melted down in a stunning 24-21 playoff loss to New England, team president Dean Spanos decided Wednesday that bringing Schottenheimer back for the final year of his contract gives San Diego its best chance to win.

Schottenheimer, though, declined the team’s offer of a one-year extension for 2008 worth $4.5 million, with a $1 million buyout.

The coach didn’t offer specific reasons, but they could have to do with the spiraling salaries given to other NFL head coaches, and perhaps to his strained relationship with general manager A.J. Smith.

“Right now, I wasn’t comfortable accepting it,” said Schottenheimer, who will earn more than $3 million in 2007.

Spanos said Schottenheimer didn’t give him a reason.

With a regular-season record of 200-126-1 with Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington and San Diego, Schottenheimer is the most successful coach never to have reached the Super Bowl.

His 5-13 playoff record has taken on a life of its own. Sunday’s loss was his sixth straight in the postseason dating to 1993, and the ninth time a Schottenheimer-coached team lost its opening playoff game. His teams have failed four times to capitalize on the home-field advantage that comes with owning the AFC’s No. 1 seed.

He is 47-33 in five seasons with the Chargers, including 35 wins and two AFC West titles in the last three seasons.

Led by league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers were thought by many to be Super Bowl-caliber, with an NFL-best 14-2 record. But they had four turnovers and made numerous other mistakes in losing to the Patriots.

Smith said he spent Tuesday speaking with Spanos, players, front-office personnel and people around the league about Schottenheimer.

Asked if he was comfortable with what appears to be a non-relationship, Schottenheimer said: “I’m a tough, ornery old cuss. Let me just say this — I hope all of you would appreciate the fact that I only care about one thing, and that’s winning football games. All the rest of this stuff is extraneous. They are matters of the day, if you will.

“But the bottom line is, find a way to win the game. And I’ve had a pretty good run at it, and I’ve had a pretty good approach to it.”

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