The Chargers, running of time in their 2008 season, made an aggressive move Tuesday to become a more aggressive defense.
The Bolts fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell on Tuesday and replaced him with linebackers coach Ron Rivera. They knew they needed to do something with their scheme, but head coach Norv Turner said he also decided to make a change on their staff.
The Chargers are 3-5 after Sunday’s loss to New Orleans in London and have a bye week that allows additional time to adjust to the changes under Rivera.
“There are a lot of things that went into the decision,” Turner said.
“There are areas that we just have to play better and we have to improve. Over the next ten days those are the areas that we are going to address. Hopefully we can not only show improvement right away but continue to improve over the next eight games.”
The Chargers were playing too far off receivers while the front seven was failing to get pressure on the quarterback. The left New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards too much time to sit in the pocket and find open receivers.
Players had been hinting they wanted to play a more aggressive style of defense than Cottrell was drawing up in game plans. The Chargers, known as a physical defense in 2007, suddenly were considered a passive defense.
“I think our guys played it the best of their ability,” Rivera said.
“Unfortunately we didn’t make the plays when we had opportunities.
That’s an unfortunate part of the game. We’ve just got to look at it and evaluate it and see which defenses we feel were better than the others and also look at what position the players were in. I think that’s important because you want to continue to put the players in the best position to make plays.”
By position, Rivera meant players weren’t in the right position on the field.
Rivera coached a 4-3 defense with the Chicago Bears, but he said the Bolts will remain a base 3-4 defense this season. Don’t be surprised, though, to see some 4-3 formations in certain situations.
Rivera interviewed as a head coach candidate in 2007 when the Bears didn’t renew his contract after their Super Bowl season in 2006. One reason he accepted a step down as a linebackers coach with the Bolts was the former Cal linebacker wanted to learn the 3-4 system to build is resume as well as return to his West Coast roots.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a shift to a 4-3 defense next year, though. The Chargers went from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in 2004 because they felt they had more linebackers than linemen.
But that’s next year. Without Rivera playing a more aggressive style, the Bolts were faced with the task of outscoring their opponents to make the playoffs.
The Chargers should beat Kansas City (twice), Oakland, Denver and Atlanta among their remaining games. That gets them to eight wins.
How they split games at Pittsburgh, home against Indianapolis and at Tampa Bay will determine if they can get away with winning the AFC West with a 9-7 record or need to get to 10-6.