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This sounds odd, considering that San Diego State is searching for a football coach and the Chargers have a coach they say will return in 2009. But Marshall Faulk feels better about the identity of the Aztecs’ coach in 2009 than the Bolts’.

The reason the three-time All-American at SDSU and future Pro Football Hall-of-Famer is optimistic about the Aztecs’ next coach is the school’s administration has asked for him input. He’s seen the list of candidates being interviewed, and he’s encouraged by the prospects available the school can pick the right man for the job.

“They have a great list of candidates compiled,” Faulk said. “They want to make sure they get it right this time. They’ve made decisions with Craft (Tom, who coached from 2002-2005) and Long (Chuck, from 2006-2008) that haven’t worked out. They are definitely hell-bent on getting it right. They want to put a winner on the football field. They don’t want a guy coming to San Diego State to retire or use it as a steppingstone. They want a guy that will be a part of San Diego State.”

Faulk will be working for the NFL Network as an analyst and will interview Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson before Thursday night’s game between the Oakland Raiders and Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

It’s his job to follow the NFL, but since he now makes his home in Rancho Santa Fe after retiring from the St. Louis Rams, it’s easy for him to keep up on San Diego sports.

Even though Chargers President Dean Spanos and General Manager A.J.

Smith recently said embattled head coach Norv Turner will return in 2009, Faulk said he’s not so sure.

“If I was A.J. Smith, I’d be very careful with the situation,” Faulk said. “I’d be very surprised if A.J. isn’t connected at the hip with Norv Turner in answering to Dean Spanos. It’s tough when you make a decision to get rid of a coach like Marty Schottenheimer. He didn’t have the best record in the playoffs, but definitely he got you to the playoffs. You know what you’ll get out his teams. A.J. has to be careful with an endorsement.”

Although it’s true Smith and Schottenheimer didn’t get along, Faulk’s comment does overlook that Schottenheimer basically forced Spanos to fire him.

When the Chargers lost offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to Miami as head coach, and defensive coordinator Bum Phillips as a head coach to Dallas, Schottenheimer wanted to hire to hire his brother, Kurt, as defensive coordinator. Schottenheimer knew hiring his brother was a move that neither Spanos and Smith would approve. So Schottenheimer took his money and faded into the sunset.

But Faulk’s point was someone can be expected to suffer the fall for the Chargers’ disappointing 4-8 season, and he doesn’t consider the vote of confidence Spanos and Smith gave Turner a couple weeks ago as the final word.

But commenting on the Aztecs is Faulk’s passion, so here’s one more from him.

“My advice is I believe they have to hire a coach from a winning program with (head) coaching experience,” Faulk said. “If they hire a coach without head coaching experience, they have to make sure the alumni, the fans and media knows this coach will need time to grow. I think Chuck’s biggest foul up was he told you guys (the media and fans) he was going to win and win now. You can’t say that. You don’t know what kind of players you’re getting when you take a new job.”

Faulk also was asked if he contributed money to the private funds raised so the Aztecs could afford to fire Long by paying off the remaining $1.4 million that was left on his contract, which still had two years left.

He wouldn’t say yes and he wouldn’t say no.

“Or,” he said. “I can’t give information either way.”

He added this was the first time SDSU has asked for his input, although it’s the fourth coach SDSU has hired since he turned pro following his junior season in 1993.

“Chuck did a good job getting us out of the cellar as far as academics, but he didn’t get it done on the field,” Faulk said. “They did what they had to do.”

— TOM SHANAHAN

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