There has been plenty of speculation around the interwebs, at this blog specifically, about what the San Diego Chargers are planning to do this offseason. "They're going to let Darren Sproles go", "Legedu Naanee isn't coming back", etc. Sometimes it's easy to get confused with what might happen and what has actually happened, and cannot be changed. For instance, the Chargers could certainly decide that they can't live without Sproles, or that they'd rather not waste the time they took developing Naanee, and bring those guys back. So, to help you out, here's a list of the things that have actually happened so far in this offseason for the Bolts:
New Special Teams Coach
You almost forgot about this, didn't you? I know I did. Steve Crosby, who was public enemy #1 in San Diego last season, was fired on January 3rd and replaced about a week later by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Special Teams Coach Rich Bisaccia. Both men have excellent track records as far as coaching the Special Teams is concerned, but a fresh face might be what the team needs to get past it's woeful 2010 performance.
New Defensive Coordinator
You just looked at these two things and realized "Two of the three most important coaches on the team just got replaced with guys who weren't with the Chargers last year." and you're wondering if it's a good thing or a bad thing. I know, I did the same thing. The truth is that I don't know, and I don't think anybody does. Sure Norv Turner and the front office are confident that they got some good guys, but even they don't know how those coaches will gel with each other, with the players, etc. It's two very big question marks for a team that nearly won the division, so don't tell me the team "stood pat instead of trying to improve" just because Norv is still around.
Anyways, Ron Rivera finally got the Head Coaching job he'd been chasing for years when the Carolina Panthers signed him on to take over the rubble they call a team. Here's where things get kind of silly. When Ron came to San Diego, he interviewed for the Head Coach job but ended up taking the position of Linebackers Coach.....which was open because Greg Manusky had left (once Marty Schottenheimer was fired) and been hired as the Defensive Coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers by Mike Nolan. Ron Rivera eventually moved up to the DC spot after Ted Cottrell was fired, and now that he's left town for another promotion his spot as Defensive Coordinator is replaced by the man that he originally replaced in San Diego....Greg Manusky. It's a small world after all (at least in the NFL).
I will say this: I really hope Manusky sticks in San Diego, because 3 different coordinator over 5 seasons makes things harder than they should be for the defensive players.
New Tight Ends Coach
Rob Chudzinski reminds me of both Rivera and Manusky in some ways. His return to the Chargers never seemed like a long-term thing, he is too young and too talented to be a TE Coach here when he had success as an Offensive Coordinator with the Cleveland Browns already. Anyways, Chud spent the last two seasons refining the game of Antonio Gates and getting guys like Kris Wilson and Randy McMichael up to speed, while also serving as the Assistant Head Coach (who, supposedly, took over some gameday responsibilities like clock management).
Antonio Gates did fine without Chud around, so there's no reason to be alarmed. The Tight Ends have been handed over to Jason Michael. Now, Michael was the QB Coach in San Francisco (ummm...yeah, I'll let that speak for itself), but has coached TEs before (with the Jets) and has worked in the past with Norv Turner as his "Offensive Quality Control Coach". This is less of an unknown to Norv, he grabbed this guy because he believes he has some real talent. This is somebody to watch in the future.
New Assistant Head Coach
Another position Chud left open has been filled by the Chargers Defensive Secondary Coach Steve Wilks. Wilks has worked wonders on a part of the team that was notoriously bad before Rivera brought him over from the Chicago Bears. Whether this means Wilks is taking over more gameday responsibilities, or is a larger part of the gameplan during the week, or if it's merely a promotion in title (and/or money) is a bit of an unknown.
What is known is that Rivera knew what he was doing when he brought over his defensive staff from the Bears to the Chargers. Each of the guys he's brought played a major role in the team's defense being ranked 1st for much of the 2010 season and, luckily for the Chargers, they are all staying in San Diego because they are signed through 2011. After this season, expect for other teams to come calling on Wilks, Don Johnson and others. it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see at least one of those guys follow Rivera to Carolina.
Vincent Jackson franchised
You can get complicated and say "The franchise tag is irrelevant without a new CBA". Sure, you're right, but so is the NFL. You can say "The new CBA might not have franchise tags", and I will call you insane. That is so far removed from being a possibility that the players will not even bring it up in negotiations. Let's treat this as fact: Vincent Jackson is a San Diego Charger for at least one more season, and will be paid the average salary of the top 5 WRs in 2010 for his performance in 2011.