Cameron, Phillips are hot properties

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Oct 14, 2005
North County Times

By: STEVE SCHOLFIELD - Senior Sports Columnist

SAN DIEGO ---- With the possibility of six or seven NFL coaching vacancies at the end of the season, this is a good time to be a successful offensive or defensive coordinator.

It's a natural progression from coordinator to head coach. So say hello to Chargers offensive guru Cam Cameron and defensive wizard Wade Phillips, two of the best assistant coaches in the business.

After this season, you might be saying goodbye to them.

Both are considered hot properties for their work, which means franchises in need of a quality coach could come calling.

Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer allowed Phillips and Cameron to speak with the media after Wednesday for the first and only time this season.

It has long been Schottenheimer's policy to prevent his assistants from acting as spokesmen for the team.

After the visit Wednesday, we discovered something that Schottenheimer has known for a long time: Cameron and Phillips are remarkable individuals who perhaps will be running their own teams someday. Schottenheimer's top two lieutenants are very special.

Cameron, the former Indiana University coach who used to play pickup basketball games with good friend Larry Bird, and Phillips, the former head coach in Denver, Buffalo and Atlanta, have differing views about the future.

"Sure, I'd like to do it again," the 58-year-old Phillips said when asked about a possible head coaching assignment. "I've been a successful head coach, and not many people can say that."

Cameron, 44, is not ready to say that just yet.

"That is the furthest thing from my mind, and I mean that sincerely," Cameron said. "Here's why: What works for me is to be zeroed in on what I'm being asked to do. And (contemplating a new job) is not in my job description. And I truly believe that God is going to handle (my future). That is how I approach it.

"I'm going to focus on helping the San Diego Chargers, Marty Schottenheimer, A.J. Smith and Dean Spanos win a championship. That is why I'm here, and that is what I'm paid to do."

The only future Cameron is thinking about is the Chargers' Nov. 20 game against the Buffalo Bills, following a bye this Sunday.

I have to admire his dedication to the work at hand.

Though Cameron is not touting his abilities, others are. Quarterback Drew Brees calls him a great friend and an outstanding coach.

"Cam and I, we have a great relationship," Brees said. "I've been playing against him since college. Since our time here with the Chargers, I've seen him grow as an offensive coordinator, which is kind of neat, just because it's his first coordinator job in the NFL.

"I think what he's been able to do with our personnel and creating matchups and putting guys in situations to really succeed, I think it's been phenomenal. I think we're at the point now as an offense that we believe that every play that comes out of his mouth is going to be a big one."

Said Cameron: "I think quarterbacks and coordinators grow together because we go through so many ups and downs."

Cameron and Brees are directing an offense that's ranked 10th in the league and averages four touchdowns a game.

As for Phillips, his stock continues to grow.

"How many times can a guy come in his first year and go to the playoffs?" Phillips said. "I've done it six times either as a coordinator or head coach. I feel like I have something left."

Chargers fans hope he is right. And they should hope that Schottenheimer can keep his top lieutenants around for many years to come.