For a team that once scorned the United States Football League as unworthy of serious attention, the Chargers are fast taking on a hybrid look that owes much to the upstart league.
After replenishing their player stock with half a dozen USFL veterans last season, the Chargers are redoing the defensive segment of their coaching staff with USFL material.
Two members of the Oakland Invader staff, Ron Lynn and Mike Haluchak, were added Sunday after the Chargers were turned down 10 days ago by another Oakland coach. Lynn was named defensive coordinator and defensive backfield coach, and Haluchak was hired as linebacker coach.
Hank Bauer, the former San Diego special teams star and member of the coaching staff the last three years, was promoted to special teams coach, a move that had been expected for several weeks.
For the perennially charitable San Diego defense and the city's long suffering fans, the operative phrase now is "H, L and A."
"That's hang loose and adjust," Lynn said.
The Chargers, in selecting Lynn to replace Dave Adolph as defensive coordinator, wound up with a man who was their second choice to fill the position. The job was offered to Charlie Sumner, head coach of the Invaders, but he rejected their bid in hopes of landing a head job with another National Football League team.
The Chargers have offered Adolph, who replaced Tom Bass as defensive coordinator four games into the 1985 season, a chance to remain with the organization as director of pro personnel. He was hired in that capacity a year ago.
The San Diego staff now is complete, according to assistant head coach Al Saunders, who directed the search for men to replace three coaches who were fired--linebacker coach Chuck Weber, secondary coach Jim Wagstaff and special teams coach Marv Braden.
Together with Bass, the ousted threesome shared a collective century of NFL experience, which is roughly 100 years more than their replacements.
And that was the idea, according to Saunders.
"We needed new blood and new ideas," he said. "I think you will find that younger coaches are less worried about merely protecting their jobs and more willing to go all-out to help young players improve.
"I think you'll also find that a lot of USFL coaches are turning out to be hot commodities. Their excellence is being recognized. There is a good ol' boy system in the NFL that makes it difficult to get into the club, but we're not afraid to add new dimensions to our organization."
The goal of owner Alex Spanos is a blitzing, attacking, pressure defense, and the obvious hope is that Lynn and Haluchak will team with holdover defensive line coach Gunther Cunningham to provide it.
"Ron Lynn is going to bring some imaginative defensive schemes," Saunders said. "Also, he is a man who is a willing and able teacher of techniques, which we need with our many young players.
"We wanted a guy who could coach a position and not be just a walking-around coordinator. Nobody can teach what you want better than yourself."
Lynn, who was defensive coordinator of the Invaders for the past three years, previously held that position at the University of California at a time when Saunders also was on the staff.
Haluchak has worked with Lynn for several years, so the Chargers are getting a group of coaches who know each other well.
"There's nothing worse than having coaches who aren't on the same page," Saunders said. "You don't want one man who is aggressive and another who is conservative in outlook."
Lynn and Haluchak will implement a defense that borrows from the Los Angeles Raiders and Chicago Bears. Charger fans will find the new defense similar to the Raiders' in its use of bump and run coverage, Haluchak said. The new defense will have a Chicago flavor in terms of multiple fronts, he said.
"The package is one Ron and I have been evolving for the last three years or so," said Haluchak, 36, who was a three-year starter at linebacker at USC in the O.J. Simpson era. "There was a lot of influence from Charlie Sumner in the last year in the area of coverages."
Lynn, 41, is taking on a pressure-packed role, and he will use pressure defense as a means of self defense.
"We like to attack and blitz, but we also use some intelligence," he said. "We don't just say, 'Oh, hell let's blitz 'em, never mind the situation.'
"We'll use calculated blitzes, not just randomly. A lot of it is dictated by the quality of player. We don't ask a guy to do something he's not capable of doing. If we play a straight 3-4 and our left end is playing as well as he can, but he's getting his tail kicked, I'd like to have an answer for him. He's not getting whipped because he wants to."
Lynn, like Haluchak, has a master's degree in education, and he seems very much in the Saunders mold of winning through brains as well as muscle.
"It would be presumptuous to say we can outsmart anybody, but we hope to use the intellect we have," Lynn said. "I tell my players, hang loose and adjust. We're looking for the big plays. I expect the fans will respond to it. As a defense, we're going to try to win, not just try to keep from losing."