Marty's Dismissal Was Spanos' Decision, Not Smith's

AJ Smith is god-like among some fan circles... and an egotistical maniac in others. He is regarded as a brilliant scout of talent and a master roster-builder, but lacks the people skills to be an endearing figure. While that image is perfectly fine with Smith, some people feel that Smith's ego has gotten in the way of the Chargers being successful.

An example used in this instance is the firing of a winning head coach in Marty Schottenheimer. Since it is well known that Smith and Schottenheimer refused to be friends, the assumption is that AJ Smith fired Schottenheimer simply because the two weren't twp peas in a pod.

Not so, according to former San Diego journalist Jim Trotter (now with Sports Illustrated):

Spanos cited the "dysfunctional relationship" between Schottenheimer and Smith as the reason for the move, but that was hogwash. Schottenheimer and Smith had barely spoken in a year and Spanos was fine with it. Plus, just a month earlier Spanos had announced Schottenheimer would return for a sixth season.

The dismissal was strictly because Schottenheimer stood up to the team owner. When he informed Schottenheimer of the change, Spanos told him he had never seen Schottenheimer act like that. He told Schottenheimer that he had changed. Spanos was right, of course. Schottenheimer was tired of feeling like an outsider in his own organization, so he drew a bright line and crossed. Then he collected his $4 million salary and returned to his offseason home in North Carolina, where he could spend time with his daughter and grandkids.

As popular as it is to lay the blame of Schottenheimer's ouster on Smith, Spanos is the one whose fingerprints were on the pink slip. There was no way he was going to allow an employee to openly defy one of his organizational tenets. So go ahead and rip Smith for hiring Turner, who came to town with a 58-82-1 record after failing in Washington and Oakland. But any venom about the firing of Schottenheimer will have to be spewed in another direction.

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October 5, 2007

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