An Admitted A.J. Smith Apologist

As the Chargers struggle to justify not at least offering long-term contracts to their two current holdouts, plenty of media outlets and fans are going to point the finger at the team’s General Manager A.J. Smith. Some of that blame surely comes because of Smith’s arrogant attitude with the media and his questionable negotiation tactics, but the fact of the matter is that Smith is an employee of the Chargers organization under no one’s authority but team ownership. Dean Spanos and the Spanos family sign Smith’s paycheck and they evidently feel that the GM is doing an extraordinary job. And why wouldn’t they?

Smith took on the title of general manager after the late John Butler passed away in April of 2003 from his battle with lung cancer. After working his way up through the ranks as an NFL scout in the late seventies and throughout the eighties, Smith landed with the Buffalo Bills where he would begin a 14-year relationship with the team. He served as an area scout (1987-1988), their Assistant Director of College Scouting (1989-1992), and then became the Director of Pro Personnel (1993-2000). Smith’s time in Buffalo came during the heyday of the franchise when the Bills notoriously reached four consecutive Super Bowls only to lose each of those contests to superior NFC opponents.

During his first season as GM with the Bolts, Smith was named Executive of the Year by CBS after the team transformed from a 4-12 nightmare to a 12-4 Cinderella. That year was the resurrection of Drew Brees’ career in San Diego and ultimately forced the Bolts to place the franchise tag on him even though they had just selected Philip Rivers in the 2004 NFL Draft after a controversial trade with the New York Giants. Smith’s trade for Rivers acquired the picks from the Giants which would later be used to select linebacker Shawne Merriman and kicker Nate Kaeding (both Pro Bowlers). The incidents that followed the 2005 season would eventually begin the second guessing of Smith’s management philosophies and provide the ammunition for those who question his priorities to this day.

After Brees suffered a torn labrum in the season finale of 2005, then Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer came under scrutiny for leaving Brees in the game. The chain of events that would follow included Brees being allowed to test the free agent market and eventually signing with the New Orleans Saints while the Bolts turned the reigns over to Rivers under center. After an outstanding first season by Rivers and company posting a 14-2 record, expectations were high as the number one seed in the AFC. The Bolts would be stunned in a Divisional round playoff loss to the New England Patriots after some passive coaching decisions by Schottenheimer. In a highly publicized spat, Smith and Marty starred one another down with the end result being Schottenheimer’s pink slip in San Diego.

What does all of this controversy mean?

In short, Smith is a man with principals that are written in stone and if someone fails to conform to his way of thinking, the Bolt GM would rather move on without them than change his ideals. Call it stubborn, but Smith has found success in San Diego building a perrenial AFC West champion team and creating a core group of players that have another four or five years of upper level production ahead of them. That is what makes these holdouts so troubling being that they involve two of those draft pick gems that Smith has become noted for during his tenure with the team. Jackson was plucked late in round number two with the 61st overall selection in 2005 while McNeill was snagged just one year later in the second round with the 50th pick.

Not every general manager is capable of finding Pro Bowl caliber players in the latter half of round two on a yearly basis, but not every GM has the audacity to stare down holdouts from two of his premier offensive stars and not blink either. Smith is definitely one of a kind in the NFL and quite a trailblazer with his negotiation tactics, but the jury is still out on whether that is a good or bad thing for the sake of the franchise.


Let’s hear from the fans, should Smith give in to the demands of both McNeill and Jackson or should he stand firm in the face of adversity? Which side will ultimately cave, the players or team management? Has Smith been an effective general manager or does the team need to look elsewhere if they want to reach the pinnacle and one day raise the Lombardi trophy? Pour on the comments below!

August 24, 2010

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Anonymous said... Aug 24, 2010, 7:38:00 AM

I don't Think we need them to get to the playoffs but it would be nice to have them if they are even in shape and sober.

Anonymous said... Aug 24, 2010, 3:48:00 PM

These two "young proven players" have demonstrated their worth. If not for a cap year they have played out their contracts. Based on the numerous articles I've read it's not up to AJ. It's the cheapoo Spanos owner that is low balling our team out of contention. The lastest blast on VJ and Big Mac on by Spanos was just plain stupid. What message is he sending to potential free agents or players on the team? "Beware signing with Chargers cause we going to back stab you in the back and throw you under the bus with media." This all should have been handled in house. Instead, like little bitches they put it out to the media. I for one don't feel we have a team stronger a team as last year. Secondary looks very slow. It was a mistake to not keep Cromartie. Who am I? Just a loyal fan who has been watching Charger games since 2007 and reading every article that is printed. Chargers need to handle negociations in house instead of spreading all over the media. Pay and play these two gentalmen who have help you make millions. What do we get instead a lot of ???? mark's at left Tackel and receivers give me a break. Karma is a mother F%@ker (Thomas out, Butler injured etc.)and it's happening cause you are just wrong Spanos. Please watch intro to the Movie the Blind Side. A tree that doesn't bend will break. Most of all if it ain't broke don't fix it! And you wonder why attendance is down. Let me tell you who you need to pay...VJ and McNeal. I'm not buying another Jersey till you do assholes.

Lighting 72

Anonymous said... Aug 24, 2010, 3:59:00 PM

These guys will get their money. That's for sure. As a player I would not put myself in harms way for an ungrateful organization. It's sad to see rookies making more money than proven players. Que paso con esto! I would like to see a pic of the guy who said he wonders if these guys are in shape and sober. They are professional probowlers.The Charger Management has spent more time money and energy trying to replace these two irreplaceable players. Didn't we make enough $$$ winning all those AFC titles?? Enough Said ... G O C H A R G E R S!

Anonymous said... Aug 24, 2010, 5:01:00 PM

The Chargers cannot & will not be held hostage by s two players that care more about themselves than the team. They can make $3.5 Mil this year they don't it want fine/ The money goes back to the bank while they wait to sign someone who wants that money.

Anonymous said... Aug 24, 2010, 5:03:00 PM

If we can replace the President of the United States, than anyone can be replaced. Just go ask your own Boss.

Ed said... Aug 24, 2010, 5:12:00 PM

Lighting 72, u need to calm down. I been a Charger fan since the mid 60's. I played football in H.S. & College. U needs to think like a business man, to understand pro sports. This isn't a Pop Warner League. U won't remember J.J. a WR who was on his way to the H.O.F., but he wanted alot money. The Chargers at that time didn't re-do contract back than. So he was traded to the Vikings. The Chargers picked up Wes Chandler, and the rest is History. Lets just say Air Coryell never lost a beat. While J.J. , he never made to the H.O.F. What happen to all that money they gave only he knows.

Anonymous said... Sep 8, 2010, 8:36:00 AM

Why do we view the players as being selfish? Because the teams use the players to cover their profits. We have to ask ourselves that question, when it comes to (player exposing). Nobody knows how much money I make at my job unless I put it in the news papers or broadcast it over television. Why don't we find out how much money the team makes. Then we would understand why they can't pay the Star Players that helped them generate greater ROI's. What if we could see the teams increase in revenues based on player performance,it would much easier for us as fans to make fair assessments on contract disputes. Also what's happen to giving the ones(FANS) that buy tickets and jerseys what they enjoy, the exception to being just an average NFL player. A J hasn't any respect for the game the way he views the players. If you don't respect what your building, that's a direct reflection of how you see yourself. No matter what you accomplish you will always be a loser. If the head is sick, then the whole body is, San Diego chargers are in trouble

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