An Analysis Of A.J. Smith


As a staunch supporter of General Manager A.J. Smith through thick and thin, it only seemed appropriate to pen something on the personnel side of things after reflecting on the season past. Plenty of fingers have been pointed in the Chargers’ organization from the top on down the line at just who is to blame for yet another disappointing season and perhaps the issues begin right there.

Strong organizations like the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and Indianapolis Colts don’t lament the things that have gone wrong and play the blame game. They instead turn the negative into a positive and try to learn from their mistakes by making sure that the same errors aren’t committed habitually.

The entire Bolts’ organization could learn a great deal from these elite NFL franchises by actually looking in the mirror before attempting to justify their shortcomings.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that several fans are unhappy with the way A.J. Smith handled the past offseason and just as evident that he did make some wrong turns along the way. Still it wasn’t Smith who built up the expectations so high for this team coming into the season and he tried to provide a logical explanation for their perceived underachieving season. Smith told the San Francisco Chronicle: "Maybe, eventually someone will say that it no longer is the most talented team in the league. And then it will stop. And it'll be a new team. That would be a nice thing to read. Because (the label) really means nothing. The most talented team and the deepest team with the best personnel is the Steelers.”

If you know anything about Smith, it had to be absurdly difficult for him to actually admit that the Steelers have better personnel than he was able to assemble in San Diego. His pride is arguably his worst and best attribute at times often getting in the way of making sound business decisions just to save face. Still Smith has had to swallow that pride a bit since dismissing Marty Schottenheimer as head coach following the 2006 season and it can’t have been all that appetizing.

Smith handpicked Norv Turner to lead this team after giving Marty the axe and despite his inadequacies in the inspiration department, Turner has been quite successful with the Bolts up until this season. Even still he has yet to have a losing season at the helm for the team and this is the first time that they have missed the playoffs in his tenure.

By no means was Turner anywhere near the top of a dream list of head coaches, but he hasn’t been the complete disaster that many believe him to be. Philip Rivers has blossomed under Turner’s tutelage and become one of the top five quarterbacks in the league. It wasn’t until this season that the Chargers actually lost a regular season game beyond the month of November.

Still it is the slow starts that have doomed this team to begin each and every year under Turner’s leadership. This year’s 2-5 mark out of the gate is the first time that it has cost the club a shot in the playoffs and that will certainly be a humbling experience. Hopefully this forces the players to realize that making the playoffs is not an inalienable right and it must be earned. Some of the players on this team are unfamiliar with the feeling of watching a postseason game from their living rooms and it is possible that experiencing that this January can inspire a deeper desire for success in each of them and get this team off to a quicker start in 2011.

Regardless of how talented you believe the 2010 Chargers were or weren’t, it is clear that in order to progress in terms of overall success the team needs to take a different approach to next season. A sense of urgency from week one needs to be instilled in these players with tougher early practices and a more rigid disciplinarian approach to their preparation.

With it being likely that the club will choose to franchise tag wide receiver Vincent Jackson and attempt to milk one more good year out of him, this team will have one more year of experience under their belts which can only be a positive. A.J. Smith really has no one else to use the tag on this offseason and if nothing else, keeping Jackson in house gives him one more highly appealing bargaining chip to maneuver on draft day.

Talent alone doesn’t win games in the NFL, hard work does and the Bolts found that out the hard way in 2010. Still this team has far too much potential to squander another year at the height of both Philip Rivers’ and Antonio Gates’ careers. That mantra can only be repeated so many times before it loses its meaning and the Chargers need to make sure next season receives their undivided attention.

Now for your input. Do you agree with A.J. Smith that the Steelers are a more talented team than the Chargers or do you believe he just said that to deflect some blame from the coaches and players? This one’s a doozy, who would you rather have coaching the Bolts right now, Norv Turner or Marty Schottenheimer? Do you believe that Smith will franchise tag Vincent Jackson this year and will he shop the former Pro Bowler or keep him on the team for one more season? How would not winning a Super Bowl ultimately tarnish the ‘legacies’ of Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates? Please give leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

January 7, 2011

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3 comments:

Pricefamatm said... Jan 8, 2011, 9:16:00 AM

A.J. Reap what you sow buddy! Congrats on all you and your ego have done to start the Chargers downward spiral. Time for a change at the top. A.J., Dean, and Norv all equal a mediocre football team, wasting what talent the Chargers have.

Pmillerone said... Jan 10, 2011, 4:02:00 AM

This TEAM does indeed have talent, and I dont think that the Steeler are a more talented TEAM than the Chargers, I think the differance is that the Steelers have a better TEAM concept of LETS WIN throughout the organization whereas the Charger management and players carry there negotiations into the season instead of taking care of things during the OFF-SEASON. Also TEAM continuity needs to be instilled and practiced. No individual has ever won a Super Bowl. Charger need to adopt an identity and get the 2006 swagger back. Management need to get busy and sign VJ long term along with giving players like DS incentive and purpose to want to stay and be a part of this TEAM to win a championship. GO BOLTS 2011!!!!!!

arnie said... Jan 11, 2011, 12:35:00 AM

Do you agree with A.J. Smith that the Steelers are a more talented team than the Chargers or do you believe he just said that to deflect some blame from the coaches and players?
It really doesn't matter if it's one or the other, because it's a lose lose situation for AJ. if he says the Steelers are more talented, then he's admitting to dropping the ball on players, and not getting the talent the Chargers need. if it's to deflect then again he's making excuses, and again it's on AJ because he picked the players AND the HC. however if he's just making a joke, i'm not laughing.

This one’s a doozy, who would you rather have coaching the Bolts right now, Norv Turner or Marty Schottenhiemer?
That's easy. M.A.R.T.Y. i know Marty always had the team ready to play. he coached a bunch of young players into winners. i also know Marty's record in playoff sucks. however he's never, NEVER, had a team like this and with one year left on his contract, he was never given a chance to get over the hump. besides, they had that game won, when Florence picked Brady, but got stripped trying to run it back. here's a good norv excuse " how's that Marty's fault?" on the flip side, Norv has never had a winning record until he inherited a 14-2 team. the players are much better here than there were in washington and oakland, but the coach was still the same, as he is here. on average norv is good for 8 wins a season. yes he has great record in the playoffs, but what good is that if you suck in the regular season? you need to be good in 16 games to get to the playoffs.

Do you believe that Smith will franchise tag Vincent Jackson this year and will he shop the former Pro Bowler or keep him on the team for one more season? he has to franchise him or we get nothing for him. except a compensatory pick from the league, like AJ did with Michael Turner. anyone interested will wait until VJ is a UFA and sign him, and give up nothing.
let me take you back to 05', Gates had the same problem with AJ. yes that Antonio Gates. now flash forward to the present, and imagine what our season's would look like "without" the 6 time pro bowler. how does that effect our playoff chances, or winning records? a lot of what we were able to do is squarely as a result of him being on the field. Gates has made big impact and looking back on it now i'm glad they got a deal done. Now flash forward 5 years form now. do we really want to look back and say, i wonder what could have been?


How would not winning a Super Bowl ultimately tarnish the ‘legacies’ of Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates? Ask Dan Marino. Ask Dan Fouts. Ask Kellen Winslow. Ask Jim Kelly. Ask Therman Thomas. should i go on? everybody agrees these and many others were great players, but "they never won Superbowl" is recited whenever you put "great" in front of their names.

peace out.

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