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!
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