1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Tuesday. “CHARGERS GM-HOW GOOD WAS HE”

Posted by on May 14th, 2024  •  0 Comments  • 


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It was a bad era in San Diego Chargers football.

When you have been to the Super Bowl and your franchise heads downhill, finishing with a (1-15) record, that is as bad as it gets.

So bad that owner Dean Spanos did not want to be around fans.

His team had gone to the 1995-Super Bowl to play the 49ers, and it ended badly, a 6-TD night from Steve Young.
Within two years the coach who drove the team to the playoffs four times and that Super Bowl game, was gone

Bobby Ross could not survive Spanos and then GM-Bobby Beathard, and was booted because he would not fire his coordinators.

Things went downhill fast.  QB-Stan Humphries suffered a career ending concussion.  The Ryan Leaf arrival was disastrous, thus (1-15) and Beathard’s dismissal.

The Chargers hired John Butler, who had helped build the Buffalo Bills into a Super Bowl team, that went to the Big Game, but lost four times in those Big Game Sundays.

Butler was tasked with few quality players, some high picks.  He brought in Drew Brees, then LaDanian Tomlinson, and hoped progress was being made.  He died suddenly of lung cancer from a lifetime of smoking.

When he arrived, in tow with him was his Player Personnel guy from the Bills, AJ Smith.  They had been together in Buffalo and before that in the USFL with Chicago.  There was a bond, a workman philosophy, and a blueprint of the type of players they wanted…’gamers’

Smith took over with a star running back, a proven coach, and picks.  As the Chargers struggled early, Smith got a high pick and a chance to get a QB.

Eli Manning was the choice, but his father did not want him to play for Team Spanos and its tacky history of ownership.  AJ Smith would not be bullied.  He drafted Eli, who went to the podium to get his Chargers jersey, a sullen look on his face, and never opened the jersey to hold up.  Message sent.  Message received.  Message gone.

Smith, never afraid of a fight, traded him to the New York Giants for a package that included Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman, kicker Nate Keading and more.  Eli won two rings in New York for Tom Coughlin.  Rivers rewrote the record book that Dan Fouts had filled out.  But for Rivers, LT, free agent Antonio Gates and a group of good players, they never got to a Super Bowl.

Smith never was able to duplicate the talent haul in that one draft, and then started to miss on picks.

And as the post season playoff losses mounted each January, Smith lost patience with Marty Schottenheimer and thus a feud about coaching staff changes.  Smith wanted Martyball out, Spanos agreed, and a second really good coach perished.

Smith hired Norv Turner, a tremendous offensive coordinator mind from the Cowboys and Rams, but a rather pedestrian head coach history.  What he was in San Diego was what he was other places.  Mid-level, unable to win.

In the end Turner won with Marty’s players, then started losing, then he and his GM were both terminated.

There are lots of ways to judge a GM like AJ Smith.  The won-loss record (rock solid).  The playoff record (poor).  Super Bowl Appearances (none)

Smith became a bully, arrogant, head strong.  And his teams got worse not better.  Rivers-Gates-Tomlinson.  Can you imagine that type of talent and not able to get to the AFC Championship game to win?  No Super Bolw appearnaces either.

AJ never got another job of importance in the NFL.  He made his 5M from the Spanos family and left.

You cannot write his obituary without referencing the good drafts, the strong willed deals, and eventually the losses.  You must also add he was never hired again because of the old boy network that felt he shafted a (14-2) coach in Schottenheimer.

You decide how good he was.  I dealt with him on lots of levels.  Easier to be around than a real bully like Butler.  Hard to understand why he acted the way he did at the end.

Always wondered how much he appreciated what Rivers brought to the team, the community, to the NFL.

In the end, he failed, and that’s too bad because the leadup to building something good was special.  But not special enough to still be playing on a Super Bowl Sunday, with a 200-win coach he had fired.

That seems to be his legacy.




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