The Legacy of AJ Smith… in progress… and not so great


Reputation and Management

Winning covers up a lot of problems.  Since 2004, that’s what the Chargers have done… until recently.   The Chargers had a window of Hall of Fame talent from 2004 to 2010 including players that would go on to win Super Bowls and assistant coaches who would go on to be NFL Head Coaches for other franchises.  Most of that talent is gone and the window is closed despite what fans want to believe.  It is unconscionable to have the talent that this team assembled under one roof and not have a championship.  I have no doubt San Diegans are glad to see players like Drew Brees move on and win championships, but I know for a fact they are also saying, why didn’t you keep them so they could bring a championship to San Diego you stubborn bastard(AJ)?

One has to ask?  Why AJ?  Do these players and coaches threaten you?  Do they threaten your hold on things here?  You had a great draft in 2004(where you threatened to screw Eli Manning and draft him despite the fact he knew better than to play for you… Eli has a Super Bowl Ring now btw), but every other draft is highly questionable which has left us without 1st-3rd round talent for the past five years because we traded many of them away for players that do not make significant regular contributions like Jacob Hester, Ryan Mathews, Eric Wedddle, and more.  Who knows, maybe the talent level is Spanos’ son’s fault who never even played college football yet is in charge of college scouting.  Maybe it’s because the Chargers, like the Padres, sign free agents who are past their prime and cannot contribute consistently.  Maybe it’s because this management team fosters an environment that is less hospitable than the Moon.

1st Round Draft Picks

It is really hard to pass up 3 top linebackers and a Pro-Bowl OL in the draft for a bust like Larry English when every single person had him pegged as a lower tier 2nd rounder.  We passed up Clay Matthews, Ray Maualuga, James Laurinitis… and Michael Oher(they made a movie about him and he was All-Pro his rookie year).

This is just one year though.  The Chargers have consistently sucked at drafting in the top 3 rounds recently.  Every year I hear how we reached on some mid-level talent… then of course, we cut them once our coaches see them on the playing field.  Now it has gotten to the point of this team royally sucking…. that could be coaching though!

2003 Draft…Courtesy of Bleacher Report

I’m going to make this one short and sweet, just like Sammy Davis’ career. Davis was drafted with the 30th overall selection in the 2003 NFL Draft.

I’m going to put the full blame of this draft choice on A.J. Smith. Smith had taken over general manager duties after the late John Butler passed away after succumbing to lymphoma.

The Chargers originally had the 15th overall selection and could have picked safety Troy Polamalu, however they decided to trade down with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chargers now owned the 30th overall selection and could have selected Nnamdi Asomugha but instead they went with Davis. Once again we can thank A.J. Smith for that huge blunder.

Davis played three seasons with the Chargers and it was pretty much forgettable. I don’t think any Chargers’ fans actually remember him besides me.

Once again another first-round draft choice wasted. You would have though A.J. Smith would have learned from that mistake.

2004 Draft

In April 2004, a week prior to the NFL Draft (in which the Chargers held the #1 Overall pick), University of Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning declared he would not play for the Chargers if drafted by them. Smith elected to ignore Manning’s threats and select him #1 without straying from his objective. Less than an hour later, Smith completed a trade with the New York Giants which sent Manning to New York in exchange forNorth Carolina State University quarterback Philip Rivers (drafted 4th overall), as well as a 3rd-round pick in 2004 (used to select kicker Nate Kaeding), a 1st round pick in 2005, and a 5th round pick in 2005. In 2005, the Chargers used the first round pick acquired from the Giants to select Shawne Merriman 12th overall. Merriman went on to win the AP’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Manning went on to become theMVP of Super Bowl XLII

Antonio Gates

Tight end Antonio Gates was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003 and had emerged as an All-Pro tight end in 2004 while leading the Chargers to a 12-4 record. Prior to the 2005 season, Gates held out of training camp, seeking a long-term contract. Smith would eventually give Gates an ultimatum; end the hold out by 12:30 PM on August 20, or be placed on the Roster Exempt List. Gates failed to meet the deadline and as a result missed the team’s first regular season game against the Dallas Cowboys which resulted in a 28-24 loss. Gates and Smith would eventually reach an accord and Gates was signed to a 6-year, $24 million contract.  The Chargers would go on to miss the playoffs by 1 game.

Drew Brees

Quarterback Drew Brees suffered a torn labrum in the final game of the 2005 season against the Denver Broncos which immediately resulted in the reconsidering of signing Brees to a long-term contract. Many assumed the Chargers would offer Brees the franchise tag for the second consecutive year. However, with second-year quarterback Philip Rivers on the team, Smith elected to offer Brees a heavily incentive-based contract which Brees rejected. Subsequently, Smith allowed Brees to become a free agent much to the dismay of Charger fans who had considered Brees a fan favorite due to his work ethic and comeback story. Brees would eventually sign a 6-year, $60 million deal with the New Orleans Saints on March 14, 2006. He went on to place 2nd in the voting for the NFL MVP the very next season with the Saints and was awarded the 2008 Offensive Player of the Year award. He became the MVP of Super Bowl XLIV The Chargers received no compensation from New Orleans for Brees, but were offered the first overall compensatory pick (pick #97) in the 2007 NFL Draft, spent on linebacker Anthony Waters.

Michael Turner

Running back Michael Turner was drafted by the Chargers in the fifth round (154th overall) of the 2004 NFL Draftfranchise tag During the 2007 off season, Chargers General manager A.J. Smith stated that the Chargers would be willing to trade Turner in exchange for both a first and third round draft pick.[3] However, one day after 2007 NFL Draft, Smith declared that Michael Turner would remain a Charger for the 2007 season. He would no longer be accepting trade offers from other NFL teams for Turner.[4] On April 26, 2007, Turner signed the $2.35 million, one-year tender he received from the Chargers after becoming a restricted free agent. On March 2, 2008, the Atlanta Falcons signed the 26-year old Turner to a six-year, $34.5 million contract with $15 million guaranteed.[5] He finished the year with 1,699 yards (a 4.5 ypc avg) and 17 rushing touchdowns, which set a team record for touchdowns in a season. On December 16, 2008, Turner was named to the 2009 Pro Bowl. The Chargers received no compensation from Atlanta for Michael Turner, though the NFL gave the team two compensatory picks in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft for Turner and cornerback Drayton Florence. These picks were used to draft halfback Gartrell Johnson and a Canadian football standout, defensive end Vaughn Martin.

Marty Schottenheimer

Smith had a contentious relationship with head coach Marty Schottenheimer, who was hired by his predecessor Butler just before he died, which ended with Schottenheimer’s firing in February 2007. Schottenheimer had the support of his players and a 14-2 regular season record, but neither of these were enough to save his job in the wake of a 3 point loss to the Patriots in the playoffs. After initially stating that Schottenheimer would be retained as head coach after the playoff loss, Dean Spanos, the owner of the Chargers, changed his mind after losing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to head coaching positions at the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys, respectively.[6] It was widely reported that Schottenheimer was fired for disobeying a direct order from both Smith and Spanos regarding interviewing his brother, Kurt Schottenheimer, for the Defensive Coordinator position vacated by Phillips. Publicly, Schottenheimer did not fault Dean Spanos for the decision. “Dean had a very difficult decision to make, and I applaud him for it,” Schottenheimer said. “This is his football team.” Smith was equally respectful when asked about the conflicts, saying “Coach and I both want to win a world championship. We had different ways of approaching that.” [7]

Marty Schottenheimer finally got his ring.

Granted, it came 24 years after John Elway‘s drive, 23 years after Earnest Byner fumbled, six years afterNate Kaeding missed in overtime, and four years after Marlon McCree coughed up a win in the fourth quarter, but still.

Schottenheimer, best known as the NFL coach with the most victories to never reach the Super Bowl, won hisfirst professional coaching title on Friday night as his Virginia Destroyers captured the UFL championship with a 17-3 victory over the Las Vegas Locomotives.

Aaron Rouse led the way defensively for the Destroyers, picking off three passes and returning one for a 46 yard touchdown.

Courtesy of NESN…

Eric Weddle

In the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Smith and the Chargers traded their second-round selection (62nd overall), their third-round selection (93rd overall), their fifth-round selection (167th overall), as well as their third rounder in 2008 to the Chicago Bears for their 2nd round pick (37th overall) in order to draft University of Utah safety Eric Weddle.

Antonio Cromartie

With the Charger’s first round (19th overall) pick of the 2006 NFL Draft, Smith and the Chargers selected cornerback Antonio Cromartie from Florida State. However, an ACL injury his junior year resulted in him missing that entire season. That year, Cromartie joined the draft and after he was selected by the Chargers, many criticized the selection. He was taken in the first round despite only starting one game his entire time at Florida State. However, in the 2007 season, the critics were silenced after Cromartie recorded an NFL leading 10 regular season interceptions as well as two in the post season, and was named All-Pro and selected to the AFC Pro Bowl team. But eyebrows were once again raised due to the subpar play of Cromartie his following seasons (2008 & 2009).   Helped team to AFC championship in 2010 and earned the bolts a 2nd rounder who is playing(not very well) for Cason right now.

Buster Davis(1st Round-2007)

Cut after 2010 season

Antoine Cason(1st Round-2008)

Benched after 5 games in 2011

Larry English(1st Round-2009)

Bust as of the 2011 season.  Has been injured all 3 years in the NFL.

What Now?

Your guess is as good as mine.  I was not a fan of losing in the playoffs under Marty, but I do know this game is tough.  I also know that it takes consistency to win and Marty was one of the best at winning consistently.  I’d bet that if we had kept it together a few more years we would’ve done it.  I know for a fact that AJ’s way didn’t work.

Year in and year out, AJ treated the San Diego villagers like we didn’t know what we were talking about.  Belittled us when we would ask about his draft choices.  Mocked his hall-of-fame players that we adored.  AJ Smith refused to pay his players and sacrificed a season where the Bolts were statistically #1 on offense and #1 on defense, but missed the playoffs by one game.  He showed them… or us?… Either way, we didn’t go to the playoffs and now shit is unravelling.  Did you see this coming AJ?  Winning is not guaranteed in the NFL and we can’t win in the worst division in football.  That is just sad.

Is this an indictment on AJ, the Chargers, or both?

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