As the inevitable firing of Norv Turner and A.J. Smith approaches in San Diego, I’ve been thinking about the culprit of the demise of the Chargers franchise. Because football is the ultimate team sport, certainly everyone within the organization feels bad about how things have gone. In terms of blame though, I think that Norv Turner and Phillip Rivers are catching way too much of the blame, while A.J. Smith and Mr. Spanos seem to be taking far less heat than is due.
US PRESSWIREIt's easy to point the finger at Turner in San Diego, but management deserves some heat for the team's failures.
The Head Coach gets the credit for the wins and the blame for the losses, but the NFL is a unique animal in that the Head Coach doesn’t have total control over who is on his football team. Rightfully so, there are far too many variables involved with the salary cap, free agency, the draft etc for one man to have that control from top to bottom.
That also means that wins and losses in the NFL can also be dictated by the decisions of the front office. What has happened in San Diego over the past several seasons tells me that Smith and Spanos have let Norv Turner and Phillip River down, repeatedly.
From an offensive standpoint, consider that Michael Turner, Darren Sproles, Michael Tolbert, Jacob Hester, and Vincent Jackson all play for other teams now. Marcus McNeill stepped away from the game not long after an ugly holdout and public spat with A.J. Smith.
Truthfully, Shawne Merriman has been a mediocre NFL player since he was busted for steroids. Smith has yet to replicate that kind of pre-suspension pass rusher on the roster since Merriman’s departure.
Those men were all key contributors to the success of the Chargers on the field, and several were Pro Bowlers. They were all jettisoned in some form or fashion by Smith, and they’ve been replaced by whom, exactly?
Put yourself in Phillip Rivers’ shoes for a moment. When he steps into the huddle, he’s not looking at near as much talent as he was just a few seasons ago, yet the expectation for on-field performance is still extremely high. “Do more with less, Phillip. Lead us to Post-Season Glory!”
Attrition is part of the landscape of today’s NFL, which makes the draft so crucial to a team’s consistency on the field. You have to draft well year-in and year-out to be in the playoff hunt each year.
A.J. Smith is the top dog on the Chargers scouting and drafting chain of command isn’t he? Dean Spanos trusts A.J. Smith to decide who to pay, who to let loose, and who to draft.
Smith has a well-earned reputation as being abrasive, rude, and callous while dealing with contract issues of Chargers players who are nearing free agency or wanting to renegotiate. He wears that like a badge of honor, but when you look at the end result of his efforts on the football field, he should be ashamed. And as the owner of the team, Mr. Spanos has to look himself in the mirror as well.
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