A.J. Smith: Why the San Diego Chargers Will Win the AFC West...Again

Matt StephensCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2008

Talent. That's what it all boils down to. Either you have it or you don't. Hard work and effort get you far in life, they just don't get you as far if you don't have the talent.

GM A.J. Smith has a proven eye for talent and how to keep that talent. He did it with a dysfunctional relationship between the coach, he did it following the death of his mentor and friend.

He has an attitude and doesn't apologize for it. He doesn't bend to the public perceptions and sticks to his guns.

But most importantly, he brings in talent.

Comparing GMs in the West just isn't fair. The Broncos just fired Sundquist—a testament to his performance.

He liked to make the big splash. He tried signing the big name free agents, bringing in the whole Cleveland defensive line. He tried making the big trade—Javon Walker, who never turned out. He drafted Maurice Clarett after he sat out of football for a year.

He certainly tried, but he didn't have an eye for talent.

The Chiefs GM, Carl Peterson (King Carl), has mismanaged for 18 years and has never done much.

Sure, he brought in an aging Joe Montana, but it was never right and it was all about selling tickets.

Peterson has shown a fantastic penchant for drafting untalented players. Since 2000, he has drafted three players that have played in the Pro Bowl. Kick returner Dante Hall, defensive end Jared Allen and running back Larry Johnson.

He tossed money at aging, unproductive free agents. Yes—I'm talking about Ty Law and Sammy Knight. He doesn't have a plan.

Al Davis, the head of the most dysfunctional franchise in sports. That's all that really needs to be said, but let's look a little bit deeper.

Since they have moved back to Oakland, Davis has hired seven different coaches in thirteen years, and he's tried to get rid of all seven of them. In that same time span, they have finished fourth in the West eight times and third once.

That kind of ineptitude takes a different type of talent. Davis does not have any eye for talent, he looks at the numbers from college and the combine, gets a man crush on a player and drafts them, regardless of where they fit in their offense or defense. Davis drafts their 40 speed and their bench press more than he drafts the player. 

The same can be said of free agents. He sees a free agent that did well in a specific scheme and throws money at them.

Other than the cornerback with the unspellable name, Nnamdi Asomugha, Davis has not drafted an impact player that is still with the team (the jury is still out on JaMarcus Russell).

To build a winning franchise, you need a GM with a plan, and the guts to follow through on that plan regardless of what the public thinks of you. A.J. Smith has figured out a plan that works:

  • You draft talented players, and if two talented players are available, you draft based on their work ethic.
  •  You don't draft their 40 time, you don't draft their combine workout. You draft their college career and you draft their interview.
  • You draft a person, not a machine. When you have drafted these talented individuals, you keep these talented individuals, unless you have a more talented individual to replace them.
  • You don't sign other teams' garbage and you manage the cap.

The other GMs in the West should sign up for classes with A.J.