The Two Men Responsible for the Destruction of the San Diego Chargers

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The Two Men Responsible for the Destruction of the San Diego Chargers
(Photo by Kevin Terrell/Getty Images)

In 1994, Alex Spanos, owner of the San Diego Chargers, turned over daily operations of the team to his son, Dean Spanos.

Dean was named President/C.E.O. of the organization. During his tenure as President, he has presided over a team that has only had six winning seasons over the past 15 years.

John Butler, former general manager of the Bills, was hired as the general manager of the Chargers in 2001. He took control of a team that had only two winning seasons in the prior seven years.

The hiring of John Butler is the only good thing that Dean Spanos has done since he became President of the team in 1994.

For those of you who don’t recall, Butler was instrumental in helping Bill Polian build the Bills into a team that set a record in the 1990s of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

After constructing a team that went to three consecutive Super Bowls, Bill Polian was fired because of a mysterious dispute between Treasurer Jeff Litman and Polian.

John Butler took over as GM in 1993, and the team went to its fourth straight Super Bowl.

During his eight seasons with the Bills, they made five playoff appearances. Like Polian, Butler had an uncanny knack for recognizing talent.

In 2001, his first year with the Chargers, he drafted running back LaDainian Tomlinson and quarterback Drew Brees. Too many people credit Smith with these draft choices.

In 2002, after the firing of head coach Mike Riley, Butler made his next brilliant move: He hired coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Marty opened the 2002 season with four straight wins. He is the only head coach in Chargers history to do so. Marty went on to lead the team to a record of 8-8. Given that in 2000 they went 1-15, and in 2001, went 5-11, this was certainly an improvement.

Sadly, John never got to see the fruits of his labor pay off. He succumbed to cancer in April 2003.

In his determination to destroy the team, Spanos replaced Butler with former pro personnel director for the Chargers, and Bills assistant, A.J. Smith.

Spanos gave complete control of the team to a man whose reputation as an egomaniac preceded him.

He has also been criticized as a hardball negotiator, whose dealing with players has hurt the team, as many times as it has helped it.

Smith’s approach to management might be summed up as, “My way or the highway!”

This attitude, as well as his mixed bag of draft picks, has taken a team that should have won a Super Bowl by now, and slowly run it into the ground.

Smith's inability to get along with legendary Coach Marty Schottenheimer is well documented.

The first public signs of the problems in their working relationship, started to appear in the infamous parting of ways with Drew Brees. 

Smith, the supposed genius GM, didn’t even slap Brees with a franchise tag so that the Chargers could at least get some kind of compensation for a Pro Bowl quarterback.

Instead, they just let him go onto the market as a free agent.

The reality of the situation is that Brees was never Smith’s guy. In fact, Smith never liked Brees and wanted to get rid of him much sooner.

After spending a boatload of money on draft pick Phillip Rivers, Brees' shoulder injury was a great excuse for finally getting rid of him.

In this brilliant move, not only did Smith lose one of the top five quarterbacks in the league, but he also further increased the rift between himself and Coach Schottenheimer, who wanted Brees back, because you know, Marty actually knew what he was doing.

As relations further deteriorated between Marty and Smith during the 2006 season, to the point where the two weren’t talking, and Spanos had to order them to speak with each other, Marty coached the Chargers to a 14-2 record with basically, a rookie quarterback; their record earned them the first seed in the playoffs.

The team would go on to lose to the Patriots in the fourth quarter of the second round of the playoffs.

Thus the tumultuous offseason for the Chargers began. The team lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators to head coaching, but Dean Spanos guaranteed Marty that he was going to keep his job. In fact Marty was offered a one-year extension.

However, in another brilliant move by Smith, in February he went to Spanos and said he couldn’t work with Marty. Keep in mind, that this was February, after all of the good head coaches already had jobs.

Spanos, standing firm by his conviction to field a crappy product for the fans, stood by Smith, and Marty was fired, only to be replaced by soon to be Hall of Fame coach (read with dripping sarcasm), Norv Turner.

Turner, whose brilliant head coaching career, contains a total of 79 wins and 98 losses, overnight became the new head coach of the San Diego Chargers.

So let’s pause for a second to get this straight. Dean Spanos just fired a guy who took his club to a 14-2 record, and has a career record of 200 wins and 126 losses, which equates to a winning percentage of 61.3, for a guy that has a 44.1 percent winning record.   Now that’s what I call excellent management.

What about this idea that Smith is excellent at bringing in talent. Sure, he has made some great draft picks and built up a Super Bowl caliber team, but when I did a little research on Smith’s draft record I discovered, thanks to fellow Bleacher Report writer Mike Kranzler, that A.J. has actually picked more losers than he as winners.

According to Kranzler, A.J. has picked 14 winners and 20 losers, and has failed to build depth along the offensive and defensive line.

The great A.J. Smith has only had 41.1 percent of his draft picks work out. Compare that with future Hall of Fame GM. Bill Polian who is well above the 50 percent mark with his draft picks.

For more information about A.J. and the draft here is a link to Mike’s article which I strongly recommend you read .

With the way Smith has treated his players, bungled his dealings with Drew Brees and Marty Schottenheimer, and his inconsistent performance in the draft, it’s no wonder that this team has missed its opportunity to win a Super Bowl.

As long as Smith is GM, and Dean Spanos is President of the Chargers, I guarantee that their losing ways will continue. This team will not go to a Super Bowl with the two of them running things.

Here is my solution, so the Chargers can win a Super Bowl, and end the long suffering of Chargers fans:

1)   Alex Spanos needs to fire A.J. Smith.

2)   He then needs to fire his son Dean.

3)   Next he needs to fly to Marty’s house with a dump truck full of money and the keys to the corporate jet, and beg him to come back.

4)   Then, he needs to fire himself for being so stupid to turn the team over to his son.

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