There has been much debate about how A.J. Smith handled the Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil situation. Many fans called for Smith to get fired. Many fans have called for McNeil and Jackson to receive long-term contracts, reasoning that the Chargers are sure Super Bowl participants with these players in.
I, for one, will not be one of the many fans that are bashing Smith. In my opinion, having Smith as the Chargers GM is critical for San Diego's ongoing success.
Here are some of the reasons why I believe this to be so true now and before.
Smith has a record that few general managers share. A record of consistency. The Chargers have been so consistent, posting six consecutive winning seasons, that I almost have to pinch myself at how they've have changed since I became a fan back in 1994.
Smith, along with the late John Butler, installed a no-nonsense type of approach. They thought alike.
Which is why Smith was given the GM role after Butler passed away. Thanks to the foundation that Butler laid out, Smith took off.
No one can deny the seasons that Smith has had since 2004, as he brought in players that helped the Chargers to six straight winning seasons and five division titles.
Smith believes no one man is bigger than the team. He stood up to LaDanian Tomlinson when the back complained about the running game. And has taken a similar approach with Jackson and McNeil.
That's what I expect out of my GM. This is a team effort. The Chargers aren't going to run the ball cause' it suites LT's game. Nor are they going to retain an injured Drew Brees when first round draft pick Philip Rivers waited in the wings.
I believe no player is above the team. This isn't the Pittsburgh Steelers who did not deal a womanizer, Ben Roethlisberger, because they have better chance with him at quarterback to get to the Super Bowl.
We are the San Diego Chargers.
I'm going to address the whole McNeil and Jackson fiasco. They have been given enough money to get them going this season. I understand their predicament as players that their future is uncertain if they get injured. They have options. Get some injury insurance that would help to negate them from having worries about injuries that may occur during the season.
Also, with them holding out, how does this help them? Do they honestly believe they'll get a contract during the season? Probably not. They can play out this season and decide after if they want to come back, if not, go to another team that will give them the money they want.
They should know that Smith won't give them a long term contract if he doesn't know what the collective bargaining agreement will be. How is he suppose to give out contracts without knowing what the salary cap will be?
Smith is making the right financial move not only for the Chargers management, but for other future Charger players that may need to be re-signed. Such a long-term contract I could imagine may hinder the signing of other players in the future. Smith made the right move.
McNeil and Jackson have to realize that sitting out won't help their chances of getting a new contract elsewhere. The Chargers are more than likely to have them riding the bench when they come back for the last seven games of the season.
I don't need to tell you what Smith has done for the team. A very knowledgeable Raider fan by the name of Ramone Brown said this about the Chargers in a comment and I quote:
"I feel he is trying to send the same message Belichek and the Patriots tried to send their players: That "the system" is more important than the players and talent in the system and that they will win with or without the guys who don't buy in."
I agree with this way of thinking. Guys like Tomlinson have complained that the scheme doesn't fit them. Smith knows it and lets them go. Why should a coach or GM tailor what they do to players? It's the GM's job to get players that fit the coaches scheme and philosophy.
When Marty Schottenheimer was the head coach, Smith brought in weapons that fit his ground game scheme. He brought in McNeil, Mike Goff, Nick Hardwick, Shane Olivea, Lorenzo Neal, Kris Dielman, Brandon Manumaleuna and run blocking wide receivers like Malcolm Floyd and Jackson.
When Norv Turner became a head coach, Smith gave him offensive weapons that fit his scheme. He got him Chris Chambers, Jacob Hester, Mike Tolbert, Legadu Naanee, Buster Davis, Jeromey Clary, Ryan Mathews, Billy Volek, and Louis Vasquez amongst other players.
You see my point, Smith is the reason why the Chargers have been on top. Smith has always gave the Chargers a chance by putting a playoff caliber team that has a shot at winning the big game.
The Chargers have been through far worse times than losing two key players. The Chargers have seen the likes of Schottenheimer getting fired, the controversial hiring of Turner, Ted Cottrell being fired mid-season, Ron Rivera taking over mid-season, offensive and defensive scheme and philosophical changes, and many key player changes like Brees being released.
You have to remember that McNeil and Jackson are still only two players out of a 53 man roster.
Have faith in Smith. He's the only reason why the Chargers haven't failed when they should have been at the bottom of the division a long time ago with so many changes they've gone through in the last six years under his guidance. I think Charger fans are too spoiled. They tend to forget where the Chargers were before Smith and Butler got to San Diego.
This will probably be the most interesting pre-season yet as the Chargers will find the wide out that'll be next in the long line of successful wide receivers that the team has developed
Remember Charger fans, the season hasn't started yet and you never know, Smith may surprise us, or rather, the players he brought in will surprise us all. Just like how Jackson and McNeil have as they developed into the players they are today.