AJ Smith, Leave My San Diego Chargers Alone
We get it, AJ. You put the team together. You are the mastermind. No one messes with you.
But at some point you need to realize that you are not the great GM that you perceive yourself to be. If Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill do not play for the Chargers next year, kiss the Super Bowl, and your job, goodbye.
AJ's stubborn nature and rigorous negotiation style has started to erase all of the good things he has done.
Since AJ took over for John Butler in 2003, he was on a roll, drafting well for three years. In 2004, he selected Phil Rivers (through trade), and Nate Keading; in '05 when he took Shawne Merriman, and Vincent Jackson; and finally in '06 he got Cromartie and Marcus McNeil.
But look what has happened since then. Cromartie is gone, Merriman is only still here because the Chargers could not get rid of him, and Jackson and McNeill are sitting on their couches waiting for new contracts that they deserve.
In 2004, Antonio Gates was making the league minimum and made the Pro Bowl. He was the most promising young tight end in the NFL.
When Gates came to AJ asking for a new contract, AJ pushed him away, resulting in Gates missing the first 5 games of the season in 2005 while his contract was being sorted out.
There is something wrong about players asking for contracts every year, but what an elite player is making the same amount as a special teams tackling dummy, he deserves a raise.
When AJ pulled this stunt on Gates, it showed his lack of caring for his players, and set precedence that if a player performed well, he would not necessarily be rewarded.
This was when Chargers fans first started to become aware of AJ's negotiation style of never backing down.
AJ is treating Jackson and McNeill the same way that he treated Gates in 2005. Jackson has had over 1,000 yards receiving the past two years, and has been Phillip Rivers' main target during that time.
AJ is lucky that VJax didn't ask for more money after his impressive 2008 campaign. Over the past two years, VJax has been making roughly $630k a year. He was offered a one year tender of around $3.1 million.
That would make him the 32nd highest paid WR in the NFL, which is kind of hard for him to take when he's coming off of a Pro Bowl year in which he proved that he was one of the top 5 or 10 receivers in the league.
McNeill has been to two Pro Bowls and has been one of the anchors of the Chargers line since he stepped foot in Chargers Park in 2006.
He was offered one year and slightly more than $3 million, while is peer, Chirs Deilman makes 5.5 million, and when you consider Miami's Jake Grove just received a $14 million signing bonus after having never made a Pro Bowl in 5 years with the Raiders, $3 million hardly seems fair.
AJ has not only made McNeil and Jackson angry, he also led to the bitter departure of LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson has even stated that he would not retire as a Charger if AJ was still active in the organization, because he thinks that poorly of him.
LT's anger shows that the team is starting to turn on the front office, which is not conducive to winning.
While losing LT will not do much to get in the way of the Chargers' Super Bowl hopes in the future, if AJ continues to anger the faces of the franchise, the Chargers will be left with a bunch of Eric Weddles and Tra Thomases.
The Spanos family needs to realize that AJ is starting to overstay his welcome in San Diego, and get rid of him before he destroys the Chargers.
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