San Diego Chargers GM AJ Smith A Victim Of His Own Success?

Ian PhilipAnalyst IIIJune 7, 2011
SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 3:  General Manager A....

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From 1997 to 2003, the San Diego Chargers competed with the Cincinnati Bengals for the title of worst team in the NFL on an annual basis. You know it’s true, those guys were terrible back then.

The team couldn’t get a competent quarterback to save its life. You remember the obvious flop Ryan Leaf, but don’t forget about Jim Harbaugh, Erik Kramer, Zeke Moreno, or that guy they signed off the street who was throwing touchdown passes to defensive backs.

Enter John Butler.

Butler drafted Charger greats LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, and Quentin Jammer before he passed away in 2003, but he also brought in free agent flops such as Marcellus Wiley and David Boston. Talented guys, whose attitude didn’t help the team.

AJ Smith took over and supposedly went with John Butler’s draft plan in 2003 and brought us such greats as “The Candy Man” Sammy Davis JR and the late Terrence Kiel, who had government secret agent men breaking up team practices every week.

After going 4-12 in 2003, the Chargers were a joke of an organization.

I will never forget Donnie Edwards being laughed at by Ephraim Salaam, then of the Jacksonville Jaguars, when he said the Chargers would likely having a winning season in 2004.

Salaam wasn’t laughing when the Chargers drilled the Jaguars on their way to a 12-4 season.

AJ Smith started 2004 with a pretty bare cupboard. After seeing the Wiley and Boston disasters, he has taken a careful approach to free agents. Guys like Albert Haynesworth and Terrell Owens have been ignored, while guys like Steve Foley and Mike Goff have been snatched up with much success.

Smith has been successful enough over the years that he is now in a place where it is a struggle to find young players good enough to just make the team, let alone start.

His drafts, which are supposedly so bad over the last few years, have fortified the team’s offense and defense, yet missed the mark on special teams. Darren Sproles has seemingly become too slow to be an effective return man anymore, Nate Kaeding has been a playoff flop (particularly against the New York Jets), and the defending returns has been terrible for years.

Many fans would have AJ Smith fired yesterday if they could.

Who would you bring in to replace AJ Smith? The Chargers haven’t had a losing season in seven years and have made the playoffs five times, reaching the Divisional Round four times. Do you really want to risk another Dark Ages?

I don’t.

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