LaDanian Tomlinson...and the Chargers...Two Separate Things Now?

Nathan DavisContributor IMarch 10, 2009

L.T.’s future with the Chargers looks pretty tentative these days, unfortunately. Before anything officially happens, I’d like to address two things...One ridiculous theory and a certain factor that can’t be coincidental.

First off, the idea that L.T. “cannot carry the load” anymore is ridiculous. Any of us who follow the team know that last offseason the “genius” A.J. Smith cut loose the No. 1 and No. 2 fullbacks on the team (Lorenzo Neal and Andrew Pinnock).

He replaced those two guys with two rookies...one who was UNDRAFTED (Mike Tolbert from Coastal Carolina) and the other is undersized and was being groomed as a running back in the Charger’s system until midseason (Jacob Hester).

So you replace a Hall-of-Fame fullback AND his backup with two rookies and don’t expect there to be any drop off in running game production? A.J. made a FOOLISH move here. L.T. had virtually ZERO running lanes opened up by his fullbacks. And to add to it, our offensive line simply wasn’t that good this past year.

Secondly, A.J. has systematically run off EVERY SINGLE PLAYER who is represented by Tom Condon and REFUSES TO SPEAK TO THE AGENT IN ANY FASHION. The same problem existed in the past with players like Drew Brees, Donnie Edwards, Rodney Harrison, now LaDanian Tomlinson.

The list is LONG. These players are ALL represented by Tom Condon and are no longer with the Chargers following less-than-cordial separations from the Charger’s organization.

How is A.J.’s behavior even remotely objective and in the interest of the Charger’s organization? Personally, I think that A.J.’s ego is the biggest problem facing the Chargers today.

Yes, L.T. is entering the final years of his brilliant career. But we can’t forget that he is still arguably the best back in the league right now...at least top three. It just makes no sense to me to run the guy off and not have a legitimate plan to fill the void left when he’s gone.

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That would be a big void to fill on and off the field. L.T’s the reason the Chargers are even relevant in the league these days. We can’t forget that. Let’s hope by some miracle general manager A.J. Smith somehow remembers that.

So, you may ask, what has A.J. Smith done that makes him so “omnipotent"?

A.J. came to San Diego as an Assistant GM when he followed John Butler from Buffalo to San Diego. A.J. took over as General Manager a few years back when John passed away after losing a battle with cancer.

His first couple of drafts were pretty good. He’s mostly known for his playing hardball with the Giants in drafting Eli Manning and then getting Rivers, Merriman, and Kaeding out of the deal. Great move.

It got him the NFL Executive of the Year award. That and a few good draft picks has fostered the mindset with some that he has restored the Chargers franchise to relevance (although that really happened when Butler drafted L.T. and hired Marty Schottenheimer).

But since then, A.J.’s had quite a few draft busts and has become absolutely Stalin-like with free agents or anyone on his team who he doesn’t favor.

Meanwhile, the team has suffered from a total disregard for adding talent to the team through free agency.

It’s a vital part of filling out a 63-man roster but he just doesn’t see it that way...and it doesn’t help that lots of free agents won’t bother negotiating any deals to come to San Diego because A.J. is such a blowhard.

That’s probably why most of the personnel he brings in to fill holes are rookies, or first and second-year guys...because no veteran would put up with it.

The team just lost one of the better defensive linemen in Igor Olshansky because A.J. didn’t like that he and his agent asked for a contract extension before he became a free agent this offseason. How dare he do that, huh?

A.J. just decided that he didn’t like that and that he could simply replace him in the draft. He thinks he has the “midas touch" on anything he does so why not think he can simply draft a replacement? Yeah, that really worked out with the Fullbacks you drafted this past year, didn’t it A.J.?

What an egotistical jerk.

We’re also about to lose one of our best athletes on the team in Kassim Osgood. A hometown SDSU player who’s made the pro bowl many times over on special teams. The reason he’s being let go?

Kassim asked too often to be given an opportunity to play wide receiver...which was his natural position prior to the Chargers. The guy’s an exceptional athlete. What could it hurt to let him try and apply that to your offense?

A.J.’s tenure is full of questionable calls. Personally, I think his biggest blunder has to do with coaching. In 2001, the team fired Head Coach Mike Riley and Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner after a 5-11 season (Mike Riley was 14-34 overall).

John Butler hired Marty Schottenheimer (the fifth winningest NFL Head coach ever) to restore the franchise to respectability. Before Marty, the Chargers had only three winning seasons during a span of 21 years.

Marty did his job. After some rebuilding, the Chargers got to the playoffs two years in a row after a 10-year absence and were becoming an elite team. But A.J. didn’t like that Marty had an opinion of his own on anything...especially when it differed from his.

A.J. fought Marty on everything...and even went as far as openly mocking him in front office meetings.

After the 2006 season was over, Marty had 1 year left on his contract and it was time to renew or extend it before going into the final year of the contract. There was some back and forth about whether or not it was going to get done and the owner came out (press conference) and said unequivocally that Marty would “be back next year."

A.J. offered him an extension contract worth the same $4 million a year as he was currently getting but with a $500,000 buyout. Basically, a joke of a contract. So Marty politely declined and said he’ll honor the contact they already had and they could work out an extension next year.

So, as January ended and teams filled their coaching needs and prepped for the offseason and draft, our assistant coaches began to field offers for jobs. Given the situation, it makes sense to accept a job offer now or face the likeliness of being fired a year from now when Marty’s contract expires.

I don’t blame them. Wade Phillips went from Chargers Defensive Coordinator to Head Coach at Dallas. Cam Cameron went from Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach in Miami. In all, six coaches took better job offers.

It was during the Chargers’ process of replacing these coaches that Marty met his demise. Marty had a list of guys that he wanted to bring in to fill out his staff and A.J. disagreed with every one of them wanting to bring in his own guys.

It got to a point where Marty asked for a sit down meeting with the owner and A.J. to try and work through the personal conflicts. A.J. declined.

The impasse got so big that the owner had to step in and “fix" the dysfunctional situation by removing one of them. It was Marty who was let go…two weeks after the owner had said he’d be back.

So, A.J. got his way...and brought in his coaches. He brought in two “YES" men in Norv Turner and Ted Cottrell. Norv was in his sixth job in seven years in San Francisco and Ted was out of coaching after being fired from his last two Defensive Coordinator jobs (the last having been two years prior at the time).

A.J. liked these guys from working with them in the past and knew that neither would challenge him on anything. He worked with Ted in Buffalo and Norv in S.D. when he was our offensive coordinator for one year...the year before Marty came in to replace that coaching staff. 

I understand that we cannot roll back time and fix this mistake, nor am I advocating living in the past.  This is simply a great example of a glaring problem of ego and obstructionism on A.J.'s behalf and it is highly counterproductive to a franchise trying to win.

So, as you may have guessed, there’s not a lot of love in my household for Mr. A.J. Smith. I believe he’s destroying my franchise...and quite a few Chargers fans feel the same way.

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