Spanos should step in, end holdouts
By Nick Canepa, UNION-TRIBUNE
Monday, August 16, 2010 at 8:03 p.m.
John R. McCutchen / San Diego Union-Tribune
Chargers president Dean Spanos.
The important clams — those who make the Chargers’ snap judgments — aren’t opening up. It’s hard for us to digest a shell, but they think they have enough food in them to last the winter and be playing football as hearty mollusks well into January, at least.
Once training camp began, General Manager A.J. Smith proclaimed he was done talking about his two Pro Bowl holdouts, left tackle Marcus McNeill and receiver Vincent Jackson. Club President Dean Spanos, who has been known to chat during August, has declined interview requests.
Maybe later on, so I’m told.
We all realize this horse has been beaten well past its postmortem, but Spanos, who craves a championship and wants to get a new stadium built — which in this silly community would seem to require all the good will one could muster — has been known to step into these stalemates with both loafers. Didn’t he do so when the LaDainian Tomlinson pot began to boil over in 2008?
“That’s the perception,” says Smith, indicating it may not have been exactly the case. “You have to get that from Dean Spanos.”
“Well,” Smith says, “all I can tell you is that the four of us (Spanos, Smith, capologist Ed McGuire and head coach Norv Turner) are together on everything we do. I think Dean believes in me and lets me do my job, and I appreciate that.
“I don’t inform him of things we’ve done. Everything is discussed way in advance, and he asks a lot of questions. It’s not blind faith. Dean is very much involved; I feel like he’s a member of our staff. He knows me well. He knows my philosophy. He knows what I’m thinking. I have been to the principal’s office, you know. I’m not perfect. This is not my structure. This is Dean Spanos’ structure.”
I’m hardly a fence-sitter, but I can see both sides here. McNeill and Jackson want long-term deals and deserve them.
The Chargers, citing the uncertainty in handing out extended contracts with a possible lockout year looming in 2011, have offered them maximum one-year tenders of about $3.2 million, which means the players have declined $2.5 million raises while millions of people in this country are out of work.
I find it difficult to feel sorry for them.
They should have gotten their butts in here, signed their most generous tenders, and worked things out instead of letting down teammates.
I find it impossible to feel sorry for Spanos, but this is his club, his money, and he is far from being out of the loop.
He’s an active owner. But he should step in and end this stalemate — which obviously has his approval — because I don’t know if he can afford to be without two Pro Bowl players and hope to win a championship. It’s asking a hell of a lot.
The Spanos war chest is not going to be emptied if these guys are signed to long-term deals.
Even if there isn’t a season in 2011, the TV networks are obligated to give the NFL $4 billion.
Divide that by 32, and it’s $125 million per team without a ticket being sold. If the Chargers don’t have to pay out players’ salaries next year, that’s a tidy profit. No way could the team clear that much money if it sold out every game.
But these people still think they have enough to win without two of their stars, and while I have my doubts, I do believe they’re still talented enough to win the AFC West.
And that chip can win you the pot. Smith thinks it can happen.
“I think we’ve traveled that road — no matter who’s here and who isn’t,” he says. “Things happen. Contract disputes and injuries happen. You hold the fort. I think we’re a playoff-caliber team as we stand. If we get into the tournament, we have a chance to win the world championship. Any team that is a playoff team is a threat.
“Our struggles in the playoffs are well-documented and they’re valid. We’re trying to change that perception.”
Nothing seems to change the agents’ perception of Smith, who refuses to buckle, as he’s doing now with McNeill and Jackson’s mouthpieces.
“I know their world,” he says of the agents. “We pay people here. How many players have left here to make more money elsewhere? One would have, (guard Kris) Dielman, and it would have broken my heart.”
As for Turner, he sounds like a coach who has enough.
“People don’t believe or trust us, but we have guys ready to play in those spots, ready to play at a high level,” Turner says. “People are worried about the left tackle, but we have people who can play there. Our system allows us to help out. We have depth. We have a lot of good football players.”
Two are missing.
It would be nice to see the boss put an end to all this.
He wouldn’t even have to talk about it.