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Old 01-23-2009, 11:20 AM   #1
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Default Time for Spanos to flex on AJ Smith.

By Michael Silver, Yahoo! Sports 10 hours, 14 minutes ago

As the acerbic and autocratic general manager of the San Diego Chargers, A.J. Smith is a man consumed by his own power.

Sometimes Smith gets to flex, like he did on the night nearly two years ago when the coach he detested, Marty Schottenheimer, was fired by Chargers CEO Dean Spanos after having led San Diego to a 14-2 record. From that point on, the Chargers were Smith’s show, and he made sure everybody knew it.

On Wednesday, however, Smith disrespected the wrong dude.

Responding to a relatively benign statement by LaDainian Tomlinson on the star halfback’s website that he has “NO intentions of leaving San Diego,” Smith brazenly mocked the most beloved player in franchise history.

Mimicking LT’s quote almost word for word, Smith told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “My first reaction was we both have similar feelings. I have no intentions of leaving San Diego. San Diego is where my GM career started and where I’d like it to end. I also have nothing but love and the utmost respect for this team, the players and the Spanos family. I have absolutely no control over how long I will be with the Chargers.

“As for now, I am the Chargers’ GM, and I have major decisions to ponder for the organization now and in the future. My recommendation to Dean Spanos will be what’s in the best interest of the team – both short and long term. That’s my job. That’s what Dean hired me to do.”

To which I say: Did Spanos also hire Smith to be the biggest pompous ass in the Western Hemisphere?

Make no mistake: Deciding whether Tomlinson will remain with the Chargers, at least privately, is part of Smith’s job. Snidely tweaking LT in public, whether it’s an attempt to bait him into asking for a trade or simply a glimpse into Smith’s power-mad psyche, is part of the reason his job should be in jeopardy.

It leads you to believe that A.J. stands for Antagonistic Jerk.

Certainly, the debate about Tomlinson’s future with the Chargers is a legitimate one. His 2009 cap figure is $8.8 million, and at the start of next season he’ll be 30, an age when premier running backs typically start to decline. Given his drop-off in production and recent propensity for injuries, it’s fair to ask whether that process has already begun.

LT’s numbers were down in 2008, partly because of a nagging toe injury, and also because the Chargers, under Norv Turner, have moved away from the power-running attack favored by Schottenheimer. He has been restricted in each of the past two postseasons because of a knee sprain and groin tear, respectively.

Further impacting the decision is the fact that San Diego, which allowed halfback Michael Turner to leave via free agency a year ago, only to watch him emerge as an MVP candidate for the Atlanta Falcons, seems to have another potential star in scatback Darren Sproles, whose contract is also about to expire.

The franchise could decide to ask Tomlinson, who has three years left on his contract, to take a pay cut. Or it could try to trade him. If those efforts fail, the Chargers may decide that cutting the future Hall of Famer after eight seasons is the best option.

Personally, that’s not an option I would choose, but I can understand its logic. However, embarrassing and antagonizing the halfback who was voted the NFL’s co-Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2006 – the same season he was voted the league’s MVP after rushing for 1,815 yards and scoring a record 31 touchdowns – is deplorable.

It’s also a strategy that is liable to backfire.

Because of Tomlinson’s commendable comportment as a player and his impeccable off-the-field conduct, he is revered by a fan base that isn’t likely to respond positively to Smith’s diss. For supporters of a franchise that has never won a Super Bowl and has played for the Lombardi Trophy only once, LT’s accomplishments and classy reputation serve as an immense source of pride.

Tomlinson is similarly popular in the locker room, and his recent attempts to play through a painful groin injury – he even ran for a touchdown in the team’s first-round playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts before giving way to Sproles, who came through with the game of his life – have only enhanced his status.

You have to give respect to get respect, and how much respect do you think Smith’s players have for him right now? If he can treat someone of LT’s stature this rudely, it stands to reason, the rest of them have a pretty good idea of what might await them when they become the least bit expendable.

Smith’s attitude, undoubtedly, is something along the lines of, I’m the boss. Who cares?

The thing is, his boss should care. In this economy, Spanos doesn’t have the luxury of not caring.

The Chargers are a franchise stuck in an unfavorable stadium situation, and there is plenty of tension between the team and the city of San Diego, which recently filed a $170,000 breach of contract suit against the organization. The Chargers managed to sell out Qualcomm Stadium for their playoff game against the Colts, but up until three days before the game they were no sure bet to avoid an embarrassing local blackout.

Working over the face of the franchise isn’t the best way to win over the paying customers – especially given the dubious credentials of the perpetrator. While Smith has shown an aptitude for evaluating personnel, he’s also the guy who, arguably, has overseen a franchise on the decline. The Chargers followed that 14-2 season in ’06 with a 10-6 effort in ’07 and this year’s 8-8 mark. Playoff upsets of the Colts in each of the past two years took some of the sting out of that disturbing pattern, but the bottom line is that San Diego was an unsuccessful onside kick recovery away from missing out on the ’08 postseason.

Again, Smith has made some shrewd draft picks and free-agent signings, but it’s not like we’re talking about the second coming of Bill Walsh. The longtime scout was promoted to general manager in 2003 after the death of his boss and mentor, John Butler, and he carries himself like a man who is football royalty.

In reality, as a pair of writers who regularly cover the Chargers (North County Times columnist Jay Paris and Bernie Wilson of the Associated Press) have dubbed him, Smith is “The Lord of No Rings.”

We saw this season that Smith seems to have undervalued All-Pro outside linebacker Shawne Merriman (currently the sixth-highest paid player on the defense, and not happy about it). Even his most conspicuous success, the ’04 draft-day trade for quarterback Philip Rivers, comes with a caveat: Smith allowed Drew Brees, now a perennial Pro Bowl performer for the Saints, to bolt via free agency, getting zero compensation in return.

As I wrote back in December, Smith has been too quick to sign unproven players to contract extensions, a self-serving tendency that may have chipped away at the team’s collective competitive drive.

If I’m Spanos, a genial and reasonable man, I’d use this opportunity to take a hard look at where things are with the franchise. And even if I were to conclude that Smith is an excellent talent-evaluator, I’d still view him as an atrocious manager.

It’s not like Smith is the only guy who can effectively judge football players. If Spanos wants a guy who knows personnel and has a concept of how to treat people – and how to represent the franchise with dignity – there are plenty of ways he could go. There are men who meet that description inside the franchise (player personnel director Jimmy Raye, senior executive Randy Mueller) and outside of it (Cardinals player personnel director Steve Keim, Falcons player personnel director Les Snead, just to name two great candidates off the top of my head).

Two years ago, when Schottenheimer and Smith were no longer on speaking terms and the franchise was reeling from a playoff defeat to the Patriots, Spanos stepped in to restore order. Flummoxed after both of Schottenheimer’s coordinators (Wade Phillips and Cam Cameron) were hired away as head coaches, and put off by Marty’s desire to bring in his brother, Kurt, as Phillips’ replacement, Spanos made the tough call to get rid of a coach who’d just produced the best regular season in franchise history and was 35-13 over three years.

In a statement released by the team after the firing, Spanos was remarkably blunt, stating, “In the plainest possible language, we have a dysfunctional situation here. Today I am resolving that situation once and for all …”

Now Smith is involved in another situation that, because of his inability to shut his pie hole, is rapidly degenerating toward dysfunction. Gee, what seems to be the common denominator here?

It doesn’t matter anymore what the smart football decision is, for this has become a battle of egos playing out in the public realm, and only one of the principals has been smart enough to keep a lid on his emotions.

At a tenuous time for the franchise, it’s A.J. vs. LT that has the fans buzzing. By trying to prove he’s more powerful than Tomlinson, to the point of humiliation, Smith is tarnishing the Chargers brand.

Because of that, Spanos should assess the damage Smith is causing, summon him to his office and flex his power.

Whatever the team decides to do with Tomlinson, giving Smith a swift and severe attitude adjustment is absolutely in the best interest of the Chargers.

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news;_yl...yhoo&type=lgns
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Old 01-23-2009, 12:35 PM   #2
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We all know in the end football is a business so even a guy like LT and what he has meant to his franchise isn't above being cut/traded.

AJ is a great GM but AJ he is being as ass with the way he's handling this. But that's his style so what are ya going to do?

Oh and Michael Silver is a hack. Are there any decent sportswriters out there anymore?
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Old 01-23-2009, 12:37 PM   #3
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I really didn't think it was that venomous of a statement but I wonder if one day AJ's ego catches up to him.
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Old 01-23-2009, 12:47 PM   #4
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I really didn't think it was that venomous of a statement but I wonder if one day AJ's ego catches up to him.
It wasn't venemous, no.

But it was flippant, as if he was just disregarding LT's comments as unimportant, as if whether Tomlinson stays or goes isn't that big a deal.

LT is probably the best Charger of all time, is a bit of respect a bit of respect too much to ask? I know I'd be pissed if a Bronco GM said something like this about someone like TD or Rod Smith for instance.

No doubting AJ Smith is very good at his job, but I do wonder if he has a bit too much power in San Diego? Big factor in why Norv got the job IMO. No doubt who wears the pants in San Diego. Norv's just happy to be getting some, even if it is up the ass.
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Old 01-23-2009, 12:54 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by boltaneer View Post
We all know in the end football is a business so even a guy like LT and what he has meant to his franchise isn't above being cut/traded.

AJ is a great GM but AJ he is being as ass with the way he's handling this. But that's his style so what are ya going to do?

Oh and Michael Silver is a hack. Are there any decent sportswriters out there anymore?
AJ Smith is a dick and better be careful with how he handles LT. most teams know that if the team wants to move on without LT that they are going to end up having to cut him because nobody is going to give up a lot to aquire him. and when he is cut, it is a strong chance he ends up on a rival AFC West team, or NE, which will come back to bite the Chargers in the ass.
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Old 01-23-2009, 12:57 PM   #6
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That article is full of factual errors that a paid sportswriter should be embarrassed by. As for the points of it, he's probably half correct. I don't think Smith was trying to mock LT, he was trying to point out that he's PART of the franchise, not THE franchise. In actuality, Spanos will probably be the one that decides what to do with a player like LaDainian who has been such a big part of the franchise, not AJ.
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Old 01-23-2009, 01:00 PM   #7
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Oh and Michael Silver is a hack.
I don't think so. His columns are usually backed up and brings up interesting points. He has won numerous awards for his writing.

Lately, Silver has really ripped into the Raiders organization this year for firing Kiffin and the ineptitude of Al Davis. He covered the 49ers for awhile so I am sure he has a little bias against Oakland and San Diego.
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Old 01-23-2009, 01:09 PM   #8
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I don't think so. His columns are usually backed up and brings up interesting points. He has won numerous awards for his writing.

Lately, Silver has really ripped into the Raiders organization this year for firing Kiffin and the ineptitude of Al Davis. He covered the 49ers for awhile so I am sure he has a little bias against Oakland and San Diego.
I think he's a halfassed, mediocre journalist. His articles are always more inflammatory than incisive, and his basis for most of them is alot more speculative than factual, although he doesn't let his writing come off as speculative at all. And like I said before, he more often than not includes at least several factually incorrect pieces of information.
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Old 01-23-2009, 01:17 PM   #9
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If AJ Gets rid of LT, I'll become a Chiefs Fan.

That is until AJ himself is fired.
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Old 01-23-2009, 01:40 PM   #10
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The NFL is a cut throat business so I don't expect A.J. Smith to be a nice guy. Like Leo Durocher once said, "nice guys finish last".

Smith doesn't like playing the bull**** PR games either, but he needs to bite the bullet here. It projects a bad image to the Chargers locker room and other prospective players when the head honcho in management takes jabs at the franchise player through the media.

Smith is a strictly business guy, but sometimes he crosses the line with his antics. Don't treat the guys that sacrifice their livelihood on Sundays for you like a piece of meat.
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Old 01-23-2009, 02:26 PM   #11
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AJ Smith, The Spanos, LT, Rivers and the Chargers fanbase all deserve each other imo. ****ing classless douchebags across the board.
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Old 01-23-2009, 02:28 PM   #12
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AJ Smith, The Spanos, LT, Rivers and the Chargers fanbase all deserve each other imo. ****ing classless douchebags across the board.
Screw you.
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Old 01-23-2009, 02:28 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by boltaneer View Post
We all know in the end football is a business so even a guy like LT and what he has meant to his franchise isn't above being cut/traded.

AJ is a great GM but AJ he is being as ass with the way he's handling this. But that's his style so what are ya going to do?

Oh and Michael Silver is a hack. Are there any decent sportswriters out there anymore?
Agreed, Michael Silver is a hack. However non-hack sportswriters are difficult to find. The only local Denver writer worth reading is Rasizer from RMN.

IMO, Silver is making something out of nothing......and the offseason continues....
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Old 01-23-2009, 02:36 PM   #14
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Screw you.
...exactly.
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Old 01-23-2009, 02:50 PM   #15
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If his groin heals, bring him in here. LT, Hillis and another young stud were set.

Torain is probably done, acls are hard to come back from, he was never explosive to begin with..

Shon Green.
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Old 01-23-2009, 02:58 PM   #16
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If AJ Gets rid of LT, I'll become a Chiefs Fan.

That is until AJ himself is fired.

Wow that right there is desparation..
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Old 01-23-2009, 03:08 PM   #17
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Wow that right there is desparation..
Maybe I'll just follow LT instead of limiting myself to the Chiefs.
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Old 01-23-2009, 03:15 PM   #18
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Maybe I'll just follow LT instead of limiting myself to the Chiefs.

Well i gotta say that's pretty gay to follow a spoiled douchbag a-hole around but you guys are used to bandwagons so goodluck buying all new gear.
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Old 01-23-2009, 03:20 PM   #19
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Maybe he just wants to sit around on his ass all day just like his hero.
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Old 01-23-2009, 03:23 PM   #20
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Well i gotta say that's pretty gay to follow a spoiled douchbag a-hole around but you guys are used to bandwagons so goodluck buying all new gear.
I'm no bandwagon fan sir.

I'm just pissed off that our GM thinks he can mock our Star Player. If LT goes and AJ Stays, I'll follow LT until AJ is ****canned.
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Old 01-23-2009, 03:29 PM   #21
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I'm no bandwagon fan sir.

I'm just pissed off that our GM thinks he can mock our Star Player. If LT goes and AJ Stays, I'll follow LT until AJ is ****canned.
To even consider changing teams is a NFL fan ultimate no no and that is called (bandwagon) sir.
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Old 01-23-2009, 03:33 PM   #22
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That article is full of factual errors...
Such as...
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Old 01-23-2009, 04:05 PM   #23
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To even consider changing teams is a NFL fan ultimate no no and that is called (bandwagon) sir.
Call me what you will. If AJ does this he can kiss my ass.

They are already losing a season ticket holder out of me, so I'm sure they don't care if I stop rooting.
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Old 01-23-2009, 05:32 PM   #24
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Such as...
Qualcomm sold out "only three days before the game" with Indy. Of course that was the day after the final tickets went on sale, but why report that?

"Zero compensation for Brees" - we got a 3rd round draft pick.

"Zero compensation for Turner" - once again, 3rd round pick

And finally the "10-6 Chargers" of 2007 were 11-5. That's something that the writers or at least the editor should probably check on before publishing.

Actually, as far as the facts go, this is one of Silver's better articles.
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Old 01-23-2009, 06:35 PM   #25
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Qualcomm sold out "only three days before the game" with Indy. Of course that was the day after the final tickets went on sale, but why report that?

"Zero compensation for Brees" - we got a 3rd round draft pick.

"Zero compensation for Turner" - once again, 3rd round pick

And finally the "10-6 Chargers" of 2007 were 11-5. That's something that the writers or at least the editor should probably check on before publishing.

Actually, as far as the facts go, this is one of Silver's better articles.
You could also make an argument that AJ's quote was taken out of context but even if it was, I still think he shouldn't have said it.

And yes, four mistakes is pretty good for a Silver article. I actually think Bob could put up better articles than this guy and Bob stinks.
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