For the past few years, the San Diego Chargers have been the sexy pick of some to win the Super Bowl. They’ve won a couple of AFC West championships but haven’t won the AFC crown, let alone the Super Bowl. And for the second straight season, they didn’t even make the playoffs this year.
It had many people wondering if president Dean Spanos would keep general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner around. It was announced this week that both have been retained, which simply seemed to lead to more questions. Smith does his best to answer some of them here.
A.J. Smith joined XX Sports Radio in San Diego with Darren Smith to discuss what the offseason has been like so far not knowing until recently what the future what hold for him, his discussion with Spanos when he learned he’d be kept for another season, his relationship with Norv Turner, the struggles of the past couple seasons, fans’ frustrations, staying out of the public eye and the perception that he has a toxic personality.
What has this offseason been like for you not knowing what’s going to happen?:
“The listening was different and certainly the dramatics of it all leading up to the decision, but it’s really that way every year, to be honest with you. In our business, which you’re prepared for, anything can happen at anytime. … I’m fortunate to be back, I appreciate being back. I’m doing the best I can for as long as I’m here. I’m just a Charger passing through history. … When you don’t go to the playoffs two years in a row, there’s a lot of unhappy people around here, including the owner. I’m just glad that he’s made the decision and I can continue on along with the coach.”
As much as you’re willing to share, what did president Dean Spanos say to you when he told you his decision?:
“What we talked about is really pretty consistent with himself: … ‘I want you to stay on. I want you to work with me. I want you to be a part of this. We have a lot of work to do.’ … I said, ‘Well, thank you, I know you’ve had a lot on our mind.’ … We both agreed that [coach Norv Turner] should return.”
How humbling is that experience?:
“I don’t know if it’s humbling except for the media perception. To be on the front burner of it was a little bit different for me to be on so long, so many weeks, almost daily. … It hits you right between the eyes a little bit, how tough the National Football League is and how tough the decisions are.”
It seems like Norv has taken a couple shots at the roster. What’s your relationship like with him?:
“It’s great. It’s been that way since we began; it’s that way now. … I have no problem with speaking. I am the general manager. Decisions do come from me. I don’t have a problem with saying that I need to do a better job. … There’s one thing that’s obvious to me that we need to do a better job of is the backup players. I like our starters … but there’s some starters that have been called upon that have not given us consistent, winning football. … We’ve got to take a hard look at that.”
You say the past few years are unacceptable, yet there hasn’t really been a consequence for it. What does that all mean?:
“To me, when I was hired by Dean Spanos, I wanted to create a football team here, along with some very good people. I’m not a one-man band around here. … I wanted the Chargers to be a playoff-caliber team each and every year. That means you’re in a special category. … We’ve established that, there was a couple of hit and misses. The last two years are unacceptable because we have not been two times.”
Can you understand fans’ frustrations about where you’re at and the fact that Marty Schottenheimer had a bit of a short leash?:
“I can try to, but my feeling on that was, trying to go back in history, my feeling was with Coach Schottenheimer and myself … was our philosophies were galaxies apart for many different reasons. We made a coaching change. Norv Turner came in here and took this football team right away — whether they think its Coach Schottenheimer’s team or my team, to me it was the San Diego Chargers football team — … but we got the ball rolling. … Now, let’s look at two years. [The feeling seems to be] the arrow is going down it’s never going to come back. We believe it will come back.”
On not being visible to the media and public to address these things late in the season:
“My feeling was, back in the beginning, when I was hired in 2003, I did everything in the media. … Then the feedback I’m getting is, ‘Why is this general manager out in front? Why is he the face of the franchise? Why is he talking so much? Who cares what he’s got to say?’ I heard that. In the middle of my career, I kind of tempered that a little bit. … This year, I made a terrible mistake. … But that was the reason why I did that. … I realize that I cannot be an executive or a general manager and take the year off. I have to touch base at some point in time, but that was my thinking behind it.”
Some like to say that you are toxic to this team, personally. Do you think your personality has anything to do with the success of this football team?:
“No I don’t, but I understand that if people say something about you and it takes on a life of its own … its hard to take that away. … You certainly cannot drop out for a year. That does not help my cause.”