Sunday, August 12, 2007

Our AFC West, Vol. 1

This will be the beginning of what might could possibly be a semi-regular feature. It will be a place for analysis of the various game elements and engaging personalities that make our division the non-stop bowel-loosening assault on the adrenal gland that it is. It will be concise, packed with information that will make you a smarter football fan, a more efficient employee and a better lover. It will be something, in other words, to fill in these uncomfortable silences between posts that are actually interesting. It will be Our AFC West. As it always is.

Today's topic: San Diego Chargers GM A.J. Smith.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but A.J. Smith is a total douche.

He got the job because his mentor, the late and incredibly overweight John Butler, took the cancer and died. He then parlayed several years of complete and utter crappiness into a succession of fine (Shawn Merriman, Philip Rivers, Luis Castillo) and not quite as fine (Quentin Jammer, Sammy Davis) draft picks. But unlike many league GMs, Smith hasn't been able to let the staff on-field do their jobs.

Say what you will about Marty Schottenheimer. No, really, I mean that. Go ahead and say it. Mmm--hmm. Right. Yep. Couldn't agree more--but you have to give the guy his due as an NFL head coach. His teams generally work hard, play the right way and win a lot of games. He's had some playoff failures, and tended to coach timid with the game on the line, but still. Last year, his team went 14-2.

That wasn't good enough for Smith, who in the process of chasing out Marty chased out the two assistants, Cam Cameron and Wade Phillips, who would have taken the job and provided an easy transition. He settled instead for Norv Turner.

Smith's apologists, and they are many, claim that there will be no drop-off simply because of the level of talent that he's assembled. I call 'em bullshit on that. Listen to what the departed Donnie Edwards had to say about Smith in a recent interview (from John Czarnecki's blog on, and yes, I feel dirty for having referenced those toadstools twice in one day):

""Football is a great team game, but this guy thought it was all about him," Edwards said. "I mean, doesn't he think Marty (Schottenheimer) was trying to win? I always thought that we were all in this together, trying to win a championship. The players, the coaches, the personnel people, everybody on a team. But not in San Diego. It's all about how (Smith) sees it. No one else seems to matter."

If a respected veteran leader like Edwards said it, what do you think the guys in the locker room think? If this team loses a few in a row, tongues will wag and Smith's edifice will crumble.