A.J. Smith is an absolute genius … or is he?
Smith is certainly given the most pats on the back for the San Diego Chargers’ impressive 35-13 record the past three regular seasons. But if that be the case, he’s also part of the team failing to win its playoff games in 2004 and 2006.
The team’s cornerstone players are LaDainian Tomlinson on offense and Jamal Williams on defense. Both players were with the Chargers before Smith became general manager.
Smith had a stellar draft in 2004.
Selecting quarterback Eli Manning in the first round and trading him to the New York Giants for QB Philip Rivers was a steal; considering the Chargers also received a third-round pick (kicker Nate Kaeding), and first-round selection in 2005 (linebacker Shawne Merriman).
San Diego’s 2004 draft was further bolstered by picking current starters Igor Olshansky (defensive end, second round), Nick Hardwick (center, third round) and Shaun Phillips (linebacker, fourth round.)
What about Smith’s other drafts? You might want to close your eyes on some.
2003: This draft yielded busts in two of the first three picks with defensive backs Sammy Davis and Terrence Kiel. However, it did yield current starters CB Drayton Florence (2nd), LB Matt Wilhelm (4th) and P Mike Scifres (5th).
2005: Besides Merriman, current starters DE Luis Castillo (1st) and WR Vincent Jackson (2nd) were also taken. Beyond that, none of the draftees figure to be starters this season.
2006: Starters were chosen in the first two rounds with CB Antonio Cromartie and OT Marcus McNeill. Once again, that’s where the starters stop among draft picks.
We’ll find out if Smith is a true architect in 2007. The Chargers did not sign any free agents from outside the organization, so they are certainly no stronger than the day they lost to New England in the playoffs with leading tackler Donnie Edwards (now a Kansas City Chief) at linebacker.
The Chargers fired Marty Schottenheimer, at least in part, because he cannot win in the playoffs despite being one of the best regular-season coaches in NFL history. They might not have to worry about a playoff loss with new boss Norv Turner, who has failed to make the postseason in eight of his nine seasons as a head coach.
A.J. Smith: Genius or overrated? This year’s NFL draft could tell a lot about that question.