Thursday, February 08, 2007

A.J. - One area great, one area poor

I have not been a fan of A.J. Smith since John Butler passed away and he took over. There are many reasons which I am sure some would agree with and many would disagree with. The way he is so cut and dry in contract negotiations, how he lets his personal dislike for players and coaches dictate how they get treated or if they even remain employed, and how he uses the absolute power and authority he has been given by Dean Spanos. All of that being said, I MUST give him credit where credit is due.

He has done a great job of drafting good players. He has done a good, although limited, job of acquiring good free agents. He has done a great job of signing our best players to long term contracts.

I will not rehash the old arguments but I still think he did a TERRIBLE job in dumping Drew Brees who I still believe will lead his team to the Super Bowl before the Chargers reach the Super Bowl; we'll see. . . .!?!?

So there, I gave him credit as the genius General Manager -- on his handling of ONE side of his job, the players, but what about the other side of his job, the coaches?

In my opinion he has done a HORRIBLE job of dealing with the coaching staff.

The coaching staff is what makes all those good players mesh into a well oiled machine with the same plan of action, the same focus, the same level of motivation, and the same buy in to what is being asked of them. The coaches create a "family" where you know what Dad's expectations of you are and you know how your brothers are going to back you. The coaches are the ones who take players from various playing backgrounds and experiences, and mold them in to a single way of doing things to win. The coaches create continuity in the chaotic world of NFL football and are able to get the most out of their players by being a mentor they can look up to and that they can and do trust. The players jobs depend a lot on the coaches!!!

A.J. Smith does not like Marty and wants him out and that is a known fact. He is however, for the moment, stuck with Marty because Dean Spanos wants desperately to win a Super Bowl NOW to help him get a new Stadium and doesn't want any more disruption to the team.

Unfortunately, this very situation caused by A.J. IS CAUSING DISRUPTION TO THE TEAM.

A.J. has focused on the players and ignored the coaching staff. He has a backup plan for every players position, he has depth at every players position, he has extended contracts of his players to ensure continuity, and he has a plan for free agent acquisitions and who he wants in the Draft.

As evidenced by what has and is occurring with the coaching staff, he does NOT have a plan or even a clue.

He was forced to retain Marty for this next year and then only offered him a one year extension knowing full well if Marty did not take the team to the Super Bowl in '07 he would fire him anyway.

So Marty is back for one last year -- a lame duck head coach. Now that's good for a team.

A lame duck head coach is not who you want to work for as an assistant coach because that means you only have one more year of putting food on the table for your family. So you start looking to bail out now. Why now? Because you helped guide this team to a 14-2 record and the other NFL General Managers know you have the potential to bring the same level of success to their team and they are willing to pay for that now.

So what we have is the loss of our Offensive Coordinator, our Defensive Coordinator, our Linebackers coach, our Running Backs coach has to be replaced because the current coach was promoted to fill the Offensive Coordinator position, the Assistant Strength and Conditioning coach left too, and I am betting more coaches will leave before this is all over.

So the very architects of your 14-2 team are gone or leaving and your Head Coach only has one more year before he returns to the Broadcast booth and where is A.J.? I think he is fiddling while Rome burns.

I think he abandoned Marty and the entire Chargers coaching staff because he doesn't like Marty and wants to see him fail. In A.J.'s world, it doesn't matter who else has to be disregarded to prove his point, there is only room for one genius. He wants FULL credit for any Chargers success and Marty has given him enough ammunition to allow him to hire his own coach of choice and then when/if the team wins the Super Bowl it will be totally because of A.J. and his genius.

I believe if the Chargers are somehow able to survive this coaching staff debacle and go deep in to the playoffs in '07 it will be because of Marty and in spite of A.J.

Regardless, A.J. gets his way. Marty's contract will have expired and A.J. will threaten Spanos with his own departure if Marty is offered a long term contract so Marty is gone. A.J. will hire HIS new coach (believe me, it WON'T be Bill Cower because A.J. won't pay what he is worth), and thus the Chargers players will start all over under a new coaching staff. Can you say "set back"?

How did we get to this point? Remember that Dean Spanos took over the team operations from his Dad (the real owner) Alex Spanos. This was done because Dad Alex was too involved in the team's day to day operations and there were many years of losing seasons to show how well that had worked out.

So Dean took over the team and hired Bobby Beathard as his General Manager. Remember him? He was THE genius General Manager. Dean gave him full power and authority to run the team. We went to the Super Bowl and then Beathard blew up the team and fired the Head Coach. Can you say "set back"?

Guess what? Dean did not learn his lesson. He has hired another "genius" and given him full power and authority to run the team. Hello Dean, does this not look familiar? You're team is ready to go to the Super Bowl and your GM is OK with blowing up your coaching staff?

I'm still hurting from the playoff loss to the Patriots and I am getting sicker by the day watching the coaching staff walk away and I am even sicker for having to say "wait 'til next year" AGAIN, and knowing full well that next year could be a "set back". Ah the painful life of a Chargers fan.

GO CHARGERS -- love ya' Bolts.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Black Monday Catharsis - The Football God's

I haven't written in this Blog for quite some time. I was way too busy; the Chargers were on an incredible roll and I was swept up in the elation and busy promoting them on the web site and communicating with fellow fans on the web.

It was glorious. This was the year we finally not only got to the Super Bowl, but actually won the whole enchilada.

We drove the RV to San Diego and attended the Chargers vs. KC game with my daughter and her family. The city was excited and the fair-weather "fans" were all fighting to get on the band wagon. It was great.

Today is Black Monday, January 15, 2007. I have a headache. My stomach is in knots. I am exhausted and my entire body aches. Remember that feeling when your true love broke up with you or your spouse asked for a divorce or you got fired from work? Remember how you couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, couldn't concentrate on anything else, didn't want to talk with others? Didn't want to be around other people, didn't want to be alone? How your mind kept replaying images of all the good times? How your mind kept replaying images of the horror of the ending? Sure you do -- because you are a Chargers fan too and yesterday you saw the same game that I did. It was a nightmare come true.

I have felt these feelings so many times since 1961. I won't recount them all now but if you have been a fellow Chargers fan for even the last ten to fifteen years, you have experienced it too.

It hurts. Remember what Coach George Allen of the Washington Redskins said?; "Football is a rough game and often a cruel one. Every time you lose you die a little bit. You die inside; a portion of you. Not all of your organs, maybe just your liver. Pain is inevitable." How can this keep happening? I know the answer . . . .the football God's are cruel.

Our Chargers went 14-2 this year. They won all eight games before the home crowd. LT set every record known to man in the NFL. Rivers had a solid season for a rookie quarterback. Even Marty learned a lesson and relinquished his "Martyball" grip on the team. Nine - NINE - players made the Pro Bowl. They won the AFC West decidedly and then won home field advantage throughout the playoffs. And then . . . . as Coach Jim Morra would say, "Playoffs? Playoffs? Are you kiddin' me? Playoffs?"

The reality of my 45 year love affair and blind allegiance to the San Diego Chargers came crashing down AGAIN yesterday in the first game of the playoffs.

Let's see now. . . .

1st Qtr: NE 3rd and 8 on its own 12. Brady's pass is tipped to Clinton Hart but he doesn't catch it for the interception. The Patriots punt and get out of their own territory.

1st Qtr: Chargers 4th and 11 at NE 30-yard line. 47-yard Field Goal for Kaeding. Marty, instead, goes for first down and Rivers is sacked - no points. Pats take over at their 35-yard line.

3rd Qtr: Eric Parker muffs the punt and instead of falling on the ball, tries to pick it up and is tackled with Pats recovering the muff.

3rd Qtr: Three plays later, Brady is sacked, fumbles and Pats recover. After the play, Drayton Florence head-butts Pats Daniel Graham for 15-yard penalty and automatic first down. Instead of 4th and 21 from the 37, Pats now 1st and 10 at the 18. Pats kick a 34-yard Field Goal to cut Chargers lead to 14-13.

4th Qtr: Pats are behind 21-13 with 4th and 5. Brady goes for it with pass that is intercepted by Marlon McCree. McCree tries to run with it instead of falling down after the catch. Troy Brown strips McCree and Reche Caldwell (remember this name, OK?) recovers at Chargers 32. Five plays later, Brady hits Caldwell for TD and they make 2 point conversion to tie the score at 21.

You're right. It is a Team game but these individuals put themselves above the team or disregarded years of teaching and coaching and as a result, the team lost.

Want to hear about other members of the team's contribution to the loss? How about this:

Eric Parker dropped two passes. One should have been ruled a catch and then a fumble. He slipped down running a reverse for a 7 yard loss.

Vincent Jackson dropped a pass and forced a Chargers punt. He came down out of bounds on a TD pass in the end zone because he didn't know where the sideline was.

Drayton Florence intercepted a pass but a holding penalty against Mike Goff and a subsequent sack forced a Chargers punt. Shane Olivia had a personal foul penalty.

Philip Rivers threw an interception to Pats Rosevelt Colvin and lost a fumble.

Quentin Jammer was beaten bad when on 3rd and 10 Brady threw a 49-yard pass to Reche Caldwell.

Nate Kaeding had made 24 straight Field Goals since missing wide right in the Playoffs against the Jets two years ago. Yesterday he was wide right on the final play for the Chargers from 54 yards.

Patriots Reche Caldwell (remember I said 'remember this name?') (ex-Charger) caught 4 yard pass in back of the end zone with 4:36 left in game that led to 2 point conversion. The McCree interception that he subsequently fumbled was recovered by Reche Caldwell. It was Caldwell who burned Jammer for a 49-yard catch to the Chargers 17-yard line. Caldwell had seven receptions for 80 yards. Given ample opportunity, he expressed no sense of vengeance or bitterness toward the Chargers, who didn't value him enough to bring him back after four seasons in San Diego. Now add Rodney Harrison maybe getting his second Super Bowl ring with NE; and "Heaven forbid", Junior Seau maybe getting a ring with NE. Drew Brees is great and still playing with a good shot at the Big Show. And don't forget that Donnie Edwards is going to be cast off. Odds say Marty is going to be fired and probably Cam Cameron will be allowed to take another job somewhere. So who are the final two individuals who place themselves above the team? How about Dean Spanos and most of all, A.J. (The Genius) Smith?!?!

Enough blame to go around? I would say so.

I have had to endure over 100 ranting, taunting, vilifying emails from Raider fans so far. I love it because then I know for sure I am driving them nuts and it doesn't bother me a lick because they are 2-14 and remain the scum of the earth "fans." I know the Chargers will continue to kick the Raiders ass year after year, and that is a good feeling.

And you know what? This Blog post has been cathartic. I feel a little better since I got some of it out. I'll take a few more days to move through the grieving process and over time I will be able to "let it go" and get ready for NEXT YEAR.

Next year will be our year. Next year we will go undefeated. Next year we will win the Super Bowl. Next year I will continue to promote my Chargers and pull the chain on the Raider fans and watch them bounce off the wall. Next year will be the best year in my 45 years of being a Chargers fan . . . . unless the football God's decide to be cruel AGAIN.

"Football is a rough game and often a cruel one. Every time you lose, you die a little bit. You die inside; a portion of you. Not all of your organs, maybe just your liver. Pain is inevitable." If my team can endure it, I can endure it.