This kid will make you rethink Spanos leadership of Chargers By Kevin Acee Thursday, January 3, 2013 A few years ago while tagging along on a scouting trip to Texas, I was a passenger in a rental car as John Spanos drove through rush hour traffic while simultaneously checking his directions and talking about the dynamic between his father, brother and himself. The topic at that moment was John’s counsel to his dad, Chargers President Dean Spanos, that he needed to not be so bothered by outside criticism, that he just needed to do what he thought was right and not worry about making people happy. As he spoke, the car drifted not quite into another lane, and a nervous driver laid on the horn. "You can't please all the people all the time," John said without a second’s delay as he corrected his course. I’m not declaring John’s stewardship will result in the Spanos name supplanting Rooney among dynastic NFL families. We won’t know what kind of decisions he will make until he’s the one making them. But I’ll never forget the poise, maturity and quick wit demonstrated in that moment in Texas. And I contend it says something about why John Spanos is not who you think he is and why he’ll do well when he achieves his life’s mission. John Spanos has been groomed for much of his life to someday take over the Chargers’ football operations -- working summers at training camp first, shagging balls, in the mailroom, as an errand boy, then a stint with the league and then back to the team as a scout, with time spent beginning at 18 helping negotiate contracts. (His brother, A.G., a year older at 34, did much the same and two years ago took over the Chargers’ day-to-day business operations.) John believes he is ready now, by the way, as he should. Confidence is the hallmark of a leader. But you can believe him when he says he is still focused on the journey so he can be best prepared when he reaches the destination. And even as he technically has the title of Director of College Scouting, John’s power in the organization is ever growing. And that influence underwent another revolution this week when A.J. Smith was fired after 10 years as the Chargers’ General Manager. John Spanos will likely receive a new title after the new G.M. is hired. That hire will come at some point after he participates in a small group of decision makers in hiring a new general manager and head coach. Now, the prevailing feeling is that John’s presence is a deterrent to potential general manager candidates. It’s a natural assumption and may, in fact, be true. It has long been known the path John is on to assume a role that is sort of a hybrid of his father’s and Smith’s. “I don’t think it would be at all,” John Spanos said of his presence being a negative. “I think if nothing else, my experience is going to give this team a great chance to succeed. The next G.M. is going to have full say over personnel matters. It’s not like in any way I would be a hindrance to his doing his job. If anything, it would be a benefit. Think about teams with owners who haven’t been around. I’ve been around this team, know the personnel. Why would that be a deterrent? Why wouldn’t it be a positive?” I’m telling you, if there is a guy who can pull off nepotism, making it seem not just a good idea but also really cool, John Spanos is that guy. I told him the other day that he couldn’t possibly argue that if his last name weren’t Spanos he wouldn’t be in position to one day run the football side of his family’s business. His answer was disarming. “Perhaps I would concede that,” he said. “But I know this -- and maybe if my last name wasn’t Spanos I woudn’t have the same passion for football that I do -- but I have such a strong passion for football I’d try to work in this business no matter what my last name was.” Normally, how do you not want to punch someone who begins a sentence with, “Perhaps I would concede ...”? But it was uttered so naturally in this case, I didn’t mind. That’s how cool John Spanos is. He will surprise you. He will make you rethink your definition of the word Spanos. For many years now, he has possessed an air of experience that is not at all smug, He’s refined without pretense. Genuine yet reserved. When you think of the owner of the Chargers also being the man who is running the football operations, don’t think Jerry Jones. Even when John Spanos does take over the Chargers’ football operations – two, three, four years from now – he will retain a personnel chief (a G.M., in other words) for counsel. And,presumably, so he eventually has someone to fire. “Anybody who is in a position of authority,” he said, “will tell you the smartest thing you can do is surround yourself with smart and successful people.” He will soon be in authority, and he will be smart.