By Cutris M. Egan
BoltTalk Staff Writer
Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod have a beef with the San Diego Chargers. It seems they feel that the Chargers General Manager AJ Smith was not accommodating enough in recent contract negotiations. Mr. Schwartz seems to feel that AJ was being unreasonable by not allowing his client Chargers holdout Wide Receiver Vincent Jackson to jet off to Minnesota to catch passes from the venerable Brett Farvre.
Mr. Schwartz also seems to feels that AJ and the Chargers should have allowed them to negotiate with any team for any deal they can arrange, and that the Chargers should graciously take whatever they get and like it.
That is not the way the system works however. The Chargers can limit who Jackson’s agents speak to. Would we want Jackson going to a divisional rival? No!
I agree that in light of the impasse that Jackson and his agents should be able to try and find a team that would be a more comfortable fit for the troubled yet talented Jackson. They were given that exact opportunity.
However if the Jackson camp sets a high price for his services, which they have, why should the Chargers not expect to receive compensation for Jackson that is commiserate with what the Jackson camp is requesting? It seems logical to me that the Chargers would want to get compensated well for losing a good player, one whom they control contractually.
Unless you are sitting in front of a game system and TV with a controller in your hand playing Madden NFL; this is not a game. The NFL is a business and it can be cold and hard. Perhaps Jackson should have reminded his agents of that fact. It is not a new fact that AJ does not bend when negotiating with players or their agents, no matter what insults are leveled through the media.
There are a lot of people in the media crucifying AJ Smith for not being ‘nice’. News flash! It is not AJ’s job to be nice, neither is it to help Jackson move on to another team, nor to help the Vikings, Rams or any other ‘non-disclosed’ team get better unless it benefits the Chargers.
Further, I can assure you that AJ will not be judged by how he handled Jackson, or the other notable holdout, Marcus McNeil. AJ will be judged solely on the presence of Lombardi trophies at Charger Park or lack thereof. That is all. That is what the measurement of AJs legacy with the Chargers will be. Not Jackson. Not McNeil. Not if he was nice…
For those fans who believe that AJ is somehow making the Chargers a worse team by the way he is handling things I ask you to remember one little fact. Since AJ took the reins of the Chargers the team has the fourth best winning record in the NFL. I challenge any fan to explain to me how AJ can be tearing the team apart, yet field a competitive team each and every year. That mentality defies logic if you ask me.
I also wonder why Jacksons agents decided to take the path of negotiations they did with the Chargers. History shows AJ has been extremely consistent in his dealings with players. Does anyone remember back in 2005 when Tight End Antonio Gates held out of training camp, demanding a long-term contract? AJ did the same thing as he did this year. He made and offer then delivered an ultimatum; ‘Sign and get in camp or be placed on the Roster Exempt List.’ Does this sound familiar Mr. Schwartz?
Go back further in the annuals of the Chargers. We used to have a good Running Back named Natrone Means (you thought I was going to mention LT, didn’t you?) He held out, and ended up being shipped out to the Jacksonville Jaguars where he never had the success he enjoyed in San Diego. This was in the 1990’s before AJ Smith was the GM of the Chargers. This is a constant with the team. They set the value on their players. If there is a big gap, no deal gets done. That is a historical fact.
Could AJ be a ‘nicer’ person? Sure. But he is not running for a public office. He is not trying to build a ‘kinder and gentler Chargers’ he is trying to build a championship team. AJ’s job is not public relations; that is Bill Johnson’s job. AJ does not have to be Mr. Warm and Fuzzy..
Mr. Jackson, let me remind you of an antidotal saying ‘Actions Speak Louder Than Words’. You say you want to play, but you are not playing. You earn long term contracts in camp, on the field. Not on the couch. As a fan I have serious doubts when a player says they want to be in camp, or on the field yet holds out. Malcom Floyd is on the field. He signed his tender and is trying to prove by ACTIONS that he deserves a long term contract with the Chargers.
I understand Mr. Jackson that you want a long term deal, and it makes sense to me why you want that. But it puzzles me that you seem willing to give up a year of your prime to prove how much you want the deal. You will most likely be 30 before you play again, and you will probably not play a single snap in your 29th year. NFL players do not have a long shelf life, and you are giving up a year of yours. Is this the sound advice your agents are giving you?
It seems like a very risky gamble to me. You have no guarantees that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will release you as a free agent, or that there will be a 2011 season. Are you ready to sit out two years? Does that increase your market value do you think?
Further Jackson’s agents made some serious claims in the media. One was that the General Managers from other teams said AJ was being unreasonable in not trading Jackson.
Really? So the team that wanted Jackson felt the Chargers or more accurately AJ was unreasonable because he did not let them have him for a reduced price? Sour grapes anyone?
Also let me point out that the GM or the St. Louis Rams was published as saying that AJ was not being unreasonable. Could it be that the agents in this case are skewing the information to get a favorable ‘media’ response. Again, Mr. Schwartz that approach has not worked in the past when people have tried that with AJ.
As a fan I get frustrated when players and teams cannot find a middle ground. It seems like it should be easy but I realize that my opinion is based on my ignorance of what the process actually is like.
Though I get frustrated, I am glad that the Chargers have a no nonsense GM like AJ who has a long term plan that to this point is working. The Chargers are contenders each and every year. You can’t make the Super Bowl unless you can make the playoffs. The Chargers make the playoffs regularly under AJ’s watch.
I encourage you to ask yourself, what is the job of a GM in the NFL? Is it to make the fans happy? Make the players happy? It is not to make player agents happy; I can assure you of that.
According to the Chargers Director of Public Relations, Bill Johnson who was kind enough to return my email, AJ’s duties are defined as this:
“Bottom line, A.J. is responsible for building a winning team, both now and next year and the year after and the year after and so on. That includes acquiring players and building the roster, getting the right players, signing players, keeping players, juggling the salary cap, deciding who gets how much, building and maintaining a winning coaching staff, etc. etc. etc. Ultimately he’s in charge everyone and everything that has anything to do with our product on the field.”
That seems pretty straight forward to me. He is not responsible for making one or two players happy. He has to focus on the entire team, the product on the field. That includes ensuring that the team does not encourage hold outs or bad behavior by caving to player or agent demands that are not in the best interests of the Chargers.
Frankly Mr. Johnson would know, he joined the Chargers in 1979 and has worked with multiple Chargers GMs.
I understand the desire for long term stability that McNeil and Jackson desire. I would as well if I were lucky enough to be in their cleats. However with the uncertainty in today’s NFL there is no real long term stability. I don’t know what the next CBA will look like, or if any games will be played in 2011. So is it logical to expect the Chargers to provide long term contracts to players who are not on the field? It is not logical to me.
I am a fan of both players. The rhetoric that has been thrown around has made me lose some respect for Jackson, while gaining some for McNeil who does not engage in media warfare with the Chargers or AJ.
The bottom line for me is the players who want to play are, and The Chargers are not faltering because of the holdouts. That tells me that AJ and his staff have done their jobs right, they have players who can maintain the effectiveness of the San Diego Chargers even without Jackson and McNeil. Further last year when injuries impacted the team as much as it did, we had the depth of talent to overcome. THAT in my opinion is what I feel AJ’s focus has to be; Keeping the team competitive all season long.
If I want warm and fuzzy I will pet my dog.