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Smith experiences no offseason

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jan 23, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.chargers.com/news/headline_detail.cfm?news_key=2527">Chargers.com</a>

    <img width="234" height="155" id="image1860" alt="Chargers GM AJ Smith" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/01/agsmithwtchplayers_300x200.jpg" />

    By Casey Pearce
    For all but two NFL teams, the offseason has arrived, but for general managers and scouts, their busiest time of the year is now upon them.<font size="-1" face="verdana, arial, geneva, san-serif" class="body3">"For us there's no such thing as an offseason," Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith said. "During the playing season, we're constantly evaluating both college and NFL players. Once February arrives, we go over our findings and make decisions that we hope will make us better."</font>

    <font size="-1" face="verdana, arial, geneva, san-serif" class="body3">Throughout the fall, Smith and his staff spend an extensive amount of time breaking down film of college players. The Chargers' pro scouts also keep close tabs on current NFL players who could become available.</font>

    <font></font>During the year, the Bolts' college scouts maintain homes in various places across the country so that the department can cover a wide range of schools. In the fall, scouts make visits to numerous campuses to chart future NFL prospects.

    "The process of getting ready for the draft doesn't start in the spring with the all star games and combines," Smith said. "Our scouts watch guys come through the ranks. By the time their final college season has concluded, we want to know what we're dealing with."

    In the next couple of weeks, the Chargers' entire personnel staff will gather in San Diego to share ideas and put together a plan for the spring.

    "They come in for about a week. It's a very early, preliminary meeting," Smith said. "You know that the fall has gone by. Now we'll have our bowl games. We'll have some cross checking. We're zeroing in on the Indianapolis combine. That's the final piece. We just spend some time making sure that we're on the same page."

    Smith spent last week at the Hula Bowl with scout Tom Gibbons. The Hula Bowl is one of five college all star games held during the postseason. The Senior Bowl, which will be played Saturday, is the most prestigious of the events. Smith and several members of his staff are currently in Alabama for the contest.

    "It's a great opportunity to see a guy's work ethic," Smith said. "You get to watch guys all week in practice and see how they are in different situations. We learn a lot from our time there."

    Following the Senior Bowl, Smith's staff directs their attention to February's NFL combine in Indianapolis. The top college players who have declared eligible for the draft gather at the RCA Dome to show their physical and mental skills.

    A prospect's draft status can significantly change based on his performance at the combine and at the bowl games, but by the time the Chargers reach these phases, Smith already has a pretty well-developed opinion of players based on what they did in the fall.

    "I don't change much. I'm all on the football player," Smith said. "I'm not much on the height, speed, cone drill, agility and things like that. I like those things, but a lot of people get wowed by numbers. I go back to the tape. Show me a football player. How many passes did he catch? What did he do? How many first downs did he pick up? Give me the body of work of someone's career, not the last four games of his senior year. A lot of people get caught up in that. There are beautiful looking people, but are they players?"

    Once the personnel staff returns from Indianapolis, Smith organizes his opinions and joins them with those of the scouts.

    "(Assistant General Manager) Buddy Nix will tell me the consensus of our scouts, who we really like," Smith said. "Then I jump on board because I know who they're high on. Then I'll study them and see if I like them. If someone likes, someone doesn't like a guy and someone is in the middle of the road, we'll filter our way through that. When we find somebody that everyone says, ‘This is somebody,' we put them right over to the right. Those are the people we focus on."

    The tedious process continues with "pro days." Most colleges will host workouts for their players on their respective campuses. Smith attends several such events in hopes of getting a better look at the athletes he's interested in.

    "We have to shrink and shrink to seven or so picks," Smith said. "Who are the nine guys out of all that who you're going after? It's pretty amazing when you think about it when somebody's name comes off the board. We've put a lot of time into making sure it's a good fit for us. It's special for the guys that are drafted."

    When he isn't on the road, Smith can regularly be found in front of a television this time of year, and he's not catching up on his favorite sitcoms.

    "There will be an awful lot of film work," Smith said. "We'll have our list and we'll start breaking down the tape a little bit more. We want to see as much of a guy as we can in order to develop a complete opinion of him."

    In the "war room" at Chargers Park, each prospect has a magnet that includes his name, college, position, height, weight and agent. As the process moves along, Smith and his staff arrange the magnets on the wall in ranking order based on how the Chargers grade the player. The order receives slight alterations leading up to the draft but is eventually the benchmark Smith uses on selection day.

    "Your final thoughts come together on draft day," Smith said. "I generally don't waver much. If you hold firm on someone, that's good. If you like them in the fall, you like them after bowl, after combine and after their workouts, it's all positive. That's a guy you're going to go after if he's available when it's your turn."

    Smith hopes this offseason proves as productive as those of recent years. Last season, 14 of the Chargers opening-day starters were products of the team's own drafts. Rookie Luis Castillo entered the starting lineup in Week 3 and Shawne Merriman followed in Week 7.

    "We've had a lot of success in recent years because of our diligence throughout the process," Smith said. "We've found players who fit our systems and have opportunities to be successful. We're doing everything we can to do the same this year. It's a long process, but it pays off when you find a Shawne Merriman or a Nate Kaeding or even a Shane Olivea, a seventh-rounder who has started for two seasons. We're hopeful that this spring can be just as rewarding."
     

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