1. Welcome to San Diego Chargers NFL Football Podcast and Forum!

    Bolt Talk is one of the largest online communities for the San Diego Chargers. We host a regular Chargers podcast during the season. You are currently viewing our community forums as a guest user.

    Create an Account or

    Having an account grants you additional privileges, such as creating and participating in discussions. Furthermore, we hide most of the ads once you register as a member!
    Dismiss Notice

Smith holds ground even if it makes him unhappy

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by ChargerRay, Jul 6, 2010.

  1. ChargerRay

    ChargerRay #FireMcCoy #FirePagano Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2005
    Messages:
    8,510
    Ratings:
    +867
    http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ms-trippintuesday070610

    Along with an eye for talent that ranks among the best in his profession, San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith has relied upon an iron fist in forging his professional identity. Though Smith’s autocratic style has made him unpopular with various players, agents and at least one Internet columnist, the man deserves credit for ruling with conviction and without apology.

    That’s why I found it a bit surreal when, during a discussion Monday night about unsigned standouts Marcus McNeill(notes) and Vincent Jackson(notes), Smith suddenly starting sounding like a dude in serious need of a Snickers bar.
    Related Coverage

    * Report: Jackson suspended

    “It hurts,” Smith said. “It hurts when you don’t have your players. How are you going to win a championship without your left tackle and your wideout? I’m sick about it. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how anybody could be more upset about this than me.”

    Actually, I do, and his name is Philip Rivers(notes). Two years removed from reconstructive knee surgery, the Chargers’ Pro Bowl quarterback could be staring at a starring role in a horror-tinged remake of “The Blind Side.” Coach Norv Turner, who did such a brilliant job of play-calling in leading San Diego to victories in its final 11 regular season games last season, can’t be too thrilled, either.

    If McNeill, a massive left tackle, and Jackson, a supersized wideout who’s been the subject of trade speculation and reportedly will be suspended for three games, follow through on implied threats to skip the first 10 games of the 2010 season, a whole lot of Chargers fans may be upset as well.

    This has been a tumultuous offseason in America’s Finest City, beginning with last January’s abrupt playoff exit at the hands of the New York Jets at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers, winners of four consecutive AFC West titles, haven’t gotten much good news since. Future Hall of Fame tailback LaDainian Tomlison was released in February and eventually signed with the New York Jets; veteran defensive tackle Jamal Williams(notes) signed with the rival Denver Broncos after being released in a cost-cutting move; and three other players with Pro Bowl experience – restricted free agents McNeill, Jackson and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman(notes) – have stayed away from offseason activities while declining to sign the tenders offered by the team.

    Of the three, only Merriman seems likely to report to training camp later this month, not that he’s a happy camper.

    “You can throw me in the same situation [as Jackson and McNeill],” Merriman said Monday. “I’ve been on the trading block the last year and a half, and I’m tired of hearing it. I was on the trading block Week 3 last year, 11½ months after full knee reconstruction. I’m sitting there like, ‘Huh? What did I do to deserve this?’

    “I feel personally [A.J. and I] have good communication. Everybody knows, and I’ve put that out there, that I want to be there. But my thing is, I want to play football and not worry about, ‘Is this gonna happen?’ and not turn around and hear my name on the trading block every five minutes. I mean, who wants to do that? Who wants to come to work everyday and have teammates asking if you’re gonna be there?”

    While I respect Smith’s football knowledge and understand his desire to show people who’s boss, I wonder whether his charged public reactions to business disputes can be counterproductive. Several Chargers players have voiced similar concerns. As one veteran told me recently, “He gets too emotional and too tied up in making his points, and when emotions run wild anything can happen. I don’t see other GMs talking the way he’s talking. It creates confusion.”

    During our hour-long conversation Monday night, Smith defended his managerial philosophy while explaining his rationale in taking such a tough stance with McNeill and Jackson. Some players and their agents, he reasoned, will always be unhappy about their contracts, and it’s his job to anticipate potential stalemates and come up with contingency plans. He believes in staying true to his principles, even if it seems to hurt his team’s short-term prospects, and in exhibiting a consistent pattern of behavior.

    When he believes a player has overplayed his hand, Smith doesn’t hesitate to flex his power – and thanks to the uncertain labor situation, this is the most power he has possessed during his seven-year tenure in San Diego. Because the owners exercised a clause allowing them to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players’ Association following the 2010 season, eliminating the salary cap for the final year of the deal, the threshold for unrestricted free agency increased from four to six years of experience. Thus players like McNeill, Jackson and Merriman who otherwise would have been free to negotiate with any team after their contracts expired were stuck with restricted free-agent status.

    Meanwhile, given the prospect of a lockout following the 2010 campaign, owners such as the Chargers’ Dean Spanos have resisted doling out long-term contracts.

    “Our position now with the labor unrest is we’re going to shut it down and take it slow,” Smith said. “We’re on hold right now. We’re not the lone ranger, but we’re on hold. It’s not forever. I don’t know when we will or when we won’t [start giving out contract extensions]. There is a long list of players in line for them. It’s the longest I’ve ever seen.”

    Smith’s list is absolutely written out in order of importance, but he wouldn’t reveal to me where players like McNeill, Jackson and Merriman rank. He did, however, take me through his thought process that led to his public declaration that the team had “lost” McNeill and Jackson after the two players declined to accept their respective one-year tender offers for approximately $3.2 million by the June 15 deadline he imposed.

    At that point, as promised, Smith exercised his prerogative to reduce to those tender offers to $600,000 (110 percent of their 2009 base salaries) apiece. Predictably, neither McNeill nor Jackson jumped at the opportunity. Under the terms of the CBA, each player can stay away until the 11th game of the 2010 season and still receive credit for a year of service toward unrestricted free agency.

    Smith quickly signed a pair of veteran castoffs, tackle Tra Thomas(notes) and wideout Josh Reed(notes), to reinforce his message that the two disgruntled starters were essentially dead to him. I told Smith I thought his comments were a bit extreme – after all, veiled threats and feisty rhetoric are part of the negotiation process, and disputes such as these are often worked out via compromises behind the scenes.

    “I don’t know why it was ‘extreme,’ ” he protested, “ ‘cause I was being honest. We’re not signing anyone right now. We’re taking our time. Those players would like long-term contracts. What we decided to do, which we thought was fair, was say, ‘Play for $3.2 million, and let’s see what happens at the end of the year with us.’ That was rejected. We told them, ‘On the 15th we’re gonna bring that down to $600,000.’ Their agents told me, ‘Now we’re not coming in for a considerable length of time.’ When they say [through their agents], ‘You’re not going to see us,’ I take them for their word.

    “My head is spinning. I’m trying to replace them. I think we’ve got a good football team. We’re losing a left tackle and a wide receiver, I want our team to know they’re gone. Talk about it now, process it while you’re on vacation, get it out of the way. But they’re not coming back, and we have to move on. If those players change their mind, I’ll deal with it then.”

    While I think Smith is being a bit of a drama queen, I don’t question the sincerity of his position. Remember, this is the man who set an ultimatum for Antonio Gates(notes) to report to training camp in the summer of 2005, and when the star tight end showed up a day after the deadline, Smith delivered on his threat to keep Gates out of the regular season opener – more than two weeks after the fact. The Chargers lost 28-24 to the Dallas Cowboys, failing to convert on four potential touchdown passes down the stretch with their top red-zone threat watching in street clothes.

    To Smith, however, the defeat was offset by a greater victory: He was letting his players and their agents know that he’s in charge and won’t back down.

    “I try very hard to be consistent,” Smith said, “because if you’re not consistent, they don’t understand where you’re coming from. I can’t change their opinions, but this is the way I am. So when you tell me you’re unhappy, I hear you, and I take you for your word. When I tell you I can’t give you a long-term contract, but I want you to take $3.2 million and help the Chargers win a championship, I would suggest that agents and other people do some research on me and see if there’s a pattern, a history, as to [what will happen next]. I think an agent could say there’s a high percentage of how things are going to be.”

    Merriman, whose tender wasn’t subject to a June 15 reduction similar to those experienced by McNeill and Jackson, seems to have accepted this can’t-fight-city-hall premise.

    “We’ve got to see what happens,” Merriman said. “My guess is I’m going to be ready to play football. I know we plan on being successful this year. My plan is to have my *** ready when that time comes and come out and be the leader of the defense and try to win a championship. To be honest, I think everything is going to work out for the best. It always has. You run into some speed bumps along the way, but it always works out.”

    Once one of the NFL’s up-and-coming stars, the three-time Pro Bowl selection now faces an uncertain NFL future. Merriman, who had a league-high 39½ sacks from 2005-07, tore the posterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee late in the ’07 season and valiantly played through the injury. After struggling in the ’08 opener, Merriman had season-ending surgery, and the Chargers’ defense noticeably suffered. He had just four sacks and 36 tackles last year, albeit in a scheme less likely to produce big numbers for him than the one he enjoyed under former defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

    Merriman is counting on a time-honored axiom – that players typically showed a marked improvement their second season back from severe knee injuries – as he pushes for a lucrative deal in San Diego or elsewhere.

    Smith insists he wants a similar outcome, saying, “That is what you heard for many years in our business: One year removed there’s a significant difference. That’s exactly what I’m hoping, and that’s exactly what Shawne’s hoping. We’re going to find that out. He needs to play. As far as I’m concerned, I expect to see him the first day of camp.”

    I asked Smith if he believes Merriman is still an elite player. “I have no idea,” the GM replied. “I don’t think he should be judged an elite player now. His value is frozen in time, and everybody is waiting to see what we have. That’s a pretty significant injury. Sometimes people come back. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they come part of the way back. This [season] is huge for him.”

    Merriman’s potential comeback, along with the possible extended absences of McNeill and Jackson, are among the juicy subplots as the Chargers seek their first Super Bowl ring in 2010. For all of San Diego’s success since Smith became the GM in 2003, he readily acknowledges that he has fallen short of his primary goal.

    “We haven’t won a world championship yet,” he said. “We have not been able to get it done. We cannot crack it. If you’ve not hit it yet, and now you have all these obstacles, it’s not fun at all. The bottom line is we’re all passing through here – the players are, and I am, too. I don’t know when Dean Spanos will knock on my door and not want me anymore. How do you know that? So all I can do is stay true to my philosophy.”

    As Smith said this, I wondered: Was he being a drama queen, or was he bluntly stating the facts as he perceives them?

    Quite possibly, he was doing both of those things.
     
  2. bigmike.x.09

    bigmike.x.09 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2006
    Messages:
    3,493
    Ratings:
    +280
    Drama queen? I don't see how asserting yourself as the authority equates to him being a drama queen but ok. If he didn't assest his authority, we'd be a very very very troubled team still, but instead we have looked to move forward and got rid of the cancer.
     
  3. AnteaterCharger

    AnteaterCharger Calibrating Bolttalk, Podcast by Podcast Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2006
    Messages:
    19,108
    Ratings:
    +2,928
    Here's my question

    the Patriots are doing the same thing with pro bowl guard Logan Mankins and every other team has basically forced their RFAs to sign the dang tender and play. The Patriots are also obviously concerned about the future because they're letting Tom Brady go into his final year without a contract extension

    Knowing all that, why is AJ Smith the ONLY PERSON getting bad press?
     
  4. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    5,482
    Ratings:
    +629
    You are in San Diego, so that is why we are talking about him and not other GM's. But the reason he is getting more nation attention is because he has more players in the situation. He has McNeil, VJ, and Merriman, all of which have yet to report. No other has 3 high profile players unsigned
     
  5. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    5,482
    Ratings:
    +629
    Here is the part I find the most telling:

    "While I respect Smith’s football knowledge and understand his desire to show people who’s boss, I wonder whether his charged public reactions to business disputes can be counterproductive. Several Chargers players have voiced similar concerns. As one veteran told me recently, “He gets too emotional and too tied up in making his points, and when emotions run wild anything can happen. I don’t see other GMs talking the way he’s talking. It creates confusion."​
     
  6. HEXEDBOLT

    HEXEDBOLT Don't like it, lump it!!!

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2006
    Messages:
    14,278
    Ratings:
    +1,886
    So now it's cool for a couple player's whining about money to hold a whole team and it's fan base hostage???? If Jackson and McNeil never play another down of football, I wouldn't be hurt at all. Pro sport's are going down the toilet fast and I've about had my fill of this crap.
     
  7. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    5,482
    Ratings:
    +629
    These guys are in a situation where they are getting screwed because the owners opted out of the CBA. It isn't like they are in the middle of a contract, with years remaining on their deal and asking for more money. There is a huge difference between the situation these guys are in and guys like Chris Johnson who is only 2 years into a 5 year deal, and is already whining about money.

    And I totally understand the team not wanting to invest long term in a guy like VJ and couldn't care less if he plays another down as a Charger. But there is no reason the Chargers should have ever allowed the situation with McNeil to escalate this far. If nothing else, they should have been willing to sit down and see if an agreement can be reached, and if a deal can't be done, then it can easily be pinned on the player for asking for too much. But when the team isn't even willing to talk, I don't think it can be pinned on the player
     
  8. RipTheJacker

    RipTheJacker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 31, 2006
    Messages:
    1,833
    Ratings:
    +152
    Is there any other team in any sport where the GM is actually bigger than the team itself??

    I mean is there any GM in sports who does more talking than AJ? When was the last time you heard from Bill Polian more than once in a season? How about Kevin Colbert??

    AJ needs to just STFU, get back into the office and be a GM and stop being a media whore, maybe then he might actually start doing a good job again
     
  9. CoronaDoug

    CoronaDoug Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
    Messages:
    7,539
    Ratings:
    +814
    Is this AJ being sarcastic? If so this is funny! :lol:
     
  10. Ride The Lightning

    Ride The Lightning Join the Dark Side, we have cookies.

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2006
    Messages:
    10,928
    Ratings:
    +1,746
    Dear AJ,

    [​IMG]

    Love, RTL
     
  11. nickelbolt

    nickelbolt Fuggedaboutit

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    6,167
    Ratings:
    +886
    AJ pusses out? Oh the horror!!! :lol:
     
  12. nflhof

    nflhof BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2007
    Messages:
    546
    Ratings:
    +96

    I haver heard Polian at least 3 times on the CBA/Manning resign in the last month.
     
  13. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    5,482
    Ratings:
    +629
    I think AJ started reading his own press clippings from 04-06, and his attitude/ego grew as his performance shrunk
     
  14. HEXEDBOLT

    HEXEDBOLT Don't like it, lump it!!!

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2006
    Messages:
    14,278
    Ratings:
    +1,886
    What about Kevin? The Stillers have been known as a tight fisted team forever. Hell, they got rid of Johnny Unitas and he turned out to be a pretty good player. Kevin didn't build the Stiller's into what they are today. AJ, has brought this Bolt team to respectability and is laying a very solid foundation for the future. If he can get a ring or two, the Bolt's will be an attraction to player's who want to play and win. Much like the Stillers are, and you can't be giving into the Press, Fans and especially the Player's.
     
  15. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    5,482
    Ratings:
    +629
    Aj had a great 1st 3-4 season which has helped put the team to where it is today. No much he has done in the last 3 years has had much impact. He has benefits from the rest of the division being bad for the last 4+ years.

    I still like AJ alot and believe he is among the best in the league, but he needs to step up his game and stop reading his own press clippings
     
  16. scratchnz

    scratchnz BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2009
    Messages:
    1,075
    Ratings:
    +90
    Wether its right or wrong to cave into player demands or not in this situation...and for the record I say its NOT RIGHT...it is still not a smart idea to not sign these guys, whatever the cost, when you need them both to win a superbowl!

    AJ is basically saying to us..."we will do our best this year with what we have...more than likely will not win a superbowl...but hey, we will still have plenty of money and we can make a run next year!

    (additional)...that way I can sidestep getting fired THIS Season when we don't go to the superbowl and get one more year at least to do my thing"

    Giving up on these two players, says to me that the Chargers don't want to win the superbowl this year...and that P*sses me off! and it should annoy anyone that pays good money to go and watch them play!!
     
  17. foober

    foober BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2006
    Messages:
    2,980
    Ratings:
    +200
    I don't see how the chargers can do anything else. The players need to come to terms with what is going on now. The players are basically getting very bad adivce from thier agents. I wouldn't be surprised that the players fire their agents now in a couple months.

    3+ million for one year was good money. Play the year and then get big second contracts. What is so hard to understand. The players are being screwed big time by thier agents.
     
  18. MasterOfPuppets

    MasterOfPuppets Charger fan since 1979

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2006
    Messages:
    3,052
    Ratings:
    +635
    If they are not traded they'll be back with 6 games left to play (assuming VJ comes in 3 games before or his suspension can be served while he hold out), they'll have to play their asses off to warrant a long term contract (here or someplace else).

    So wouldn't they be in top shape by the start of the playoffs?
     
  19. Ride The Lightning

    Ride The Lightning Join the Dark Side, we have cookies.

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2006
    Messages:
    10,928
    Ratings:
    +1,746
    IIRC, if VJ holds out the first 3 games his suspension is considered served.
     
  20. matilack

    matilack Take A Knee McCree!!!

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2006
    Messages:
    17,097
    Ratings:
    +3,551
    When did Merriman sign his tender?

    Or did he?
     
  21. LV Bolt Fan

    LV Bolt Fan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2006
    Messages:
    4,310
    Ratings:
    +432
    Merriman hasn't signed,yet.
     
  22. bigmike.x.09

    bigmike.x.09 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2006
    Messages:
    3,493
    Ratings:
    +280
    if the first 3-4 years brought us to where we are now, that means his recent "failures" wont see repercussions for several years from now.
     
  23. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    5,482
    Ratings:
    +629
    I said it helped them get us to where we are. Luck and a bad division also helped
     
  24. matilack

    matilack Take A Knee McCree!!!

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2006
    Messages:
    17,097
    Ratings:
    +3,551
    So is he holding out too?:icon_shrug:
     
  25. LV Bolt Fan

    LV Bolt Fan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2006
    Messages:
    4,310
    Ratings:
    +432
    Not sure if it's really a "hold out".
    His tender is different from VJ & MM. He'll sign his and report to camp, on time.:yes:
     
  26. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    5,482
    Ratings:
    +629
    Basically, he has no reason to sign his until training camp. He will not lose a penny as long as he doesn't miss training camp, therefore he is probably just taking as much time off as possible without losing money. If he isn't in training camp, that is when I will worry about him. Until then, I am not worried about him
     
  27. Boltdiehard

    Boltdiehard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Messages:
    5,817
    Ratings:
    +1,171
    What is AJ signs these guys to long term deals before a labor agreement and it winds up f*cking us later? He would still get hammered.
     
  28. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    5,482
    Ratings:
    +629
    Singing all the players would screw us no matter what. Signing one or 2 (Gates and McNeil) wouldn't, especially since we were already well under the cap last year and the offloaded over $10mil in LT and Jamal. Even if the cap were to be reduced, it wouldn't be cut in half or anything. It may drop by 10% max, and they would still be well within that.

    Plus, there are plenty of owners who have signed players this year and last that would be screwed as well. So to think the cap will fall to a level that any signed player would screw a team, is just ridiculous.
     
  29. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    Ratings:
    +408
    The cap isn't the only way to get screwed.
     
  30. DenverBolt67

    DenverBolt67 BoltTalker

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    5,482
    Ratings:
    +629
    Care to explain how else? You really think the owners or NFLPA are going to impose a rule that teams will be punished for resigning their own players? That would make no sense what so every for either side to want that rule.

    So do you care to help me understand how else a team can get screwed by re-signing their own players?

    This whole "Uncertain about the future" crap is pure BS. The owners had the opprotunity to work on a new CBA without opting out of the old one. The union offered to work on a new one, and the owners said no. The Owners looked at this year and a lock out year as a way to pocket a boat load of money, and are using "Uncertain about the future" as an excuse. The owners caused this mess and are now trying to use it as an excuse
     

Share This Page