Chargers Fail because AJ Smith Failed

Earlier in the day our E.I.C. Ernie Padaon posted a blog reporting that after Antoine Cason’s horrific game against the Jets in which Plaxico Burress made Cason his prison yard bitch, Cason could be benched in favor of Marcus Gilchrist as early as this week.  I started to comment, but my response got so lengthy I thought it deserved its own post.

Charger fans wondering why the Chargers are no longer an “elite team” and look back at the teams we had from ’06-’08 and think, “What the hell happened?” should look no further than GM AJ Smith.

If Cason got benched he would be considered yet another 1st round bust for Smith.  Notable players Smith passed up for Cason include: Kenny Phillips, Brandon Flowers (13 career INT), Jordy Nelson, Matt Forte, DeSean Jackson, and Ray Rice.  Smith supporters will argue that hindsight is 20/20 but the so called “tough guy” and the “NFL’s John Wayne” not only has failed to add ammo to the Chargers who at one point were loaded, but over these past five years he’s been shooting blanks.

Let’s look at the notable players drafted from 2004-2006:

2004: Philip Rivers (acquired in trade; 1st Rd), Nick Hardwick (3rd Rd), Shawn Phillips (4th Rd)

2005: Shawne Merriman (1st Rd), Luis Castillo (1st Rd), Vincent Jackson (2nd Rd), Darren Sproles (4th Rd)

2006: Antonio Cromartie (1st Rd), Marcus McNeil (2nd Rd), Jeromey Clary (6th Rd)

In those three years Smith drafted 9 players who became regular starters and 8 players who made at least 1 Pro Bowl.

Now let’s compare that to the players drafted in the past 5 years:

2007: Buster Davis (1st Rd), Eric Weddle, (2nd Rd)

2008: Antoine Cason (1st Rd), Jacob Hester (3rd Rd)

2009: Larry English (1st Rd), Louis Vasquez (3rd Rd)

2010: Ryan Matthews (1st Rd), Donald Butler (3rd Rd)

2011: Corey Liuget (1st Rd), Marcus Gilchrist (2nd Rd)

The difference in the level of talent in the ’04-‘06 draft classes compared to the draft classes the subsequent three seasons is astonishing.  Smith whiffed on three straight first round draft picks in Davis, Cason and English and came out with only one slightly above average starter in Weddle, and two subpar starters in Hester (if you even call him a starter) and Louis Vasquez (let’s not forget he almost lost his starting job to Tyronne Green this summer).  Even if you assume Matthews will eventually be a franchise back and Liuget will be a solid starter, the past five years, the Chargers have drafted only 7 starters (assuming Gilchrist replaces Cason) and zero Pro Bowlers.

Look at the Chargers biggest holes today:

1.  Offensive playmakers that compliment Rivers, Jackson, and Gates

2.  Inability to consistently pressure the passer

3.  Suspect secondary that is devoid of playmakers

Now, look at the players the Chargers passed up in the ’07-’09 drafts to pick Davis, Cason and English:

2007: Sydney Rice, LaMarr Woodley, David Harris

2008: (Again) Kenny Phillips, Brandon Flowers, Jordy Nelson, Matt Forte, DeSean Jackson, Ray Rice

2009: (This is going to hurt) Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Clay Matthews, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt, Louis Delmas, LeSean McCoy

I’m not saying AJ Smith should be perfect, but think how the dominoes could have fallen had the Chargers nailed one of those drafts:

  • If the Chargers would have drafted LaMarr Woodley in ’07 they wouldn’t have had to reach for English and maybe at that point they add to the WR corps with a playmaker like Maclin, Harvin, Nicks or Britt. Or maybe they could have drafted Louis Delmas, a safety who can actually tackle.
  • Had the Chargers drafted Forte or Rice instead of Cason they could have traded up in 2010 to draft Earl Thomas, Jason Piere-Paul or Dez Bryant instead of Ryan Matthews.
  • And had the Chargers nailed the 2007 to 2009 drafts like they nailed 2004 to 2006 – Woodley, DeSean Jackson and Clay Matthews – we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

I could go on and on, but the point is AJ Smith lost his mojo for three years and it has crippled this franchise.  In addition to this his failed 1st rounders, Smith kept compounding his mistakes by trading multiple 2nd round picks to move up and draft Weddle and Hester.  This, combined with their (cheap ass) strategy of not signing any high-profile (i.e. expensive) free agents is what brings us to today’s team.

The 2011 San Diego Chargers are boring.

The 2011 San Diego Chargers have no identity.

The 2011 San Diego Chargers are failures today because our GM has failed us for the past five years.

Follow me on Twitter: @KenCaminiti21

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