Okay the paradox of AJ Smith's recent picks has finally struck me. A.J.'s instincts tell him to look for a "nasty" football player which can be defined as one who finishes blocks to the whistle, explode through blocks with violent hands, or hit with ferocity with the best Chargers examples probably being Dielman and Merriman (who are not by coincidence among the most popular Chargers.)
Whenever AJ or his staff like Spanos or Rayes describe a player, their favorites are always punctuated with some form of nasty. IE a comment like he plays with a "nasty" streak which they used to describe English, Vasquez and Martin. But with the spate of off-the-field issues where nine or more Chargers (Kiel, Foley, etc.) had problems with the law during the course of a year or two, now all their player eval comments are always tempered with "no-red flags off the field." AJ always says that he's embarrassed when off the field stuff happens (like Vincent Jax and Jamal this summer) and takes personal responsibility. But can you really control what grown men do off the field? Can they really separate nasty on the field with saint off of it so neatly?
Lore has it that Mike Tomlin got the job with the Steelers because he said in his interview, "Football is a violent game and the team that plays most violently usually wins." In watching the Superbowl, league MVP James Harrison had the historic game sealing 100 yard interception return but he also was caught on film punching a down Cardinal which Madden called for an ejection. Pitt DB Ryan McFadden had at least two head hunting hits over the middle that warranted fines and clearly, the Steelers took some cheap shots during their playoff game against us.
Belichek seems to kind of relish taking a malcontent like Randy Moss and Corey Dillon and showing them the Patriot Way. He isn't afraid to draft the red flagger like Brandon Merriweater or Brandon Tate this year (who does not smoke weed in college.) He is confident in his team's culture and leadership; it doesn't seem the Chargers feel the same way.
I think that this concern looking for a Boy Scout helped result in the reaches for Weddle and Hester the past two years. I believe it had something to do with the pass on Mauluaga and possibly Oher, which might have been a good thing.
But I think this AJ's conflicted attitude is also a big reason why there seems to be a rift with Merriman. Merriman is demonstrative and a showboat but also provides energy and an attitude that the Chargers solely need. He maybe doesn't always go team first off the field but he's a heck of a talent.
Frankly, I think the Chargers will go further with someone like a Dielman or Merriman being the face of franchise than somebody media friendly like LT or Phillip Rivers. Let' s face it other teams always perceive of the Chargers as soft and only with Merriman ending the careers of Priest Holmes and Wayne Chrebet did that start to change. I hope that English, Vasquez and Martin signals a return to nasty and a willingness to consider the best football player available.
I'm not sure I'll be a fan of a sanitized, Merriman-less Chargers. Football is a violent game and lets not pretend otherwise. America's finest city shouldn't play like the nicest on the field.