San Diego Chargers: There's Blood on A.J. Smith's Hands

Matt Sullivan

The problems with the 2012 San Diego Chargers go beyond just poor coaching. A.J. Smith is just as culpable as Norv Turner in this mess.

I'm ranting again because I don't feel like doing Bolts & Dolts this week. I'm sure you all understand why. This morning I explained to you how this perfect storm of failure could lead to Norv being fired on Friday. However, to be clear, A.J. Smith is equally guilty for the atrocity that is the 2012 San Diego Chargers. Let's go over the team's personnel moves.

First Round Draft Picks

I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but A.J. is terrible with first round draft picks. When the news broke that the NFL was investigating the Chargers for cheating, my first thought was that I'd rather the NFL take a first round pick away from the Chargers instead of a mid-round pick. That's how good Smith's been with mid-round picks and how bad he's been on first rounders in a nutshell, right there.

Here are guys on this roster that were first round picks of A.J. Smith:

Philip Rivers (Starter)
Antoine Cason (Starter)
Larry English
Ryan Mathews (Starter)
Corey Liuget (Starter)
Melvin Ingram

10 years of drafting. 11 first round draft picks. 3 very flawed starters and Corey Liuget. Here's who is not here:

Sammy Davis
Shawne Merriman
Antonio Cromartie
Buster Davis
Luis Castillo

A.J. Smith and John Butler built a fantastic team years ago with a combination of first-day draft picks and great mid-round picks. Guys like Shawne Merriman, Luis Castillo, Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson, Marcus McNeill, Quentin Jammer and Eric Weddle were essential (and they were all taken in the first two rounds). Here are the guys drafted in the second round by the Chargers in the last 5 drafts:

Jonas Mouton
Marcus Gilchrist
Kendall Reyes

This should be the time for the first-day picks of the last 5 years to be taking over for the first-day picks of the previous 5 years. The problem is that the kids aren't good enough and the veterans they should be replacing are already gone. That is on the General Manager and the scouting department.

Free Agency

Disclaimer: I'm leaving undrafted free agents out of this discussion.

Here are all of the free agents currently on the Chargers roster:

Demorrio Williams
Jarret Johnson (Starter)
Antwan Barnes
Le'Ron McClain (Starter)
Aubrayo Franklin (Starter)
Jared Gaither (Starter)
Dante Rosario
Takeo Spikes (Starter)
Corey Lynch
Antonio Garay
Eddie Royal
Ronnie Brown
Randy McMichael
Rex Hadnot
Robert Meachem (Starter)

How many of those would you consider to be high-quality, impactful free agent signings? 1? 2? Aubrayo Franklin is definitely one, because he's been fantastic. Still, the best free agent signing A.J. Smith ever made was when he threw a ton of cash at Eric Weddle to prevent him from leaving. Outside of Franklin, who basically fell into the Chargers' laps, there's nothing impressive on this list.

Injuries Versus Depth

A.J. Smith has always prided himself on the depth on his roster. "Oh, LaDainian Tomlinson is getting old? That's fine, we have Michael Turner and Darren Sproles." "Drew Brees' shoulder exploded? Oh, well, I guess I'll just turn to my other Pro Bowl-caliber QB." That type of stuff. However, the depth of this team is awful in some areas and useless in others.

Let's go group by group.

Offensive Line: An undrafted free agent rookie is the backup offensive tackle. So, yeah, not so great.

Running Backs: The depth here is solid. It was better when Jackie Battle was doing well for a game or two, but Ronnie Brown as the backup and Le'Ron McClain hanging around doing whatever it is that he does makes this group fully capable of withstanding an injury.

Wide Receivers: In terms of talent, there's Malcom Floyd aaaaand....and injured Vincent Brown. Everyone else underperforms, and there's no great projects making their way up the depth chart.

Tight Ends: Solid talent and depth here, but Antonio Gates seems to be declining faster than anyone expected.

Quarterbacks: We have the veteran that might be on a steep decline and he's backed up by an even older veteran that never really had a peak. Take that as you wish.

Defensive Front 7: Tons of depth here. On the line and at the LB spots. Yet, for some reason, the OLBs aren't effective in any real way. Maybe the talent is just perceived and not real?

Defensive Secondary: Almost no depth at all. The team doesn't trust Darrell Stuckey or Brandon Taylor enough to play them. The CBs that play are bad and there's almost nobody behind them.

Special Teams: Why was Eric Weddle fielding punts? He is the best player on the defense and is NOT A PUNT RETURNER. The fact that he was doing this shows a total lack of foresight on the part of the GM and Special Teams coach.

This seems to happen every year of late. One or two position groups have outstanding depth and one or two are left with almost no depth. It's not spread around the roster evenly enough, mostly out of fear. One year the defensive line gets hammered with injuries. The next year we get better there, but we hurt ourselves at OL and LB and end up paying the price. The next year we add more LBs and the secondary and WRs have almost nothing to work with. Maybe it's just dumb luck, but someone has to take the blame for it.

Summary

The 2012 San Diego Chargers are poorly coached. That much is obvious. What is also obvious is that the offensive line stinks, the WRs besides Malcom Floyd can't catch a thing, the pass rush is nonexistent and the secondary has to be among the league's least talented and shallowest. When every Chargers fan comes to the conclusion of "This team is just not good" for several years in a row, there is a serious problem with talent acquisition and development. That falls just as much on the GM as it does on the Head Coach, which is why I believe that both should go.

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