AJ Smith Press Conference Part II

AJ Smith talked about the need for those within the organization to be on the same page for the coming Draft on April 26th and 27th during a pre-Draft press conference today. The cohesiveness breeds success is they way Smith has termed it, and he is determined to succeed.

A change in philosophy?

AJ Smith: I don't believe so. A lot of teams in the NFL will have floater guys who handle college and pro, some will just lock on with two separate departments and the reason for that is it is such a heavy overload of concentration. You really have to lock on, you are talking about the NFL, you are talking the CFL, arena league and you are looking to find somebody to upgrade, NFL Europe which is mostly our players. So there is a heavy load there. And the college, we all know what that is. Running all over the country from August all the way through. It can be done, that is why you have a large department and you divvy up the responsibilities and you have people that can do the job and you work together. It's the whole thing that comes together both pro and college when you are handpicking certain players. Decision makers will decide which player you are going after and then hopefully they will be the right ones and you build on that.

There has been no change in our philosophy. John Butler had the same exact philosophy that I do. It's very important when you are making a selection on players that it is done as an organization. There are enough good players out there. The coaches have an opinion. The scouts have an opinion. The head coach has an opinion…the coordinator…the director of player personnel and it comes down the pipe at different levels. We take all that information and we go after a player that we think is a special player that we all want to be a San Diego Charger.

I've seen other organizations over the years and I've heard things where a head coach likes one guy and a personnel director likes another guy and a GM likes another guy, and they just go back and forth. If that's the case, you better go find another player that you all like. Because what happens is if somebody just goes up there and pulls a name off the board, then you're not on the same page number one, it is a bad way to start off to have him on your football team. Then if the guy doesn't materialize you are pointing fingers over here.

The way to avoid that is to simply find a football player that we all like. We've always done that. Marty is aware of that last year, that's my philosophy. There are plenty of players out there believe me when I tell you that. We're already underway in the meetings right now. We've already identified players that we all like. When we do that, there's a smile in the room as the reading unfold. We already know that that guy is being written down and that is a guy we are going to target and that list starts to grow at all positions. The feeling is that you all come together. You're all pulling for that one guy. On Draft day if you are fortunate enough and that player falls to you on the board and we know it is our guy, the feeling in the room when we all look around, and he comes off that board as the player, that's how you have success. Everyone is smiling when that player is picked. We're all in it together when that player is picked. Its Johns philosophy it has been mine for years and when a Head Coach hears that from someone they are very pleased. The coaches coach and the players play on the field. Our job is to supply players for them to be successful.

The final call will be mine; however, we do it together. The final call is mine but we are going to do it together and I told everybody that. It's not going to be I am going up to the board and say. ‘Thank you very much coach for your input, thank you very much Buddy Nix for your input, thank you coaching staff, however I like this gentleman.' You don't have a chance to be successful in my opinion. All together, everybody. When that player comes off the board on draft day, the feeling in the room is special.

Picking a player the coach didn't want?

AJ Smith: Many years ago, without mentioning team, there have been a couple of instances. It exists in the league and it is not a very comfortable situation and people are not happy about it at various spots along the way. Some teams have been successful that way, most have not been. I don't believe in it. It is more important, even if you took a lesser player, not a bad player, but a lesser player that everybody wants. It is so much more important than taking a player and there is dissention in the room.

Tape doesn't lie kind of guy?

AJ Smith: Yes, and we are all on the same page on that in our organization. There is a lot of that also out there. Where a guy runs around in his shorts and has all these great numbers starts to rise. A lot of mistakes have been made over the years on that. Lots of mistakes have bee made in Indianapolis (site of the scouting combines) and personal workouts that take place after that. We factor all information, character, work ethic, what kind of a kid is he, what kind of a football player is he. All the things get factored in before the final decision. We have had real good football players that are higher ranking, by the end of the readings in two weeks we eliminate them. Now we know they are going to go somewhere else in the NFL and be successful, but they are not what we want in a San Diego Charger. So we move them to the side and we do that as a group.

You have to address your needs, but you never want to take just a corner, for example, if we needed a corner, if there are better football players up there. You have to take good football players. We will take the best player, but you must fill needs on your team also. In other words, if there are better players on offense and we have needs on defense, somewhere in there you're going to have to make some decisions. But there are good players out there. You just have to organize yourself and slot them. Is the corner going to be taken in the first couple rounds, ro is he going to be taken in the 4th or 5th. Or are we going to take him in the seventh. People think if he is a 7th rounder, he is not very talented. If he is a first rounder he is a great player. Believe me in scouting there are good players spread out all the way down the board. I think that is what makes talent evaluators get their reputation. The ones who take those lower round picks that grow over time to be professionals and the ones that you make big mistakes in the first, second round. What we try to do is pick the right player at each spot all the way through (the draft) and also our free agents. Free agents are so important. They are the guys who are not the superstars, in our business we say they have a lot of holes in them, so maybe they are not draftable. Maybe they are inconsistent. And all of a sudden they go to the NFL and they become consistent, well they've got talent and they get consistent you've got a player. It's the ones who don't have a lot of talent or marginal talent without a lot of upside or growth potential. But the guys that have talent, but are inconsistent that personnel people take a shot on, and they grow up and mature and are proud to be in the NFL, those are the ones that become players.

You just try as an organization to bring all those guys in. It takes time. We are going to be evaluated on our Draft picks and you get "x" amount of years to say well where is this thing going? Is the arrow going up? We came in here and we got five games won and then eight games won. Well this is the big push year for us. We have got to go over the top, we have to win a bunch of games and go to the playoffs and chase the championship. I am not going to say win a Super Bowl, we would love to win it, we are going to try and win it, but you don't win it every year. But you want to be in the playoffs every year. You want to be known around the league as an outstanding team, that every year the season ends, the Chargers are in the playoffs every year and you chase it. That's when you establish credibility as a football organization.

What went wrong on D?

AJ Smith: That has been studied, we have a football team that jumped out a couple of years ago and things were going real well and there was a tremendous slide and we are concerned about that. The coaching change was made and a brand new coach comes in, one of the top coaches in the NFL and is doing an outstanding job, has a great staff and we jump out in front again. We are feeling pretty good about ourselves. And we have another collapse. Now that is two separate coaching staffs and we can't get it going. So as an organization we feel there has to be some changes. And we feel the changes are players. Whether they are the right changes, I am sure a lot of you will evaluate as we move along, but there is going to be a defensive emphasis and changes in personnel. Time will tell whether we are making the right choices or not. We will be judged, next season when we play, how many games have we won? Are we in the playoffs, are we near the playoffs, and players play and coaches coach and on the field we are all judged on wins and we feel we need to make some changes in personnel.

Anything we do, we think in our hearts is to make us a better football team. That can only be answered when the season is over next year and how many wins do we have and the players that we drafted and the free agents acquisitions that were made, what did they do for us? Were they productive, what did they do to help us win? That all comes out at the end of the season.

Will you try something different?

AJ Smith: It's not trying something different, we need to get better and we are making judgement that we need football players that can help us, help us get better. We're judging the players that we have and we are making decisions and the ones that are with us ar the ones that are going to carry on and the ones that come in as draft picks or whatever, we feel are going to grow with the Chargers.

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