Relationship smoothed by the draft

Much has been publicized about the rift between San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Marty Schottenheimer. But the NFL Draft seemed to lean towards Schottenheimer in more ways than one. A corner who can play on an island, a big tackle taken on day one, a special teams kicker just for kickoffs.

So, how did the Hatfields and McCoys get through the Chargers' draft?

General manager A.J. Smith and coach Marty Schottenheimer, who have been at odds during the off-season, had their biggest test since their latest dustup during the draft. There is no weekend more important for a general manager and coach to be in concert, and it was especially worth watching this time around as many sour notes have been revealed about their relationship.

So when Smith reached for first-round pick Antonio Cromartie, a cornerback with a huge upside but just one college start, some were curious if Schottenheimer was involved in making the selection.

"Absolutely," Schottenheimer said. "I've always said at the outset I like big, physical corners."

Schottenheimer was also reminded he likes big, physical offensive linemen. And it seemed the Chargers had a bigger need there in that starting left tackle Roman Oben's foot injury remains a concern and the team is breaking in a new quarterback in Philip Rivers.

But Schottenheimer seemed OK with the pick. Smith declined to offer a reporter the chance to talk to him about his fractured relationship with Schottenheimer -- team president Dean Spanos had to wrap both parties' knuckles in an off-season meeting.

How this meeting of the minds between Schottenheimer and Smith works out during the season is worth keeping an eye on. Schottenheimer must feel the heat in that Spanos has said he expects to go deep in the playoffs. Schottenheimer might also have a case of personal global warming in that Smith didn't hire him and describes their relationship as nothing more than professional.

That relationship was further strained this off-season when Schottenheimer said he preferred keeping Drew Brees around instead of letting him skip off to New Orleans.

So if the season goes sideways early, where the blame is placed will be curious to gauge. Then again, the team could make the playoffs for the second time in 11 seasons and claim its first playoff victory since 1995. If that happens, the two might become buddy-buddy.

It is risky to predict. Just like it's foolish to speculate if Cromartie will rebound from a serious knee injury which kept him from playing last year and become a shutdown corner.

"Any pick you make in the draft is a gamble," Schottenheimer said. "That's the way this thing is set up."

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