Talkback: Chargers smart, not cheap
A.J. Smith
A.J. Smith
Guest Columnist
Posted Jul 6, 2005


I am speaking up for the San Diego Charger management. The group of people headed up by A.J. Smith, the group that ‘manages’ the team on a day to day basis, the group that decides how much to pay players, which players to pay and what they will do with that player. A group that is often maligned as cheap, skinflints, cheesy and sometimes just plain dumb.

Who casts these aspirations in their direction?

Fans, media, so-called experts, almost anyone with a thought in their head and the forum in which to express it are the biggest culprits. These groups want two things from management, top drafted players on the field immediately and a winning team. And there is nothing wrong with that, matter of fact it is a desire shared by management. But these fans and media members and talk show hosts have no restrictions on their desires, no rules that limit their enthusiasm. It’s not their money, they have no salary cap on their wishes and a bad decision is easily forgotten for it had no real impact to begin with. It is all just talk.

Management is not so lucky.
Management makes real decisions.

When management makes a decision, money is spent, salary cap space is reduced and the whole sports world weighs in with an opinion.

Management does not have the luxury of spending someone else’s money, shattering a salary cap, destroying team chemistry or foolishly throwing money at an unproven player.

In a recent article written by Michael Lombardo, the Charger management was referred to as ‘cheap’. First of all, I find the use of that word in professional football almost absurd. How can a sport where the average salary is well over one million dollars a year be considered ‘cheap’ in any regard? How can a sport where the owners are required to spend a minimum amount of money on player salaries that is in the mid to high millions be considered ‘cheap’?

In a word, they can’t.

In this specific instance the word ‘cheap’ was applied to the Chargers because of the seemingly endless string of high draft picks that were not signed in time to participate in training camp.

The real question here is, “Is this managements fault?” I suppose it could be if they were offering an under valued deal in relationship to the current market. I do not know that to be true. Matter of fact, in the case of Philip Rivers, he held out an extra two weeks only to sign the deal that he had been offered originally, a deal that is incredibly fair, in line with market value and has paid him nearly $9 million to date. Is it management’s fault that they paid a fair price to a player who overvalued his services?

There is a big difference between being cheap and being smart and yet people seem confused about this.

Daniel Snyder is not considered cheap. Is he considered smart? Does this make him a better manager? Not from what I hear around the dial. A.J. Smith is considered cheap and yet he was named the Sporting News Executive of the Year and was a runner up for he NFL Executive of the Year. So what exactly does ‘cheap’ mean in this sport?

‘Cheap’ seems to mean that you will not cave to an agents’ blown up opinion of their clients’ talents and worth. It seems to mean that you have control of your team and the direction it will take without over-paying an unproven player based on his salary demands. It seems ‘cheap’ means running an organization, like the Chargers, where the phrase “salary cap hell” has never been heard. It seems ‘cheap’ means that you have a vast and deep understanding of how your team needs to operate this year as well as five years from now and recognize that a bad decision today can effect your teams ability to sign players in the future.

So guess what! It seems that the Chargers are ‘cheap’ …and good for them! If ‘cheap’ brings more 12-4 seasons then I am all for it. If ‘cheap’ makes us able to trade mid-season for Keenan McCardell then I am all for it. If ‘cheap’ makes us able to never have to cut a proven player because of his salary then I am all for it. If ‘cheap’ makes us strong against the greedy and megalomaniacal agent then I am all for it.

And the next time you hear a fan or media member say something to the effect of, “It’s only another million, just pay it!” Turn to that person and ask them to write that check. It will put the word ‘cheap’ into perspective.

-Thomas White



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