NFL Icon’s Secret Soft Side Unveiled: The Mind Behind the Chargers’ Legacy


Los Angeles Chargers Mourn the Passing of Legendary General Manager A.J. Smith

Los Angeles, CA – LA News Center has learned of the tragic passing of A.J. Smith, the most successful general manager in Los Angeles Chargers history. He was 75.

Smith’s family announced that he had been battling prostate cancer for several years. In a statement, Chargers owner Dean Spanos remembered Smith as a “true football guy” with a “softer side” and a tremendous love for his family, the NFL, and the Chargers.

A Journey to Success

Smith’s journey to the top didn’t begin with glory. He worked his way up from a part-time scout to general manager in 2003, where he ushered in the Chargers’ golden years.

From 2003 to 2012, Smith orchestrated a remarkable era for the franchise, leading them to 98 wins over 10 seasons. Under his leadership, the Chargers built a roster that included some of the league’s most iconic players.

Infamous Draft Day and a Star Quarterback

One of the most talked-about moves in NFL Draft history occurred under Smith’s guidance. In 2004, Eli Manning and his father, Archie, requested that the Chargers not select him with the first overall pick. However, Smith defied their wishes and instead orchestrated a trade with the New York Giants, giving them Philip Rivers while acquiring valuable draft picks.

Smith used those picks to draft future Pro Bowlers Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding, continuing the Chargers’ tradition of building a formidable roster.

Rivers, of course, went on to become the greatest quarterback in Chargers history, leading the franchise to numerous playoff appearances. Eli Manning, on the other hand, found success with the Giants, winning two Super Bowls.

Key Acquisitions and the Right Coach

Smith also deserves credit for signing Antonio Gates as an undrafted free agent in 2003. Gates became the Chargers’ all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns.

In 2007, Smith hired Norv Turner as head coach, replacing Marty Schottenheimer. Smith and Schottenheimer had a strained relationship, and he knew the team needed a new leader to continue its momentum.

Turner led the Chargers to a 56-40 record, but without a Super Bowl appearance, Spanos decided to make a change, firing both the coach and Smith in 2012 after a 7-9 season.

A Legacy of Excellence

Despite his departure, Smith’s legacy with the Chargers remains untarnished. He built a team that was consistently competitive and made the playoffs several times.

Perhaps more importantly, his son, Kyle, has followed in his footsteps, becoming the assistant general manager for the Atlanta Falcons. His love for football and keen eye for talent live on in the next generation.

The Chargers organization, fans, and the entire NFL community mourn the loss of A.J. Smith. His contributions to the game and the legacy he leaves behind will forever be remembered.

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