I have recently criticized AJ Smith’s foolhardy failure to supply his quarterback with a decent left tackle in the wake of Jared Gaither’s injury — and the San Diego media’s reluctance to take AJ to task for the same. Jay Paris stepped into the fold with a commendable critique of an all-too-obvious problem.
And then Nick Canepa comes along and sanctions it.
Nick Canepa makes few bones about his limited expertise — he steadfastly refuses to play GM (although he willingly doses out social critique and other medicine he’s not entirely qualified to prescribe). But Canepa’s agnosticism crosses the line into irresponsibility here. Let’s have a look!
Canepa refuses to judge AJ’s 2012 offseason. (“I have a pretty good line on A.J. Smith … but I don’t know what to make of his team.”) But he’s not so shy about providing AJ a platform to pass those same judgments:
“We had Gaither at No. 1, Brandyn Dombrowski at No. 2, Tyronne Green, who happens to be our starting left guard, at No. 3, and Mike Harris, a rookie we believe is talented and wanted to work with, at No. 4,” Smith says. “So what happens? Dombrowski hurts his foot. Then it’s Gaither’s back. Green is our starting guard. Suddenly we’re already down to No. 4. So, right away, without playing a game, our backups already are in play.
“I do like the offseason we had and our draft picks….”
First, does Canepa — much less the Chargers’ fan base — find it at all alarming that the GM is making excuses for a team that hasn’t played a game yet?! Sort of undermines the party line out of Chargers camp the last few weeks that professes confidence in Mike Harris.
Canepa doesn’t have to read tea leaves, though; AJ Smith all but suggests the headline, “GM Does Putrid Job.”
Smith admits that he addressed the left tackle position as follows this offseason: talented starter with questionable injury history; back-up with mediocre track record as starter; ditto; and rookie free agent. Neither Dombrowski nor Green has impressed in extended action as professional football players. One was pegged as a crucial back-up, the other as a starter all along. That doesn’t seem like top-notch roster management to me.
And Canepa lets AJ compliment his own work four paragraphs later?
Another quote stood out from the article:
“We made a great effort to bring in the best backups out of the biggest free-agent pool I’ve seen.”
AJ views free agency as a source for roster depth, not starting talent. That’s a problem. See, while AJ prematurely closes off that avenue, other teams find value there. This team has found value there under AJ in the past! Think Mike Goff, Kris Dielman, Lorenzo Neal, or Kassim Osgood. The Chargers D-line will become intimately familiar with the difference a valuable free agent pick-up can make when Eric Winston and the Chiefs roll into town. The Chargers could have used an upgrade at right tackle, too.
Kudos to Canepa for pinpointing the potential source of AJ’s otherwise-unconscionable refusal to sign an alternative to Mike Harris:
[L]ook for Smith to bring in a veteran tackle following the Raiders game. It’s much more cost-friendly for a team to do so after the opener. If Smith were to acquire a veteran now, the contract would have to be guaranteed. Not so starting next week.
But shame on Canepa for stopping short of slamming Smith’s penny-pinching ways. The margin of error in the NFL is too small to simply mail in Week 1. Not to mention you don’t want to get your quarterback killed.
Say what you want about Jerry Jones, but he gets this point. Thin interior of the offensive line coming out of camp? Jones makes a move to shore it up. Ryan Cook was pressed into service last night, and played a critical role in a huge win — not to mention ensuring Tony Romo survived.
So Smith inspires little confidence and raises a ton of questions. The guy behind the microphone just lacks the brass to call him on it.