Too often the blame for failed seasons is placed squarely on a player or coach's shoulder.
Fans seem to forget that most coaches work with their general manager on player personnel, and the GM has a very powerful say in who to sign/release or draft/trade.
While it's easy to be critical of front office management during high exposure times like the Draft or the Colts' collapse last season, it's not so easy when expectations are low.
This is the case of the San Diego Chargers.
A.J. Smith took over as GM of the Chargers in 2003. His first Draft was in 2004, which was the most memorable Draft of that decade.
Smith drafted Eli Manning with the No. 1 overall pick, though Manning adamantly declared he wouldn't play for the Chargers before the Draft took place. After an hour of drama, Smith traded Manning to the Giants for Philip Rivers and a few draft picks.
This was the start of his reign.
While Rivers has been a productive NFL quarterback, he doesn't have two Super Bowl titles - Manning does.
Drew Brees was a four-year pro on the Chargers' roster when they drafted Manning/Rivers. The season following the tumultuous Draft, Brees had shoulder surgery. In 2005, Smith let Brees go into the free agent market. The Saints signed him to a deal, and would ride Brees' arm to a Super Bowl victory in 2009.
Manning has two Lombardi Trophies and two Super Bowl MVP awards. Brees has one Lombardi Trophy and one Super Bowl MVP award. To this point, Smith has drafted and ensuingly traded/released two different Super Bowl MVP award-winning quarterbacks.
The Chargers' quarterback depth chart at the time of writing this article is: Rivers, Charlie Whitehurst and Jarrett Lee.
Smith certainly has a keen ability to get rid of star quarterbacks, but it almost pales in comparison to the way he ships out running backs.
2005: Released Michael Turner. Turner goes to the Falcons and sets a team record for rushing touchdowns in a season during his first year in Atlanta.
2009: Following a horrid batch of negotiations in which LaDainian Tomlinson said he felt disrespected by Smith, Tomlinson was released and signed by the Jets. The Jets rode Tomlinson to the playoffs in 2010.
2010: Smith selected Ryan Mathews in the first round of the Draft. In two seasons he has 10 fumbles, 13 TDs, and started only 23 out of a possible 32 games.
2011: Smith released Darren Sproles, who is then signed by the Saints. Sproles teams up with ex-Charger Brees in New Orleans to set the record for all-purpose yards in a season with 2,696.
2012: After rushing for 19 touchdowns in two seasons, Smith released Mike Tolbert. Tolbert signs with Carolina, and judging from past history he's primed to breakout this year.
Smith has released Turner, Tomlinson, Sproles, and Tolbert. Currently San Diego's depth chart at running back looks like this: Mathews (injured), Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle, Curtis Brinkley.
It would be nice to be able to simply give credit to Smith for acquiring all this talent, but it can't be done. One of the most important roles of a general manager is to acquire and retain talent. Smith's skill is in releasing talent.
It's time for the Chargers' ownership to take a page out of Smith's book and let someone go from the organization. Only this time it shouldn't be a MVP quarterback or record-breaking running back.