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View from the top with Dean Spanos
What things did you consider when making the decision to move forward with both A.J. Smith and Norv Turner?
I think the first thing was the stability of the franchise. I looked at our general manager, who’s been here nine years now. He knows how to build a team. There’s no doubt that the last couple years have been disappointing. I still have the confidence we can turn this around this year with a good draft and good free agent moves.
Norv’s been here five years. He has the best coaching record in Chargers history. He has a tremendous amount of respect from the players. They play hard for him. They showed that they didn’t give up this year when we had a six-game losing streak. They could’ve just thrown in the towel. We finished by winning four out of the last five. I believe that he’s the right guy. The continuity and stability that he brings with A.J., I think he’s the right guy to turn this thing around.
What do you say to fans who wanted you to make a change?
I think these two men are the right ones to lead the Chargers. We may do some things a little bit differently than we have in the past. That’s something that Norv, A.J. and I are talking about in terms of player personnel as well as coaching. I believe that the continuity and the stability give us the best chance to win going forward.
How do you characterize missing the playoffs the last two seasons and the general decline in recent years?
I’m disappointed, just as the fans are disappointed and the entire organization. We need to change that and we will.
What bears the responsibility of that disappointment? Coaching? The talent?
I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. There may be things I could’ve done differently. I know that coaching has contributed somewhat. Player personnel selection has contributed somewhat. I think injuries have been a huge factor. There are all sorts of reasons why we are where we are. We need to change those things going forward.
Will there be any changes to either your coaching staff or player personnel department?
Right now we’re going to begin a series of meetings – the general manager and the head coach. We’re going to do a complete evaluation with input from them in terms of what changes we may or may not make.
Why is keeping A.J. and Norv best for the team? What gives you confidence they can bring San Diego a championship?
They both know what it takes to win in this league. We’re not a team at the bottom of the league. I still believe we have a good team, but I think we need to make some better player personnel selections this year and I think we can do that. It’s not a complete rebuilding process. If we’re smart about what we do in our player personnel selections, I think that can get us back to where we want to go, and I think Norv is the right guy to do it. He’s proved that he can win in this league, but you have to have the tools to do it with.
The perception is A.J. is a hard-nosed negotiator. Do you think his style could hinder your ability to sign players?
Absolutely not. I think we’re one of the respected teams in the league and I think players would like to play for us.
There are two parts to this business. One is the contract part; the negotiations. Once that’s done and the players are on the field, that’s in the past. Sometimes it’s contentious. Sometimes it doesn’t work out exactly the way we want it or a player wants it, but that’s part of the business.
A.J’s been here for nine years. I think he’s created a structure that’s very important within the organization in terms of how you build a team and what kind of players you want to bring in. He’s respected here in terms of his ability to do that. He’s proven he can do that. But nobody’s perfect. We need to do better going forward and we will.
Do the Chargers need to make the playoffs for A.J. and Norv to keep their jobs?
Look, the net bottom line is you have to win in this league. They know it. I know it. Everybody knows it. And that’s our goal. But you have to wait until the season’s over and look at every factor to make a proper assessment.