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Planning underway for 2011

Posted Feb 9, 2011

Chargers President Dean Spanos and many of the organization’s top decision-makers converge for meetings to start the process of evaluating the roster and planning personnel moves ahead of the 2011 season.

SAN DIEGO – Green Bay closed out the 2010 season Feb. 6 with a 31-25 win over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV.

All 32 teams now will start shaping their rosters for 2011, aiming to be this year’s Packers.

The Chargers implemented a major step in that process this week as President Dean Spanos, General Manager A.J. Smith, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ed McGuire, Head Coach Norv Turner, Director of Player Personnel Jimmy Raye, Director of College Scouting John Spanos and Director of Pro Scouting Dennis Abraham are meeting to evaluate the football team and make their plans for the year, including free agency and the draft.

The group will make a consensus assessment of each individual player, evaluate all football staff and discuss what to do to improve a team that finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005. For the Chargers’ decision-makers, the process could last two or three weeks.

“We gather a lot of information on player evaluations, which are the No. 1 priority before we do other business. The coaches have their evaluations and the scouting department and front office have their evaluations,” Smith said.

“And then we assess all of that. What kind of players do we have? What do we think about our players? Then after that it’s, ‘OK, what can we do to get better?’ And what changes would we like to make? Or are we not going to make any changes? Are we going to stay the course with certain people?”

There are no immediate answers as to what comes next. A lot of uncertainty surrounds the future of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

Dean Spanos called devising a plan easy to do but a challenge to implement. Everything doesn’t always work out the way you plan it, he said, but it gives the team a base strategy from which to operate.

“We talk about each player’s performance and how we see him fitting in with the team going forward and come up with a complete assessment of all the players at the end of our meetings,” Spanos said. “We evaluate all personnel on the football side.

“It gives us a perspective of what everybody thinks about how the season went last year and what we need to do to make us better for the coming season.”

The group talks daily at Chargers Park, but the conversations are more segmented than this week’s comprehensive evaluation.

“We talk all the time every day about general things. But now we’re all in one place and now it’s close to decision time,” Smith said.

“It’s not really decision time but pretty darn close after we leave those meetings as to what exactly we’ll do. We air it out. We’re all in the same room exchanging ideas and inputs. And it’s the best way to do it. We’ve done it for quite a while. And we’re not alone. As we know, other (teams) do the same end-of-the-year review.”

Dean Spanos has championed the value of stability to winning football games, but also promotes the kind of discussion that includes healthy debate.

“Being on the same page, that’s OK to a certain degree. You don’t want everybody saying yes to everything,” he said. “I want to hear differences of opinion because we’re not going to agree on everything, but at the end of the day – right, wrong or indifferent – we have to come up with a plan going forward that we all believe is the right plan. And that’s the most important thing.”

If there is a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) before March 3, the Chargers will be prepared to act on Plan A, but they have a contingency plan in place.

“You almost have to come out of this meeting with a couple different scenarios in terms of what might or might not happen,” Spanos said.

Though decisions are fluid in the NFL, it’s safe to assume several important decisions about the 2011 Chargers originate from that meeting.

“There is a lot of input from different people. I’m only one person,” Smith said. “And there are other views that come at me. But ultimately I’ll make some determinations to hand into Dean.

“He will give that a stamp of approval by ownership. Or there might be some tweaks to it. Or maybe we’ll have a little further discussion on one or two items. But once it’s approved by ownership, then we’ll move forward.

“We’re going to prepare two plans while we wait for the labor situation to get resolved so that we can take action immediately. We will be totally prepared when we get back from the meeting.”

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