The Sports Daily > Redskins Hog Heaven
Redskins’ choice of next GM is more important than head coach choice. Fear of AJ Smith

Chargers GM A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner

Lost in all the news that Daniel Snyder will dismiss Mike Shanahan when the two meet at 9:00 AM later today is the more important question of who will be the Redskins' next general manager?

Please Lord and Danny Snyder, don’t let it be A.J. Smith.

Bruce Allen, the incumbent, owes his job to Shanahan and to his legacy name. As best as we can tell, Allen reported to Shanahan, not to the owner.

Snyder would have been wise to build a channel of trust with Allen, with or without Shanahan’s approval. He needs multiple sources of candid judgment from his front office in an executive feedback loop. The front office is the owner’s real team.

While executive vp Mike Shanahan should have been his primary executive channel, he should not have been his only one. That’s just bad strategic governance.

Shanahan complained of Snyder’s interference with the star quarterback, not with the GM. If Allen is not close enough to Snyder, he could be swept away with the rest of Shanahan’s regime.

That brings us to Smith. Be afraid, Redskins fans. Be very afraid.

Allen hired Smith as a senior executive at the start of the season, perhaps to shore up Allen’s perceived weak spot as a talent evaluator.

Backfilling executive talent that can step in on a moment’s notice is a savvy strategic move. It gives an owner a year to size up Smith before the need arises.

In the event of an unexpected contingency, like firing a front office executive, Smith’s presence potentially avoids a lengthy search for a replacement.

Strategic bench strength is a sign of executive growth by Snyder. I hate the prospect of Smith as GM; however, it may be unavoidable.  

San Diego Charger fans were as delighted to be rid of him as we are to be rid of Shanahan. Chargers fans hated him.

Smith made a name by accumulating talent to make the Bolts a perennial playoff bride’s maid, but never the bride. For a team about to be blown up, talent evaluation skill cannot be ignored.

The Chargers were 14-34 in the three seasons before he was appointed GM in 2003. They won five division titles under his tenure.

He had a way of alienating top performers. Vincent Jackson, a long-time Redskins target, and Antonio Gates were not happy with Smith’s hard-nosed negotiation tactics that raised considerable angst among Chargers fans. He underestimated the value to the Chargers of Michael Turner, “the Burner” as LaDainian Tomlinson aged.

Smith’s ick factor for Redskins fans will touch on two familiar names, Marty Schottenheimer and Norv Turner. Used in a sentence, Smith fired Schottie after a 14-2 season in a power struggle over quarterback Drew Brees, injured at the time.

Marty wanted Brees. Smith wanted to move on to Philip Rivers. Marty fired. Smith hired Norv Turner to replace him.

While Redskins fans would gag at the notion of Turner’s return in any role (as would Turner), Norv is the leading proponent of the Downfield Offense used by the Chargers and once used by the Redskins.

The Browns fired Turner’s boss, Rob Chudzinski, Sunday evening. Turner is likely to be on the market Monday afternoon.

Hog Heaven sees Smith as the talent evaluator who could make good player choices, especially for the Downfield Offense. That could be bad news if he leads the team back to the offense Don Coryell and Joe Gibbs made famous. The Redskins morphed to Mike Shanahan’s West Coast Offense and do not have the right fit for the Downfield O, especially on the offensive line and perhaps at quarterback.

That brings us to the real r-word about this team – rebuild.

Smith would squeeze all the value he can from a player on the player’s first NFL contract, then churn the roster as the budding star moves to their second deal.     

Hog Heaven has no appetite for drama and turmoil at the moment. It's not analytical. It’s emotional. Can’t help it.

The notion of A.J. Smith as Redskins GM makes me cringe.


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