Acee: It's Manning Week for A.J. Smith
By Kevin Acee
Friday, November 16, 2012
It's Manning Week.
You know about Raider Week, the Marty Schottenheimer creation. Well,
just in time for A.J. Smith's firing to be all but consummated, I am
christening Manning Week.
Don't know what took me so long.
But it is happening now. Just as Dean Spanos might soon say, better late
Placing extra emphasis on a week sometimes works well.
Schottenheimer was 26-5 against the Raiders as head coach of the
Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chargers are 5-3 against Peyton Manning, including 2-0 in the
postseason, in Smith’s time as general manager. Since Smith drafted Eli
Manning and then traded him 45 minutes later in 2004, the Chargers are
2-0 against the little Manning brother.
(Oh, so, whatever, the Manning boys have won three of the past six Super
The inspiration for Manning Week came after a Thursday visit with Smith,
during which he gave me an earful, though nothing very interesting on
anything I wanted to know.
There are people who think AJ tells me everything. But he is more
protective of his secrets then the Chargers offensive line is of Philip
Rivers, I'll tell you that.
As the Chargers prepare to play Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, I
was interested in Smith's take on the state of the team – the invisible
pass rush and fragile pass protection, the running back who can either
not get on or stay on the field, the receivers making a bunch of money
and just a few catches.
I asked if he and Spanos had discussed Norv Turner’s future and Philip
Rivers’ present. Given the Chargers' perch on the brink of elimination,
I asked Smith what he thought Spanos thought of the players Smith had
“Dean and I are disappointed in our record and the position we find
ourselves in at the present time,” Smith said. “We talk all the time. We
talk about the now, we talk about winning the next game. The season is
underway and unfolding with twists and turns on a weekly basis. We want
to play well and beat Denver. We want to stay in the race.
“This is the only focus of the entire organization. This is our team for
2012, with a lot of football left to be played. We may very well be on
the brink of elimination, as you say, but we may also find ourselves
back in the thick of the race.”
Yawn. About all I took from that is that Smith may be distancing himself
from Norv Turner, ever-so-slightly. Notice that he and Dean are
disappointed. Notice, too, that he points out “this is our team,”
meaning his work is done.
I might be reading into things, but I know the man pretty well.
Anyway, it was at this point that things got interesting. Sometimes,
it’s too easy. It’s Manning Week, after all.
The earful I got was on Archie Manning, former NFL quarterback and sire
of the two QBs who have been MVP of half of the past six Super Bowls.
In full disclosure, I did not expect it to go this way.
It was a throwaway question that I asked about that former Charger Eli
Manning, who has been struggling with his decision making just about as
badly this season as Philip Rivers.
I asked Smith if he’d seen that former NFL quarterback and current CBS
analyst Phil Simms said Eli Manning was not an elite quarterback despite
his two Super Bowl rings. For fun, I added a query about Smith’s
assessment of Eli’s ability.
“I saw that comment, and I don’t care to give you my evaluation on Eli,”
Smith said. “But I will say this: Archie won’t be sending any Christmas
cookies to Phil’s house this year. Archie does not appreciate comments
like that. It chips away at the image machine.
“I don’t think he will be calling Phil to discuss it. He won’t take the
chance that Phil Simms will react the same way Terry Bradshaw did last
year. I know Phil. He has strong, firm opinions … Archie called out the
wrong guy when he called Terry Bradshaw. I don’t think he will make the
same mistake twice.”
In case you forgot, or maybe never heard, Fox analyst Terry Bradshaw
called out the Manning patriarch for being too protective of his sons.
"He complained about (Fox analyst) Troy Aikman's criticism of Eli
Manning, he orchestrated the draft that got Eli out of San Diego and
into New York," Bradshaw said on-air last December. “When I criticized
Peyton Manning on this program after a playoff game, he didn't
appreciate my comments. I didn't hear from Peyton after those comments;
I heard from you, Archie. Don't call me tomorrow, Archie. I thank God
that I have a father that stayed out of my football career, let me be a
man, take my lumps and make something out of my life.”
Not that I agree with him half the time, I just like to hear Bradshaw’s
voice. He might care less than Smith what anyone thinks.
And Smith’s dislike of the Mannings is certainly not unique at Chargers
Park, but it is singular.
Funny thing, too, Smith didn’t grin at all Thursday, as he usually does
when taking these shots.
Maybe rather than pushing Turner onto the grenade, Smith is actually
trying to push him out of the way while throwing himself in the way for
Whatever, it’s Manning Week.