Former Chargers GM A.J. Smith, who spent the last two seasons working as a senior executive with Washington, has decided to retire, writes Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The 66-year-old served as San Diego’s general manager from 2003 to 2012 and oversaw a number of successful Chargers teams. San Diego made the playoffs in five of Smith’s first seven seasons, and in 2004, in one of the more famous draft-day deals in recent memory, he drafted Eli Manning with the first-overall pick and traded him to the Giants for Philip Rivers and draft picks that would become Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding. In his first year on the job, Smith pulled off one of the steals of the decade, signing Antonio Gates as an undrafted free agent.
The Chargers steamrolled their way to a 14-2 record and the No. 1 seed in the AFC in 2006, but after San Diego was ousted by New England in the playoffs, Smith and owner Dean Spanos made the somewhat curious decision to fire head coach Marty Schottenheimer and replace him with Norv Turner. Despite an appearance in the AFC Championship Game during Turner’s first year in San Diego, the Chargers always seemed a piece or two away from being true Super Bowl contenders over the last several years of Smith’s tenure, and Smith and Turner were both fired in 2012 after a series of underwhelming campaigns.
But Smith was hired by Washington not long after San Diego decided to go in a different direction, and Washington had considered giving him an enhanced role with club this past January. It was also reported that Smith would have been offered a front office job with the Bills had Bill Polian gone to Buffalo, so Smith’s services were still at least in some demand before he decided to call it quits.
Smith said, “It has been an honor and a privilege to be a part of the National Football League. I will always cherish my time in the NFL and the friendships that developed over those many years. Looking forward to spending lots of time in Del Mar, Rhode Island, and parts unknown.”