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Former Chargers GM AJ Smith dies at 75, family announces

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In sad news for the NFL community, A.J. Smith, the most successful general manager in Los Angeles Chargers history, has passed away at the age of 75 after a battle with prostate cancer. Despite his tough and no-nonsense persona, Smith had a softer side and was known for his love for his family, the NFL, and the Chargers. Dean Spanos, the Chargers owner, praised Smith for his impact on the organization and expressed condolences to his family during this difficult time. Smith’s NFL journey began as a part-time scout with the Chargers and he worked his way up to becoming the general manager in 2003.

During his tenure as general manager from 2003 to 2012, Smith led the Chargers to their most successful years, winning a total of 98 games. One of the most well-known moves that Smith orchestrated was the controversial decision to draft Eli Manning first overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, despite Manning and his family requesting otherwise. This move ultimately led to a trade with the New York Giants, resulting in Philip Rivers becoming the Chargers quarterback. Rivers went on to set numerous franchise records, including most passing yards and touchdown passes. Additionally, Smith’s decision to sign Antonio Gates as an undrafted free agent in 2003 proved to be a game-changer for the Chargers, as Gates became a key player for the team.

Smith also made the pivotal decision to hire Norv Turner as head coach in 2007, replacing Marty Schottenheimer. Despite Turner’s winning record during his time with the Chargers, the team fell short of a Super Bowl victory, leading to the decision to part ways with both Turner and Smith in 2012. This marked the end of Smith’s successful tenure as general manager, with only two losing seasons to his name. Despite his departure from the Chargers, Smith’s impact on the team and the NFL as a whole will not be forgotten.

Smith’s legacy lives on through his son, Kyle, who followed in his father’s footsteps and currently serves as the assistant GM for the Atlanta Falcons. He is survived by his wife, Susan, his daughter, Andrea, son-in-law, Noah, and three grandchildren. The NFL community mourns the loss of a true football pioneer and extends condolences to the Smith family during this difficult time. Smith’s dedication, passion, and impact on the Chargers organization will be remembered for years to come.

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