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Chargers GM A.J. Smith: 'I take full responsibility for the present mess'

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
Team president Dean Spanos has 'been better' while GM A.J. Smith takes full responsibilty for the Chargers' collapse. (AP)

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith has borrowed a page from the Scott Pioli handbook (never a good thing) and taken full responsibility for the team's failings. The lowlight came Monday night when San Diego squandered a 24-0 halftime lead to Denver, eventually losing 35-24 thanks, in part, to six (!) Philip Rivers turnovers.

Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego spoke to Smith Tuesday and the general manager didn't bother sugar-coating things.

"We have some outstanding, talented players on this team and some outstanding coaches across the board," Smith told Acee. "But obviously we cannot play as a team. We appear to not be able to handle adversity or finish games. Individual and team confidence appears to be going south."

Not much room for confusion there. Of course, Smith is the man who put this team together. It's why he was a candidate to be fired after the Chargers' disappointing 8-8 2011 season and why he'll likely be up for reelection in January. Smith is not blind to this reality.

"I take full responsibility for the present mess this team is in at this point in time," Smith said. "The construction and direction of this organization is on my watch. In the next 10 games we will either rally and see a slow, steady rise from the ashes to a division championship -- or the beginning of a new era in Chargers' football."

Based on the comments both here and here, Chargers fans would have no problem with team president Dean Spanos cleaning house.

Acee writes that the loss to the Broncos "was historic" and adds: "Spanos blew by me on Tuesday en route to a meeting looking as angry as I've ever seen him. I said, 'How're you doing?' He didn't slow down as he replied, 'I've been better.'"

If we're assessing blame, the finger should first point to Spanos. After all, he's the man who said back in January that, “Bottom line, I believe [coach Norv Turner and Smith] give us the best chance to get back to the playoffs. A.J. Smith is the best man to improve our roster, and Norv Turner is the best man to lead that roster on the field. …

"Together, we have stability and experience that's hard to find in the NFL," Spanos continued. … "As we've seen throughout Norv's tenure and particularly this past season, the players believe in him, respect him and play hard for him. When we went through that tough stretch, no one quit. The team kept playing hard, and that's a tribute to Norv's leadership and the respect the players have for him."

Oh brother.

For what it's worth, Mr. Spanos, Smith shares your pain.

"It was an embarrassing and humiliating performance by a team going in the wrong direction fast," Smith said. “We played a team that's coming together fast and building confidence. Peyton Manning had one of the greatest second-half performances I've ever seen in my time in the league … We have dropped three out our last four games (and lost) on back-to-back national broadcasts. We are about as low as a team can get right now and going into the longest bye we will ever experience."

Enjoy it, A.J., because it's reasonable to think that you and Norv won't be back in 2013. And that's assuming you last the final 11 weeks of this season.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Pick-6 Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.

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