Plenty of NFL owners and general managers have had issues with agents from time to time, but few go as far in their criticisms as Chargers owner Dean Spanos and General Manager A.J. Smith, who describe agents as somewhere between useless and destructive.
In a U-T San Diego story that examines the influence of Tom Condon and CAA on the Peyton Manning sweepstakes and other free agent movements around the NFL, Spanos and Smith sound the alarm about agents’ influence.
“Agents have a lot of control over different teams,” Spanos said. “It’s a bad situation, where certain teams are controlled by agents with key coaches and key players. It’s certainly a problem we need to continue to address. . . . There are other owners that feel the same.”
Of course, agents can’t really control owners or general managers at all: Any owner or general manager can choose not to do business with anyone he doesn’t want to do business with. Smith acknowledged that and indicated that the Chargers are ahead of the rest of the league in refusing to allow agents to manipulate them.
“An agent is only powerful, manipulative and influential if you allow it,” Smith said. “There is no ‘we’ in the [agent-team] relationship. The most important aspect of this whole deal is the team. That’s all that ever matters.”
Smith claims that agents don’t actually do their clients any good — at least not in San Diego, where Smith says the Chargers make players fair offers and then don’t change those offers no matter what the agent asks for.
“A player could be represented by superagent Tom Condon or his next-door neighbor,” Smith said. “It really is the same procedure for us. You either like what you’re hearing from us, or you don’t.”
If Spanos is right that some teams are controlled by agents, and if Smith is right that the Chargers don’t allow agents to influence them, then they should actually be happy with the state of things: The Chargers would have an advantage relative to the rest of the league.
If, on the other hand, working with agents instead of against them can sometimes be helpful to teams, and if that’s what the Chargers’ division rivals in Denver just did in the Manning chase, it’s easy to see why the Chargers would be disgruntled right now.