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A.J. Smith's job security with Chargers in question

As the 2011 season wound down, San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner was believed to be a goner. General manager A.J. Smith also appeared to be on the bubble after another missed playoff appearance.

Both men returned, and Turner remains squarely on the hot seat. Smith, on the other hand, might have more job security than you'd think.

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Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote a compelling column Thursday that opined Smith will keep his job even if the Chargers miss the playoffs for a third straight year. Chargers owner Dean Spanos credits Smith's for the franchise's turnaround from the dregs of the NFL, and the thinking is that he'll get a chance to hire a second coach eventually.

Last week, Smith said that the team's recent setbacks have been his responsibility entirely.

"I'm just familiar enough with the thinking of the man whose decision it is to feel pretty good in making my prediction that Smith won't need a real estate agent in January," Acee writes.

The Chargers making the playoffs is the easiest way to end this speculation. The AFC West is more wide open than ever, and we'd still take Philip Rivers over any quarterback in the division.

Peyton Manning is 36 years old and coming off multiple major surgeries. Rivers is in his prime. That's why the expectations for Smith and everyone else in San Diego should remain sky high.

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