Deviating a bit from the Tuesday-only structure...
If 2007 taught us anything, it's that a signed coaching or front office contract in pro or college football is nothing but a paper airplane waiting to be made. It continues to surprise me that front office contract signings are considered headline news. As stated in John Clayton's ESPN.com article:
"The Chargers, who made the playoffs for the third time in four years, rewarded general manager A.J. Smith with a five-year, $11 million extension that will keep him in charge through the 2014 season."
Come on, no it won't. All it means is, he gets to stick around for the 2008 draft and ensuing season, and he'll get a boatload of money for it. Anything after that is fair game, assuming Smith would want to stick around after 2008 and leave for some other random job. Want proof? Peter King said in his November 18th Monday Morning QB column, regarding Brian Billick, after the Ravens lost to Cleveland in Week 11, their fourth loss in a row:
"3. I think, speaking of coaches not far from the Beltway, Brian Billick's not going anywhere, people. Not this year. Not in the first year of a four-year contract. Not with $15 million or so due him if he were to get whacked. Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti's not Dan Snyder in the patience or disposable-income departments."
Uh huh. And what happens? Billick's gone as soon as the season's done. Contract shmontract.
Let's say for example the Chargers lose to Tennessee on Sunday. Let's say Smith has an average, not particularly inspiring draft in June. Let's say the Chargers miss the playoffs in 2008. What then? Who knows. All I know is, the contract doesn't matter. Billick's situation is proof of that, Bobby Petrino's past two coaching gigs in Louisville and Atlanta are proof... hell, Nick Saban's entire CAREER is proof, practically.
Bear in mind this isn't an attack directly at Smith, who's a fine GM, but rather at the entire NFL and NCAA coaching/front office culture. It's a little sad and kind of naive to continue to believe that news like this even means anything anymore.
In fact, they say if you listen real closely, you can hear a couple coaches and GMs folding up their contracts into mock F-16s...