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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Interview with Dean Spanos

By: Casey Pearce

As it did for all Chargers fans, the end to the 2009 season came much too soon for team President Dean Spanos. Despite his huge disappointment, he still looks forward with optimism.

Now that a few days have passed, how are you feeling about last Sunday’s game?

“I’m still very disappointed. I think it’s going to take a few weeks to get over it. I’m as disappointed as the fans are and the players and the entire organization. But you can’t look back. You have to just move forward.”

A lot of fans are still pretty upset and are having a tough time getting over it. How long does it take you to get over a tough loss like that?

“It’ll probably take me to the first game next year before I stop thinking about it. It’s always going to be there, but realistically I think in the next month or so you’ve got to clear your head and everybody has to focus forward. We’ve got to focus on the upcoming draft and begin putting our team together for next year.”

Before we start talking about next year, looking back at last season, what are you most proud of and what disappoints you the most?

“I’m most proud of how (Head Coach) Norv (Turner) and the players held everything together after we started off 2-3. We had an 11-game winning streak and got into the playoffs with high expectations. The thing that disappoints me is that in Sunday’s game against the Jets, we didn’t do what we typically did during the 11-game winning streak. We played more their game than ours and that’s very disappointing.”

You just gave Norv a three-year contract extension. Obviously you must be pretty happy with the job he and his staff have been doing?

“In the last three years it’s been a work in progress, but we’ve won the division and made the playoffs three years in a row. We’ve overcome some adversity early in each season for different reasons. Norv has always been able to stay the course, keep the team focused and get us in the postseason, which says a lot.”

There were 62 different players that saw game action this season and the team still won 13 games. What does that say about the ability of A.J. Smith to build depth and the job Norv and his assistants did getting them ready to play?

“To have that many players on your roster, mostly due to injuries and for various reasons, and to be able to hold it together and have the performance of the players continually get better as the season goes on, that’s a tribute to Norv and his staff. It also speaks highly about A.J. and his staff and their ability to bring in the right personnel so we can keep moving forward.”

Looking forward, why are you optimistic and why should fans be optimistic about the future of this team?

“I’m optimistic for a lot of reasons. I think we have a great coaching staff in place and we have an excellent core of players here for the next two or three years. You build around that core, and that continuity is so important for a football team. There’s no doubt in my mind that we have that, but there is constant turnover and you have to always look to get better. A.J. has been very successful at that throughout his tenure.”

What do you think needs to be addressed this offseason to help this team improve?

“There were a lot of injuries on the defensive side of the ball and that’s where we had the biggest flux of new players. I think our pass rush needs to improve. Offensively, our productivity in the run game was not what it should be and we’ll look at ways to improve there.”

There has been a lot of speculation that there could be many roster changes next season. When do you, AJ and Norv plan to start talking about that?

“Within a couple weeks after the Super Bowl we’ll all sit down. Some of our player personnel staff like Jimmy Raye and John Spanos will also be involved. We’ll go through the roster and evaluate each player. You go through all the coaching staff and the entire organization and do an evaluation on everybody. It could be two or three days, and we’ll spend the time together until the process is complete.”

The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ union also is a hot topic. How will that affect how teams do business?

“There are big differences in how the league will operate this season if there is or if there isn’t a new CBA in place. Particularly, if there isn’t a new agreement, we’ll have an uncapped year. That brings about significant changes in regards to the classification of restricted versus unrestricted free agents. It would take forever to explain them all, but there’s a great Q&A on our web site that can answer most of your questions.”

How does it make you feel when you see the fans and community rally around the team as it did at the end of the season?

“That’s what it’s all about. We’re part of this community and when you see the fan support that we have, that lets you know that you’re doing a good job. I know the fans are just as disappointed as I am and everybody else here, but we couldn’t have done it without them. I have to thank the fans for being there this year. I know it’s been a difficult year financially for a lot of our fans, but they filled the stadium every home game this year. We’ve now sold out 48-consecutive regular season and postseason games. That’s a record for this franchise; one we’re very proud of. That wouldn’t be possible without our fans.”

There has also been a lot of public concern about the effort to get a new stadium built in San Diego. What’s the latest in that effort?

“As a lot of people know, the mayor has come to us with a potential site in downtown San Diego. It’s clearly unique to the other sites we’ve been looking at. It’s a very small site, roughly 10 acres. If we were able to build there, it would be the smallest site in the NFL. There are some possibilities there, but there are also some challenges. The city is doing an economic and financial study right now to determine how this project would be funded. We’ll be looking at that within the next 30 to 60 days. If we continue on to the next phase of this project, one of the keys to its potential success is the support of the mayor and city council before it goes before a vote in 2012. Without the full public support of the mayor and city council, there’s no chance this project can be successful.”

A story in Monday’s Union-Tribune suggested that fan morale because of the loss could have a negative impact on the team’s efforts to build a new stadium. What are your thoughts on that notion?

“I don’t think it will. Even if we had won the Super Bowl this year, I don’t think it would make a difference in a 2012 vote by the people. If you look around the league, there are cities with winning teams that have built stadiums, cities with losing teams that have built stadiums and cities with no teams that have built stadiums. There’s no magic formula, but it comes down to the voters. The voters are smart and this is going to have to be a proposal that is good for the city as well as the San Diego Chargers. If that deal is struck, you’re going to have the support of the Chargers, the mayor and the city council. Then the voters will make the final decision.”