Favoring hardball negotiating tactics, Smith clashed with his own players and coaches as well as agents and the media. He allowed a steady stream of stars to leave as free agents, including Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, Michael Turner and Vincent Jackson, while failing to adequately replace them.
Some outsiders felt Smith's ego helped weaken the roster, and that some of his spats became personal.
He mocked Tomlinson, whose Hall of Fame-caliber career included winning the NFL MVP award in 2006. Tomlinson's sin, in Smith's eyes, was being honest about a severe groin injury late in the 2008 season. Smith also mocked the Manning family in April before Peyton Manning signed with Denver.
Smith had his hits and misses with players. He's best known for taking Eli Manning with the No. 1 pick overall in the 2004 draft despite Archie Manning's request that he not do so, then dealing Manning's rights to the New York Giants for Rivers and draft picks that he used to take Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding.
Eli Manning went on to win two Super Bowls. Rivers has yet to play in one.
Smith's recent drafts produced more busts than impact players, though, as he seemed to live off the fumes of that '04 draft.
Smith could have picked Clay Matthews in 2009 but went with Larry English. In 2010, he moved up 16 spots to draft Ryan Mathews, the heir apparent to Tomlinson. Mathews has been dogged by injuries and fumbles. In his first draft, 2003, Smith could have had Troy Polamalu but chose Sammy Davis instead.
Smith did sign undrafted rookie Antonio Gates in 2003, but he also let Wes Welker go after just one game in 2004.