Chargers general manager Tom Telesco had no choice. Here he was, on the first Thursday of January, talking to the press instead of preparing for the team’s first playoff game since 2013. And Telesco played a leading role in his team’s shortcoming.
“Obviously our kicking game was not NFL quality this year,” Telesco said. “One of my biggest regrets this year is I did not do a good enough job addressing that position. I kind of put our head coach, Anthony [Lynn], in a tough position as far as managing the football game. … I’m not really happy about it. We’ll assess where we were and we’ll get it fixed. I’m very confident we’ll be able to get that fixed, but obviously that just had to get better this year. I did not do a good enough job there.”
The Chargers had four kickers this season. They started 2017 with rookie Younghoe Koo, but released him after only four games in which he missed one field goal that would have sent a game into overtime and another that would have won a game. Overall, Chargers kickers made only 67% of their field goal attempts versus 85% made by opposing kickers.
Telesco and the Chargers ultimately did a good, but not great, job in 2017. They were good enough to end the season by winning nine of 12 games. They were good enough to win five-straight at StubHub Center. And they were bad enough to begin the season 0-4, losing three-straight games at home.
It’s a mixed bag.
Telesco did praise the team for refusing to give in after starting with a four-game losing streak — something that probably wouldn’t have happened without Lynn at the helm.
“Probably the one thing that really stuck out to me as far as the difference from this year to 2016 is I really saw a high level of grit and determination that we just lacked last year. And I credit Anthony Lynn for that,” Telesco said. “…We’re talking about a team in a new market, new stadium trying to get used to their surroundings. We started off poorly at 0-4. Right now, what are we going to do about it? And our head coach never flinched once. I think our players saw that. I know our players saw that and reacted well to that.”
Telesco confirmed what Lynn said earlier in the week, that bringing back defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and special teams coordinator George Stewart is the team’s plan.
Telesco said the team also plans to visit with tight end Antonio Gates, though he was a little more coy about the veteran’s future.
“We’ll probably let some time go a little bit now after the season’s over and then sit down with Antonio and just kind of talk with him, see what his thoughts are and what he’s thinking, see what our thoughts are and what we’re thinking,” Telesco said. “…But obviously he’s one of the greatest Chargers of all-time. And to see a Hall of Famer this year really accept a secondary role, you don’t see that very often, and still mentoring are young players on the practice field and still playing at a really good level.”
Gates probably will be the biggest decision the Chargers’ make in terms of name recognition, though starters Tre Boston and Kenny Wiggins also will be unrestricted free agents. The other issue will be players such as Casey Hayward and Melvin Gordon, who are entering the final year of their deals.
“Those are the things you look at this off-season. It’s not just free agents,” Telesco said. “When you look at what you have cap-space wise, you also take into account any extensions you want to do, so those are discussions we’ll have between now and March.”
Telesco said he thinks the Chargers have enough cap space to accomplish their goals this summer, though that number is very fluid because the Chargers have yet to tender any of their restricted free agents.
However the Chargers decide to divvy their off-season cash, it’s safe to say the team will either be investing in a kicker in free agency or the draft.
“We’re going to look at everything — young guys, veterans,” Telesco said. “We have to get the right guy in here. It just didn’t work out the way we planned this year.”