Guess who helps pick Chargers’ new offensive coordinator? GM Tom Telesco is not alone
He cited a roster filled with stars, improved depth that was on display in an injury-depleted 2022 and a coaching staff he praised for its leadership and teaching ability.
Still, Tom Telesco knows people are judging him on a record that features just two playoff victories during his decade as Chargers general manager.
“I’m entitled to nothing,” he said Thursday during his annual end-of-season news conference. “I don’t take my job for granted at all.”
Telesco, 50, is beginning his 11th year on the job, his teams going 79-83 during the regular season, the playoff wins coming in 2013 and 2018.
The Chargers’ owners, the Spanos family, are taking a huge gamble that scrutinized Brandon Staley can make a huge leap as a coach and make his team super.
Telesco and his staff have received high marks for building rosters with top-end talent. Depth has been an issue, one that was better addressed this season. The last two years, he also has displayed an ability to construct an offensive line.
But top-end success on the field remains elusive. The Chargers haven’t won a division title since 2009, when Norv Turner was coach and A.J. Smith general manager.
With star quarterback Justin Herbert three seasons into his career, Telesco continues to face mounting expectations for a franchise that annually has struggled to fulfill its possibilities.
“There are some positives here,” Telesco said. “Understand that I’m not sitting up here saying I deserve anything. But I like where our roster is headed. I love the coaching staff. … Seeing the passion [from fans], it’s an exciting time here.”
Chargers coach Brandon Staley said although the team felt it was on a championship level, the need for a more balanced offense became their undoing.
Here are some takeaways from the general manager’s 40-minute session with reporters:
Quarterback will be involved in hiring process: Telesco said Herbert will have input as the Chargers search for a new offensive coordinator following the firing of Joe Lombardi.
“I know that’s what [head coach] Brandon [Staley] thinks,” he said, “and that’s the way I’ve always operated with quarterbacks who’ve kind of earned that.”
Such an arrangement isn’t unusual in the NFL. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh indicated Thursday that Lamar Jackson will be involved in the Ravens’ search for a new offensive coordinator.
The Chargers also need a new quarterbacks coach after letting Shane Day go. The next coordinator will be the third of Herbert’s NFL career.
Telesco said experience isn’t necessarily a priority in identifying Lombardi’s replacement.
Feeling run down: The Chargers’ new offensive coordinator will be tasked with helping revive a running game that too often ground to a halt this season. The Chargers finished 30th in yards rushing per game.
“We’ll always be a passing team,” Telesco said. “We have Justin Herbert. We like to throw the ball. We’re never going to be a 50/50-balance team of run and pass. But you do have to be able to run the ball efficiently and effectively, especially in the second half of games when you have leads. We were unable to do that this year.”
The Chargers tied for 30th in yards per attempt and finished 31st in percentage of plays that were runs.
Staley explained this week that an improved running game will help with explosive plays. Telesco talked about how the threat to run is necessary to maximize the impact of play-action.
Former Chargers coach Anthony Lynn is now on the San Francisco 49ers staff, which feels like home for him with connections to other staff and players.
Cutting Keenan? With significantly less cap space than last offseason, the Chargers aren’t in a position to be terribly active in bolstering their roster.
One option to clear space would be cutting wide receiver Keenan Allen, who has two years remaining on his deal. Telesco was asked if letting Allen go is tempting given the team’s cap situation.
“It’s not tempting to me,” he said. “I mean, good players make money. I’d rather have a lot of good players on our roster than a lot of cap space.”
Predicting the four winners in the NFL playoff divisional round and who will be advancing to the conference championship games.
Tranquill coming back? The Chargers’ list of internal unrestricted free agents includes several key contributors: Callahan, Fox, Van Noy, right tackle Trey Pipkins III, linebacker Drue Tranquill, safety Nasir Adderley and wide receiver DeAndre Carter.
Last year, the Chargers allowed linebacker Kyzir White, their leading tackler, to depart in free agency. Tranquill is in a similar spot now, though, unlike White, he had the added responsibility this season of relaying signals in the huddle.
“Drue had a tremendous year, as a player, as a leader for us,” Telesco said.
Pipkins impressed the Chargers throughout 2022 playing despite a knee sprain that he battled weekly.
“Really proud of him for a number of reasons,” Telesco said. “His development, really turning into a starting right tackle in this league. And then how he handled his injury. I mean, he is tough. He knew how much he meant to the team. He played through some things that were really difficult.”
High praise for veteran corner: Telesco spoke in glowing terms of cornerback Michael Davis, who lost his starting job when the Chargers signed Jackson but then returned to the lineup after Jackson suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“He got his opportunity this year and he just played lights out for us,” Telesco said. “Without how we played, I don’t know if we would have had 10 wins.”
Telesco called Davis “a rock-solid player” and noted his mental toughness.
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