By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
A week after the Los Angeles Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley conducted his end of the season press conference, their General Manager Tom Telesco would spend time in his afternoon to talk to the media. Tom Telesco opened this zoom meeting by saying, “I appreciate everyone’s patience and flexibility. I know that we meant to do this last week, but this is your time, so I’ll stay here and answer questions for as long as you need me to.”
Understanding that a season in the National Football League isn’t complete until the players and coaches complete their exit interviews. We got to talk to Tom Telesco via Zoom just a week after their heartbreaking loss to their division rival Los Vegas Raiders. During this conference call, Telesco touched on several topics. Though; I have listed the biggest takeaways from his 60 plus minute call addressing the media’s concerns.
“He has brought an identity to this football team. I love the identity that we play with; I do. I support him 100 percent.” Exclaims Tom Telesco about Head Coach Brandon Staley and the outlook of the football team. “It doesn’t mean that there isn’t context involved in that— I mean, we’re not robots — but we’re trying to put our players in a position of strength, in a position of advantage, as much as we can. I love the identity that we play with. I know, on the outside, that not everyone may agree with how we play, but it’s who we are, and I love it.”
When asked about their lack of playoff wins and appearances during his tenure as the General Manager, Tom Telesco was quick to state that this was “year one” of their new front office team. “When I talked to the team the day after the Raiders game, the one thing I told them — certainly for guys like [OLB] Joey Bosa, [WR] Keenan Allen, [RB] Austin Ekeler, guys have been here a while — this was Year 1; Year 1 with this football team, Year 1 with Brandon Staley, Year 1 in a stadium full of our fans, not an empty stadium. We’re going to build on this year.” Understandably he’s not concerned with the past years, stating, “I see this more as a beginning than anything else!”
“No matter what cap space you have, you can’t build a team through free agency, but you can certainly supplement it.” Telesco said when asked about being aggressive this off-season and capitalizing on the window he has with their mix of star players. “There’s certainly a sense of urgency every year with how we put it together.”
“We’ll get into 2022 and that plan soon, but I’ll tell you this about Mike, I didn’t see this as a one-year thing with Mike this year,” Telesco explained. Telesco continued about 5th-year receiver Mike Williams, “His first year with us was a medical redshirt. In his second year in the league, he had ten touchdowns. In his third year, he had 1,000 yards and led the league in yards-per-catch. Then, this coming year, where we knew he was going to have more targets and that we were going to expand where we used him on the field, and he produced again — a career year in catches and yards. He’s had a great early career for us.”
For contract negotiating purposes, Tom ended his comments about Mike Williams by stating, “We’ll figure out the future moving forward.” Understanding how valuable Williams was to this squad this past season, it sounds like resigning Mike will be a priority this off-season.
“We’re going to focus on the whole, complete team going into next year. There won’t be one side of the ball, there won’t be one position group, that won’t be one position — it’s a complete look at the football team.” While avoiding the question of what he learned this past season, Telesco explained their focus on this off-season.
About their play-calling during this season, modest or even hard-core fans would agree that their play-calling was maybe too aggressive at times. I was eager, to hear if a conversation was had, by him or anyone else in the front office that asked Staley to tone down the aggressiveness of his in-game play calls. “No, there was no discussion of that during the season,” Telesco asserted.
Telesco went on to add, “I trust our head coach 100 percent, I do. I want to play aggressive football. Being here in Los Angeles, our No. 1 goal is to win — 1A is to entertain on the way to winning. If you watched us play this year, I think it’d be hard-pressed to say that we’re not an exciting football team. That’s the template that we play. I love it. I think it’s fun. It’s exciting to watch. I’m with Brandon [Staley] 100 percent, and that’s one of the reasons why we hired him.”
Telesco was asked about what happened down the stretch of their season, in a matter-of-fact fashion, he said, “As I looked at the defense, moving into this year, I certainly knew that it was going to be a different scheme, new system, new coaches, but I felt like at all three levels, we had a playmaker, or playmakers, at all three levels — plus, with high football character, high football intelligence — it should be pretty seamless.”
Understanding the defense didn’t maximize their potential Telesco continued to say, “I can’t argue with the numbers. We were bottom-five in most points allowed, bottom-five on third down, and bottom-five in red-zone — those are pretty key categories. And, kind of middle of the road in takeaways. I overestimated where we may be with that because I love the scheme, I love the system, and I love the coaching staff.”
About their defensive production, Telesco added, “I’ll take the responsibility that our defense did not play up to the expectations that we had for them. It was frustrating. We just didn’t get the stops that we needed to get. We didn’t get enough stops. We got some, but not enough. A lot of times, it’s some things that take no talent; alignment, assignment, and technique, those are three things that any player can do, and it’s so important in defense.”
Telesco was then asked about his thoughts on the Alex G Spanos Coaching Fellowship, and he mentioned the importance of this fellowship is, “it gives people opportunities in a couple of different ways. One, education and learning, getting in the building every day, and working with the coaching staff. It’s also great for networking because once you get in the league and you meet more people, inevitably, in this business, a coach you work with today leaves and goes somewhere else, then your tree gets even bigger. But the biggest thing, though, is getting that chance. That’s why it’s so important, not only on the coaching side but also on the player personnel side.”
In regards to their run defense form this past season, Telesco, in agreement with Brandon Staley said, “The run defense has to improve! We had a lot of stretches this year that the players that are out there did some pretty good things, but we weren’t consistent enough by any means. We have to take a good look at that, and we have to get better. Some of it is alignment, assignment, and technique, some of its personnel, and some of it’s just being in the second year of the defense. Run defense is very important. We can’t be bottom-five in anything. Pass-rush and coverage are probably a little more important to me, but we have to get to that point, and getting to that point is being able to stop the run when we need to stop the run.”
While the press conference began to touch on all that went wrong for the Chargers this season. I figured; I’d ask Telesco about what went right for them this season. Telesco responded by saying, “how they played, their style of play, the resolve that they showed in games, we were never out of the game — especially with Justin. We went, essentially, nine deep on the offensive line. We lost our right guard and right tackle early in the season. That group did tremendously. Overall, if you look at that offensive line, we threw for 5,000 yards and ran for 1,800 yards. We ran the ball when we had to run it, which was, in the fourth quarter of games when we had the lead. Our sack numbers were top-five least allowed. Our pressures allowed were top-five least allowed, and that’s from that whole group of five, that’s not just all Rashawn Slater or Corey Linsley, that’s all five of those guys. Proud of that group. That tight end group gave us 90 catches and did it in different ways — a great group, great depth from that position. There’s just a lot to work with here. It’s exciting football. We just have to keep building on that.”
About their focus in free-agency, unrestricted or restricted, Telesco would say, “we would rather draft and develop our own and sign our own, wherever we can. We know that it can’t be everybody, but that’s our desire. Our philosophy on free agency is that we’re selective, but we have also been relatively successful with those signings. Our priority is to reward our own, where it’s needed. Then, we’ll go from there and look into the outside and see what players fit what we want to do here. Free agency is very-difficult to find the right players that come in and fit at the right time. It’s very difficult.”
After hearing from the Los Angeles Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco last week, his support of Brandon Staley is clear. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that he also is excited about the future potential of this team and organization. Though he didn’t share his ten-step plan to playoff supremacy, his comfortability and confidence in the process should give Bolts fans something to be excited about. After all, their rookie head coach did lead them to nine wins this season and should be considerably better next season. Let me know your thoughts on the Chargers front office by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or email or email@example.com. I’d love to hear any suggestions you may have or what you see as key factors facing these Los Angeles Chargers. Let me know so I can dig into these topics.
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