The 2016 season will be an important one for the San Diego Chargers. Coming off a 4-12 season, the team will need to turn things around in a hurry if Mike McCoy is going to hang onto his job as the team’s head coach.
But for general manager Tom Telesco, 2016 will be a year to build for the future.
The team has the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, and can find a franchise player with that selection. For much of the past decade, the team has been built around quarterback Philip Rivers.
While Rivers will go down as one of the best players in San Diego history, the front office needs to be able to look past Rivers. That doesn’t necessarily mean this season, or even the next. In fact, Rivers could have three or four more years of quality play in front of him.
But the team needs a future quarterback as well. Currently, Kellen Clemens and Brad Sorensen are the only other quarterbacks on the roster. Clemens is a backup who is scheduled to become a free agent and Sorensen is not the answer.
Instead, the team needs to invest one of its early picks on a quarterback. Maybe not with the No. 3 overall selection, but it is something Telesco should give serious thought to in the second or third round. A player like Michigan State’s Connor Cook comes to mind.
If the Chargers bring in another young signal caller this season to learn from Rivers, the team could be set up for the future. The Green Bay Packers were quite fortunate to find Aaron Rodgers to sit behind Brett Favre for several years while Brock Osweiler has clearly benefited from his time with Peyton Manning in Denver.
Since Rivers has been the starter, the Chargers have never had anything more than a true backup quarterback behind him. That has worked, as it has given Rivers the confidence that the Chargers are his team. But now, with Rivers at 34 years old, the team must take a new approach.
Dec 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Connor Cook (18) throws a pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the first half in the 2015 CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Though Cook could be selected in the first round, there is a good chance he’ll be available when the Chargers go on the clock in the second round with the No. 35 overall pick.
At Michigan State, Cook learned to be a natural leader while registering a 34-4 record at the school. At 6’4″ and 220 pounds, he has ideal size and can make several NFL throws.
Sitting behind Rivers, Cook could gain even more knowledge and be ready to take over the team once it’s time for Rivers to call it a career. He would be an intriguing selection for San Diego.
But even if it’s not Cook, the Chargers need to scour the quarterbacks in the upcoming draft to help begin a path for the future.