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Breaking down Chargers GM Tom Telesco’s year-end press conference

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 31: A general view of StubHub Center prior to the game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders at StubHub Center on December 31, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 31: A general view of StubHub Center prior to the game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders at StubHub Center on December 31, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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General manager Tom Telesco revealed many interesting things about 2017, and what the team is looking ahead to for 2018.

When Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco stepped up to the podium to deliver his annual end-of-season media briefing, there were several elephants in the room. During the wide-ranging press conference, Telesco shed some light on some of the biggest questions surrounding the team heading into the 2018 offseason.

While Telesco was intentionally vague and unspecific at times, his comments still help reveal a lot about what the front office is thinking about this past season and the months ahead. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Telesco’s answers:

1. Antonio Gates very well may return in 2018

Coming into the season, just about everybody assumed that this would be Gates’ last season as a Charger. But Telesco left the door wide open for a possible return and seemed to indicate that he would leave the decision to Gates. He raved about the role Gates graciously assumed this year and seemed like he’d welcome him back in a similar role next year.

“To see a Hall of Famer this year really accept a secondary role, you don’t see that very often, and still mentoring our young players on the practice field and still playing at a really good level. You saw that where we’ve got two games left in the season and we have to win two more games, and we really need him, he steps up and plays at the same level as he had before. He’s a special, special guy.”

Gates, rightfully, took a backseat to second-year tight end Hunter Henry this year and never complained about his reduced role. As the season went on, Gates got fewer and fewer targets and began ceding more and more snaps to Henry. It was the right move for the team, as Henry established himself as one of the league’s best tight ends. Henry himself has raved about the knowledge Gates has imparted him with, and it wouldn’t hurt anyone to keep Gates around for another year and another shot at a playoff run if he so wishes.

2. The kicking game was Telesco’s biggest regret

When asked what his biggest regret of the 2017 season was, Telesco didn’t hesitate in naming the kicking game. This shouldn’t be a surprise to Chargers fans, as the team cycled through four equally ineffective kickers throughout the season.

Telesco accepted responsibility for the debacle, stating flatly he “did not do a good enough job addressing that position.”

“I kind of put our head coach, Anthony, in a tough position as far as managing the football game.  So, it happens. 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.”

It’s great to see Telesco step up and shoulder the blame and not try to make excuses. He’s making it clear that the kicking game will be an offseason priority, and taking action. The Chargers have already taken steps to remedy the problem, including signing former second round pick and college star Roberto Agauyo to a reserve/futures contract. Despite the signing of Aguayo, the situation is far from settled. The Chargers are still likely to add more competition either through the draft or free agency.

3. He’s keeping an eye on the development of Cardale Jones

Jones, acquired from Buffalo last July, had an up-and-down preseason before spending the entire regular season as a game day inactive. But when asked about him, Telesco indicated the Chargers think he could be part of their future plans at quarterback.

“We saw some great tools this year. He made throws each practice that really opened your eyes. And now we’ll have the full offseason of him developing in the offense and us getting a good look at him in training camp and the preseason. He certainly has the skills to do it, which is one of the reasons why we brought him in.”

It’s interesting to hear Telesco speak so highly of a player they traded only a seventh-round pick for. While far from a finished product, Jones does have a lot of theoretical talent. He showed during the preseason that his mechanics still need a lot of work, but he did make several beautiful throws. If the coaching staff can improve his mechanics and get the best out of him, he could stick.

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4. The team has no timeline for Philip Rivers

Rivers will turn 37 in the middle of next season, but has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, he had one of his best seasons in years this past campaign. Telesco revealed that the team has no firm timeline with Rivers and that he believes Rivers is in no danger of dropping off anytime soon.

“I haven’t really had a timeline on him, per se. At that position, because it is so important, you’re always looking for who that next guy will be, so you’re always prepared to do that if the situation arises. Philip is as well prepared as anybody. He’s still playing at a high level. I don’t really have a timeline for him, but I know he played really well for us this year, and I expect him to come back and do the same thing next year.”

Rivers was playing at an MVP-caliber level at times this season. Because his style of play isn’t very physically demanding, he may keep it up for years to come. The team clearly believes this also and is in no rush to find his successor or spend a high draft pick finding one.

The Bottom Line:

Overall, it was a fairly standard end-of-year press conference. There weren’t any fireworks or dramatic proclamations, but it still provided some valuable insight into the team’s preparations for 2018. Telesco seems to have a decent grip on what the team needs to do to continue taking steps forward, and Chargers fans should be encouraged by his latest comments.

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