2. Tom Telesco's draft and free agency success is underwhelming and overhyped
Many Tom Telesco truthers may point to player acquisition through free agency and the NFL draft not being the issue, but that is most certainly not true. Outside of signing Casey Hayward as a free agent in 2016, which I’ll concede turned out very well, the big signings made in the Telesco-era have been miserable.
One good free-agent contract in nine years doesn’t give him a pass for all his shortcomings. Remember how Donald Butler was cut after being just two years into his seven-year, $51.8 million dollar contract handed out by Telesco? How about Orlando Franklin being released after horrible play through two seasons of his five-year $36.5 million dollar contract? What about Travis Benjamin massively underperforming his four-year, $24 million dollar deal, only to get a contract extension before his final year on the contract? I could go on and on with free agency deals, but it only looks worse for Telesco.
When it comes to the draft, his results aren’t much better. Credit where it’s due, Telesco’s selection of Joey Bosa 3rd overall in 2016 is by far his most successful pick, and the only first-round pick on his own accord that worked well for him. Other notable successful first-round selections like Derwin James and Justin Herbert had very little to do with excellent moves by the GM, the only thing he had to do was turn the card in.
Telesco himself said that their own pre-draft preparations never had discussed the possibility of James falling into their lap at the 18th pick overall. That selection was a no-brainer. The picking of franchise QB Justin Herbert 6th overall in 2020 was much of the same scenario, following the process of just picking whoever falls into their lap. Many reports all but confirmed the Chargers front office had Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa ahead of Herbert on their own draft board. So did Telesco really know that Herbert could and would turn out as good as he has been? I highly doubt it.
Most notably under Telesco are the first-round picks that have been busts or were not tendered 2nd contracts. Jason Verrett, D.J. Fluker, Melvin Gordon, Mike Williams, Jerry Tillery, and Kenneth Murray all fall into that category at this moment in time. Late-round picks haven’t turned out much better, with the majority of them never having any sustained success with the franchise. Tom Telesco’s drafting resume is far overhyped and has helped drive the Chargers roster lower than where it should be.