With the 2021 season concluding for the LA Chargers at the hands of their archrivals, many Charger fans have a long and blurry offseason ahead of them. In recent seasons, clarity has been hard to come by. Who will be the future gunslinger for the Chargers? Will Joey Bosa sign a rookie contract? Do the Chargers have enough talent to make the playoffs? The man with the answers has been general manager Tom Telesco.
Taking over the role from A.J. Smith in 2013, Telesco has shaped the team in his vision. Telesco has had a fair amount of success, establishing himself as one of the best first-round drafters in the NFL. However, Telesco has failed in signing long-term free agents who have been a benefit to the team along with establishing a solid coaching staff.
Since he became GM, the Chargers have only made the playoffs twice which has made many question whether he should continue in his role. Let's take a look at his performance so far.
Since taking over in 2013, Telesco has drafted 10 players in the first round. Six have gone on to the Pro Bowl as members of the Chargers, Mike Williams has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark twice in his five years with the Bolts while D.J. Fluker and Kenneth Murray were named to the All-Rookie team.
Telesco has had some moderate success in the following rounds, selecting Keenan Allen (76th overall), Kyzir White (119th overall), Desmond King (151st overall) and Issac Rochell (225th overall). However, his ability to find gems in the UDFA pool is second to none. Acquisitions such as Austin Ekeler, Trevor Williams, Tyrell Williams and XFL pickup Donald Parham Jr. have proven to be invaluable to the Chargers during their tenures in blue.
Where Telesco's shoulders blame is both in the head coaches hired during his tenure along with his inability to acquire depth. Names like Dan Feeney, Forrest Lamp, Manti Te'o, Joe Reed, K.J. Hill and Dylan Cantrell outline an inability to build a full team. Free agents and trade failures such as Bryan Bulaga, Trei Turner, Chris Harris Jr., Thomas Davis, Caleb Sturgis and Derek Cox have contributed to the Chargers playoff struggles.
Head Coaches Mike McCoy and Anthony Lynn both took the Chargers to the playoffs during their times in charge but lacked the ability to build a winning culture and failed in closing out close games. Their inability to beat the main rivals in the division, more importantly, the best quarterbacks (Peyton Manning and Patrick Mahomes) led to their downfall as well.
I think we as fans need to be real for a second. I will not bash the name Philip Rivers at all, I love him and all he gave to the Chargers. A true warrior who is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. I also know he's more Brett Favre than Tom Brady. A gunslinger who lived up to his name, how many times did Rivers throw an untimely interception? A deep ball into triple coverage?
Yes, did Philip have offensive line issues? Without a doubt but he also was unable to come through on the final drive more times than not. It happens but how many times did the Chargers lose close one-possession games because of poor offensive play in the fourth quarter? Justin Herbert possesses that same gunslinger quality with the decision-making skills that limit such turnovers.
A pick that Telesco signed off on when a lot of Charger fans (including myself) wasn't sold on him. I wanted Isaiah Simmons and that's the reason I'm not a GM. By the way, Herbert wasn't a solid option at all. Consider this, the Niners traded up to third in 2021 for Trey Lance. The Bears traded up for Justin Fields. The Rams traded up to first for Jared Goff and the Eagles traded up for Carson Wentz back in 2016. If there were any calls for Herbert at six, it was few and far in between. Telesco deserves credit for such a seamless transition.
The argument used against Tom is that the Chargers haven't had a championship roster in his time as GM. The closest came in 2018 but soon that roster fell apart for a multitude of reasons. Here's my take. Telesco has the financial freedom for the first time in his career to go shopping. Not grab one or two players but actually raid the market like the Patriots did last year.
Philip Rivers' contract hampered a lot of possibilities but Herbert's rookie deal and the expected 80+ million of cap space should see superstars flock to Los Angeles. Yes, Herbert, Derwin James and Rashawn Slater will have to get paid down the road but in the meantime, both Joey Bosa and Keenan Allen have already penned their deals and there's a lot of rookie contracts on the roster.
Dean Spanos has shown that he's willing to spend top dollar to win, as proven with the additions of Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler in the 2021 offseason. I trust Telesco, he's learned from his bad decisions and has a vision with Brandon Staley. They're gamblers and this is not the time to be conservative. Championships are won during rookie deals and I see no reason to rock the boat at such a fragile time.
Let's be real for a second, had the Chargers beaten or tied the Raiders, we would not be having this conversation. This team is learning how to win and that does not come easy. The 2021 Chargers are the closest any team has been to the Chiefs in the AFC since Peyton Manning retired. Overcoming decades of shortfalls is no easy task, especially under the command of a 23-year-old under his seventh offensive coordinator in seven years and a first-time head coach who consistently changes how the game of football is played every Sunday.
The Chargers are on the cusp of something special, something revolutionary and a reflationary response to disappointment won't change the loss on Sunday.
Justin Herbert is a gift that fell into the Chargers laps. Sometimes those things happen, ask the Packers about Aaron Rodgers or Miami about Dan Marino. What is do know is that Tom Telesco has surrounded his prized jewel with two Pro Bowl offensive linemen, two thousand-yard receivers and a potential third in Josh Palmer. With a ton of incredible talents in the draft and the 17th overall pick, Telesco is primed to have another successful draft. The 2021 class ranks among the best in the NFL and the areas for improvement are clear as day to fix.
Luck is timing meeting preparation. The Chargers have been victims of pulling the plug early on multiple occasions. Marty Schottenheimer, Drew Brees, Rodney Harrison to name a few. The innovation and execution of Herbert and Staley mirror that of Fouts and Coryell. My trust in Tom stays strong and after two straight excellent offseasons, I see no reason to fix what isn't broken.
Just because something isn't coming together quickly doesn't mean its not finding its groove.