April 17, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

GM Tom Telesco says Chargers have broad view for new coach

A lack of results cost Anthony Lynn his job this week.

The man above the head coach remains employed by the Chargers and now will be given the opportunity to hire a third head coach during his tenure.

“I don’t think I’m going to change anyone’s opinions they have of myself or this football team,” general manager Tom Telesco said. “… But there’s no doubt that I’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’ve got a lot of work to do with the next staff.”

In dismissing Lynn on Monday after going 7-9 this season and 12-20 over the last two seasons, owner Dean Spanos released a statement citing the Chargers’ failure to meet expectations.

Telesco on Wednesday spoke publicly for the first time since the move and called it “a fair question” to ponder his job performance.

“I understand the fan frustration,” he said. “I’ve talked about a need to win at a sustained level and, right now, it’s been peaks and valleys, with the peaks not being long enough and the valleys being too long.”

Telesco was hired in January of 2013 and helped the Chargers return to the playoffs — ending a three-year drought — in his first season. That team went 9-7 and beat Cincinnati in the AFC wild-card round before losing to Denver.

The Chargers then missed the postseason four consecutive years, a stretch during which Telesco dismissed Mike McCoy and hired Lynn, who went 33-31 in four seasons, with a playoff appearance in 2018.

In eight years with the Chargers, Telesco’s teams are 60-68 in the regular season and 2-2 in the playoffs.

“I need to do a better job of getting this team over the hump,” he said. “We decided to try a new path for 2021 and beyond.”

The Chargers offer an attractive head-coaching opportunity given their roster, which is frequently noted for its level of talent, and especially with Justin Herbert.

The young quarterback taken No. 6 overall in April emerged this fall to become a favorite to win the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award.

Yet, even with so much promise at the game’s most important position, Telesco said there is no certainty that the Chargers will hire a head coach with an offensive background.

He suggested the team instead go with a defensive coach, as long as there is an offensive system in place to help Herbert’s performance and continued development.

“Just because we have a young franchise quarterback doesn’t mean you have to have an offensive-based coach,” Telesco said. “You just don’t, which is why we’re casting a pretty wide net.”

The candidates known to be of interest to the Chargers include three defensive coordinators — Brandon Staley of the Rams, Matt Eberflus of the Indianapolis Colts and Robert Saleh of the San Francisco 49ers.

They also have interviewed Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and have reached out to two offensive coordinators whose teams are not in the playoffs — Joe Brady of Carolina and Jason Garrett of the New York Giants.

The Chargers have asked to meet with Tennessee’s Arthur Smith and Buffalo’s Brian Daboll, both of whom are offensive coordinators. Those interviews are on hold because the Titans and Bills participate in the playoffs this weekend.

Telesco said he has no timetable to make a hire and indicated the search, if necessary, could extend beyond Super Bowl LV, set for Feb. 7.

Other selling points for the Chargers are the team’s healthy salary cap situation and nine draft picks in 2021. Telesco said rookie contracts will be especially helpful with the cap going down following a season impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have an opportunity to ascend and ascend quickly,” he said.

Telesco’s regime is responsible for drafting Keenan Allen, Joey Bosa and Derwin James, among others, before taking Herbert.

He also has discovered productive undrafted free agents such as Adrian Phillips, Austin Ekeler and Michael Davis, and made trades for starters Casey Hayward, Russell Okung and Mike Pouncey.

But Telesco has struggled, in particular, building an offensive line that can perform with consistency.

His draft picks over the years have included D.J. Fluker, Chris Watt and Max Tuerk. Among the current Chargers offensive linemen, Telesco drafted Dan Feeney, Forrest Lamp, Sam Tevi, Scott Quessenberry and Trey Pipkins.

Telesco said part of the improvement must come in better developing players. He praised the work of veteran offensive line coach James Campen, who finished his first season with the Chargers. With a new head coach coming in, however, he added there’s no assurance Campen will be retained.

The 2020 Chargers were hurt by injuries to right tackle Bryan Bulaga and right guard Trai Turner. Feeney just played his first full season at center and Tevi his first at left tackle. Lamp, the starting left guard, was healthy for the first time in his career.

“Some health would be good,” Telesco said. “Some consistency of being in the same spot would be good.”

He also called it “a major point of emphasis” to bolster the Chargers’ special teams, a longtime trouble spot for the franchise.

But, before Telesco said anything else Wednesday, he made a point to recognize Lynn, labeling Lynn’s leadership as “impeccable.” He called working with Lynn “truly an honor.”

In his first two years, Lynn led the Chargers to a 21-11 record and a postseason victory at Baltimore as the franchise completed its relocation from San Diego.

“I really feel like he was the right coach at the right time for us in 2017,” Telesco said. “He ushered us through a pretty challenging transition.”

Etc.

Telesco said the Chargers plan to exercise the fifth-year option on James, who has missed most of the past seasons because of injury. … Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is a candidate to join Jon Gruden’s staff in Las Vegas.