The new era of Chargers football is underway in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl, and Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Spanos is right in the thick of it. We sat down with him for an extensive conversation covering a wide range of issues including upcoming prospects, past Chargers at the Senior Bowl and what it’s been like having a front row seat to the new pairing of General Manager Tom Telesco and Head Coach Mike McCoy.
Here is what he had to say.
Chargers.com: So first things first, how are things going down here at the Senior Bowl?
Spanos: Things are going really well. There’s a good group of players down here. We’ve been getting to see them up close and go through extensive drills and NFL practices. So things are going well.
Chargers.com: For those that are not that familiar with the Senior Bowl, can you give us a brief summary of what the event is and why it’s so important?
Spanos: Sure. The players arrive starting Saturday and Sunday, and it gives us a good chance to sit down with them and get some interviews done. Things really officially kick off on Monday with the weigh in. That’s really the first chance we get to see these guys up close, get to see them weigh in and get an exact and official height and weight, arm length and hand size. Then of course practices kick off on Monday afternoon and we get to see them go through NFL type practices the rest of the week. We get to watch them and then at night we interview the players. So between the practices and interviews, we get a lot out of it in terms of getting to know these players. It also gives us a good chance as a staff to get together and go over internal and operational items.
Chargers.com: Do you have any memories of current Chargers that made a strong impression at the Senior Bowl and put them on your radar?
Spanos: Yeah, absolutely.
Chargers.com: This is the first time Telesco and McCoy are getting a chance to work side-by-side. What’s it been like getting to see them representing the Chargers?
Spanos: It’s been great! There’s very good chemistry between them. Monday night we got together as a group, and they knew some of the scouts of course, but it was really the first chance for both of them to meet all of our scouts, for all of us to get together and go over some things. They got the chance to lay out their vision and their plan and it really fired a lot of the guys up. It got everyone excited. So it’s been great to see how they work together and how they work with our scouts.
Chargers.com: You were part of the hiring committee for both of these guys. Is this what you envisioned when the decision was made to go with Telesco and McCoy?
Spanos: Yeah, it is. One of the things we set out to do was find a GM and a coach that really work well together and have the same vision, plan, ideals and goals. We wanted them to have similar concepts in terms of how to go about reaching those goals. So I think we did a good job finding what we were looking for because so far these guys have been great working together and I’ve enjoyed working with both of them. I look forward to great things ahead.
Chargers.com: That’s very encouraging to hear. Can you give us some insight into how the interviews go for meeting with the prospects? Do Telesco and McCoy lead them?
Spanos: Actually, at this stage of it at the Senior Bowl, a lot of our interviews are run by the area scouts. Coach has been real busy. Obviously, his number one task from the day we hired him was to put together his staff. And so he’s still in the final stages of that. He’s made great progress putting together a great staff so far, but it’s not 100% complete yet. A lot of his efforts while out here have been meeting with some coaches, conducting interviews with coaches and finalizing his staff. The way it works is he will start to be more involved in the interview process come the combine. So this is really a great chance for our scouts to get to know the players and be very hands on. They sit down and lead it, so that is how the interview process works.
Chargers.com: That leads well into my next question, which is why at the Senior Bowl are the practices more important for the scouts than the game itself?
Spanos: The practice is great because you get a lot of exposure to the players. If you think about it, in just one single game, how many times are you going to get the chance to see a defensive back make a play on the ball? Some games you may be able to count it on just one hand. But if you talk about a whole week of practice, you get a lot of exposure to a player’s skill set because he’s doing drills – the individual, one-on-one, seven-on-seven, team – and all these periods of practice is great exposure for us in terms of getting to look at their individual skill set. What we call the position specifics. So practice is great exposure, we get to see a lot and it helps us get a good feel for the player. And the other thing is we can always sit down and later on watch the tape of the game. Game film is something that is always easier to go through later on.
Chargers.com: The last question I have is one the fans have been asking a lot regarding the restructuring of the organization. With your new title as Executive Vice President of Football Operations, what additional responsibilities have you acquired?
Spanos: Well, I think more of an involvement in the overall football operations. I’m still going to be doing a lot of the same day-to-day stuff with player personnel and the salary cap, but I’ll have a more hands on responsibility with the day-to-day operations. During the season in the past I mainly was travelling every week, but now in my new role with my responsibilities in the office I probably won’t be on the road quite as much in season, but I will still get out and go to a lot of colleges and do college scouting. The thing is my role in the last few years has sort of to some degree evolved a little bit each year, so it’s not going to be any sort of dramatic change. My role sort of has already been changing the last few years.