General Manager Tom Telesco addressed the media on Wednesday, kicking off with a message to those that are dear to his heart.
Like the rest of the Chargers organization, Telesco was wowed by the tremendous support of the team all year long, particularly over the final five weeks of the season.
“The support (the fans) showed us this year was just incredible and it’s what I envisioned before I got here of what San Diego was going to be like,” he said. “The last five weeks here, the support has just been incredible. The amount of people that would show up at the complex here when we came back from games was great. The Cincinnati game and the Denver game, the amount of people that were in Denver, not only at the game but at the hotel, I’ve never seen that type of support before. The passion of people when we arrived at the hotel, the amount of people that were there, and about the same amount of people were there when we were leaving to go to the game on game day to get on the busses. It’s not something that you see in this league very often. So that was just great to see and hopefully this is building for the future. So I just wanted to thank the fans for their support this year.”
For the better part of 30 minutes, Telesco then addressed numerous topics about the 2013 squad as well as his plans for the offseason preparing for 2014. Here are a handful of the highlights and notable topics from the general manager’s address:
- His goals this offseason include adding speed on offense, improving defensively on third down, creating more turnovers and finding a dangerous return man on special teams:
“I think offensively we can probably infuse some speed. The more weapons we can give Philip (Rivers) the better. Defensively, one thing we have to do better is get off the field on third down and create some turnovers, which we started to do late in the year. In the beginning of the year we had a hard time creating turnovers. Special Teams-wise it would be nice to add a return game with some dynamic ability there. There are two guys here who we have pretty high hopes for in
Kerwynn Williamsand Tobais Palmer, who were two of the better returners in college last year when they came out. So let’s see what they have.”
- Telesco is particularly proud of the identity Head Coach Mike McCoy instilled in the team:
“Let’s face it – last year at this time and even in training camp we had no identity. We were brand new and nobody knew what to expect. And early on in the season you could tell we had an identity. They all took Mike’s message and ran with it… I think what we saw this year was for whatever we are or are not, we are physically and mentally tough, and are a gritty team with a lot of resolve. You saw that from game one all the way through to the Denver game. Guys never gave up no matter what the circumstances. We won nine games and the seven we lost I think they were probably all one score games, other than maybe the Oakland game up there. It's probably rare to go through a year where it happens like that. I think we saw that the effort, grittiness and toughness every week was there and that is hard to find sometimes."
- He noted that what some of the team’s draft choices were able to do this year was pretty special:
“The guys did a great job. It’s hard for rookies to come in and contribute their first year, especially on a long season. These guys, they fought through that wall. Rookies tend to hit a wall around thanksgiving, more of a mental wall than physical, but the guys fought through it. Without some of those young guys, we wouldn’t be where we were at the end of the year. All in all, they all contributed heavily.”
- Entering his second year, Telesco would like to keep the core of the team together:
“It’s important. We want to keep the core of this team together. When I arrived here last year there was already a great core of players here that we inherited and we’re very lucky to have. You have to have those guys to teach the rookies and the young guys the right and wrong way to do things. A lot of it is taught as far as preparations and what you need to do to be a pro.”
- Telesco considers the team “lucky” to have promoted Frank Reich to offensive coordinator, listing a number of reasons for the teams confidence in him:
“We are very fortunate that Frank’s on our staff right now (and) that we could appoint him. Frank’s been a big part of this process this year. Obviously (we were) very disappointed to lose Ken (Whisenhunt), but we knew this year, if we had some success, there was a really good chance he was going to end up as a head coach somewhere. So this was something that we had planned for. Mike had planned for this from probably the day we hired Ken. So we’re very lucky to have Frank here and Frank’s going to do a great job. I have all the confidence in the world in him to come in here and put a little bit of his stamp on the offense too. It gives us continuity, number one, and it gives us Frank’s intelligence.”
- A key factor to the team’s success according to Telesco was President Dean Spanos and all that he provides the front office and entire football team:
“It’s tremendous (working with him). He’s a great guiding factor, especially for someone like me (because) it’s my first time doing this. You can’t win in this league without strong ownership. Ownership to me is much more than just paying the players, paying the coaches and paying the support staff. It’s the leadership he brings. He brings great perspective. We make a lot of decisions here in quick time, and Dean has been in the league for a long time so he knows how things work. It’s great to bounce ideas off of. He gives great give and take. He’s been great guidance for us. It’s nice having him here every day. We wouldn’t be able to do this without him. The support he gives us has been unconditional. It’s been tremendous.”
- His plan right now is to bring
Dwight Freeneyback as the team monitors his recovery from tearing his quad in Week 4 against the Dallas Cowboys and has been rehabbing since:
“He’s under contract, so that’s the plan and we’ll continue to monitor his injury. There’s nothing really to update with it right now, but it was a pretty major injury he has so we’ll continue to watch that and see where it goes.”
- Inside linebacker
Donald Butleris a free agent, and Telesco said he would most likely begin working toward a new contract with him after the Super Bowl:
“We’ll start working on that probably after the Super Bowl. We’ve been in contact with them but I’ve enjoyed watching Donald play this year and I’ve enjoyed watching his growth. I remember just watching him, he played at Notre Dame his senior year with University of Washington, they lost in overtime. It was a great game and I came away from that game really liking a couple guys. He was one of them and I’ve been able to kind of follow his career from afar here and then, (and) now here this year. I’ve enjoyed watching him. He’s a great guy to have around. A good football player. He played some really good football late in the year this year. So hopefully he likes the direction this team’s going and hopefully he wants to be here, so we’ll see where that goes.”
- One of many youngsters who caught his eye was
“Ladarius does give us some of that big play ability. With that long stride, it's deceiving how fast he really is. He can run away from defensive backs and has made some big plays for us this year. I know he had that drop in the Denver game and I don't remember having another drop all year. He had a good year for us and he is coming along as a blocker. He's not the biggest body in the world, but he gets in there and fights with people. He definitely has a role moving forward.”
- While he wouldn’t say he was “surprised” by
Keenan Allen, he did acknowledge that what the receiver was able to do was unique:
“I don't know if surprise is the right word. I think you saw with Keenan Allen in training camp why it's such a hard position to come in and play right away. There are moments where he looked like the Keenan Allen we see right now and there were moments he looks like he has a long way to go. That is normal for that position. Don't forget he came out early as a junior too, so he is very young. Other than the quarterback position, that may be the hardest position to come in and play as a young player, because there are so many adjustments you have to know on the run. There is the play when you leave the huddle and then you look at the coverage and see where everyone is. Then Philip may change the play and they may change the coverage. There is a lot of mental thinking that goes on. Keenan picked it up pretty quick once the season got going. It's a difficult spot to be in, but he obviously really stepped up for us this year."
- Telesco is encouraged by the development of Manti Te’o:
"We are very pleased with his development. Everyone knows he got set back a little with the foot injury. He got his feet wet, learned on the run and the great thing is we saw positive steps every week. I can't remember where it was during the season, but it got to the point where three or four weeks in a row, you saw bigger steps every week. He ended up playing maybe a little bit over 50 percent of the snaps this year and ended up with over 60 tackles. Do the math. That's pretty good. I think he is one guy, with the position he plays, in a full offseason, I think we will probably see a big jump from him from his freshman to his sophomore year here. I am pleased with his development. He developed the way a normal rookie would. Put it that way. What D. J. (Fluker) and Keenan did was a little more uncommon."
- Speaking of
D.J. Fluker, he also raved about his first-round draft choice:
“(His emotion) is the first thing that jumps out with him even before we ever talked to him. You just put on his college tape and you see the same thing you guys saw this year. You’ve got a play 30 yards downfield and he’s sprinting behind it just to pick up a block just in case. You see him flying over piles and popping up off the ground and sprinting back to the huddle. He’s 330 pounds. Usually they are trying to gain a breath and take a walk back, but he plays with so much enthusiasm and it rubs off on everybody else. When you got a chance to talk to him, that’s real. It’s a real passion and it rubs off on people. He’s a fun guy. Usually linemen are not fun to watch. They just do their job and grind it out, but he is a guy that’s fun to watch.”