General Manager Tom Telesco is a very busy man, yet he took an hour out of his day Monday to talk with those at the forefront of the San Diego sports world at the Hall of Champions. While the Hall has guest speakers once a month, those in attendance praised Telesco for his honest and frank assessment of the Chargers, his philosophies and general thoughts on the NFL.
“He was fantastic,” said legendary basketball Hall of Famer and San Diego native Bill Walton. “His presentation was inspirational, informational, educational and entertaining. His ability to crystalize his process was fascinating, especially talking about the draft process. What the draft is about is building the future. It encompasses the choices you make in your life and is a crucial part of sports business, which is what all of us here today have chosen to do with our lives. So it was fantastic hearing the business lessons that he puts into his decisions for our flagship franchise. It was critical.”
Here are some of the highlights from the general manager’s chat at the Hall of Champions.
* Telesco’s first order of business was hiring Mike McCoy, and the general manager gave his two cents on the Bolts’ head coach:
“The players really respond to him, and that’s half the battle. Last year, at the beginning of the season we played well and other weeks we didn’t. It was very up and down. We got to the point where we were 5-7 and the players kept listening to Mike. They didn’t listen to the outside world saying, ‘I know they are mathematically in the playoff hunt but they’re not going to make it. They’re not good enough.’ The players listened to Mike’s message all the way through, and then late in the year we played really good football and went to the playoffs. I think the biggest thing is the players all know what he expects out of them. There is no grey area.”
* While both are important in building a team, Telesco reiterated his belief in building through the draft while supplementing the roster through free agency.
He is big on developing players within the system:
“I’d much rather have players that we take, get into our system, we develop them and they are Chargers. And then we re-sign our own guys. They know the culture and what we expect. That being said, you still have to go out and sign some guys in free agency. But if I had a choice between the two, I would take the draft first.”
* Telesco went into the 2014 draft with two goals in mind – to infuse more speed and athletic ability into the roster.
He believes the Bolts accomplished just that with their six draft choices, who were all players the front office targeted heading into the draft.
* Jason Verrett
fits all the qualities he looks for in a Charger both on and off the field.
Simply put, he “plays football the way we like it to be played.”
The high-energy cornerback is quick, fast and performs with a “bounce” to him.
* Jerry Attaochu
was a prospect the team was very high on and weren’t going to risk being selected before the Bolts were on the clock in the second round.
Thus, it was a no-brainer for Telesco to trade up to secure the energetic linebacker since “quality is better than quantity”.
The GM says it is a position that takes time to master, but it is imperative to find guys who can rush the passer.
* Third-round selection Chris Watt
was an “unsexy” pick that will infuse youth to the offensive line.
The Chargers were the oldest team in the NFL when Telesco was hired, but under his leadership have gotten younger.
The GM lauds Watt’s ability to “block the guy in front of him and block him pretty well.”
* Telesco praised Ryan Carrethers
as a wide bodied nose tackle who was highly productive in college.
In the NFL, he is expected to eat up blockers to allow Donald Butler
and Manti Te’o to get after people.
The GM believes the fifth round selection has a bright future and is happy to have him in this system.
* In the sixth round the Bolts added Marion Grice
, a running back who Telesco calls an all-around back.
The Chargers are happy with the crop of running backs they have, but he noted that you can never have too many players at that position.
Telesco also said Grice will get a look at returning kicks on special teams.
* With their final pick the Chargers selected Tevin Reese
, who Telesco noted can flat out fly.
When he gets past a defender he is hard to defend.
The general manager said McCoy is very innovative and will find ways to utilize weapons such as Reese.
* Telesco believes this year’s crop of undrafted rookie free agents is really talented.
There are a number of players that will compete very hard for roster spots and contributing roles on the 53 man roster.
* Many asked about the offensive line and Telesco was quick to laud them for their performance in 2013.
In fact, they finished in the top five in fewest sacks allowed.
A key to their success was offensive line coaches Joe D’Alessandris and Andrew Dees cross training each player at every position, which proved beneficial when the unit was hit hard by injuries during the season.
* Telesco praised the job Jeremy Clary did in his first year at right guard, saying “he is one of the toughest guys physically and mentality on the football team.
He plays winning football at right guard.”
* Asked about what went into the decision to sign Kellen Clemens
as Philip Rivers
’ back up, Telesco said he liked what he saw out of the quarterback when he was thrust into action a year ago. “Kellen played well last year in St. Louis when he had to go in and play.
I’m really happy to have him as our backup quarterback having played recently and seen him play.”