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One-on-One: Gm Tom Telesco Talks Draft, Off Season Workouts, Free Agency and More
In the midst of free agency, preparing for his first NFL Draft as a GM and getting ready for next week’s ‘phase one’ of the offseason program, Chargers GM Tom Telesco doesn’t find himself with much free time on his hands. Still, he sat down with Chargers.com to answer a few questions in hopes of providing an all-encompassing update for the fans.
Chargers.com: We just began the third week of free agency. What is your general feeling on how it has gone so far?
Telesco: We’re happy to add a bunch of players who will fit a nice role for us.
We got Derek Cox; a tall, athletic, aggressive corner that we think can match up well with the big receivers in our division. Oakland, Denver and Kansas City have some big receivers, so we’re happy to get Derek in here.
Then there’s John Phillips, a tight end we’re excited about. In Dallas he was Jason Witten’s complementary tight end. He did all the dirty work. He was a lunch pail guy around the line of scrimmage. He is a really good run blocker and a pass blocker. You can move him around in the backfield. He has really good hands, is smart and is tough. He’s a guy we’re excited to have in our program and he’s going to fit really well in (Head Coach) Mike McCoy’s system. He’s been really well coached in Dallas. John Garrett, Jason Garrett’s brother, was his position coach, and the Garrett family is a fundamentally sound coaching family. So he was really well coached at Dallas. So I think he’s going to fit a nice role in our offense.
And then there are the offensive line guys we picked up. They will increase our depth and provide some competition at spots that we needed some help in. So we accomplished those goals.
Chargers.com: Since you got hired, it seems like every few weeks there is a milestone marked by a new first for you. Monday is the start of phase one of the offseason program. For those unfamiliar with what goes on, can you give us a short description of what goes on during it and what you hope to accomplish?
Telesco: Well, phase one is really the first chance our coaches can start meeting with the players. We have a whole new offense to install, so that will start on Monday, April 1st. And on defense, there will be some changes on defense and some adjustments and tweaks. It may not be the exact same defense as last year so there will be room to grow there. But overall for the coaches it will be the first time to get their hands on the players. Now, we can’t go out on the field and do anything yet, so a lot of the work will be with our strength and conditioning coaches. They will get a chance to work with the guys in the weight room and conditioning on the field as far as running. But overall it’s a chance to get our team together. We haven’t been able to do that yet. It’s been a dead period so Monday is going to be exciting to see some guys around the building, interacting with each other and starting to feel like it’s a team again.
Chargers.com: Usually it’s the new free agents that have to learn a playbook coming to a new team, but it sounds like this year the whole team will have to be doing that.
Telesco: I guess with a new head coach things are going to be different for everybody. So for even the guys that have been here for a while, even on defense where things may not be as different as offense, it’s a new head coach so there will be a lot of different changes. There will be a lot of different nuances this year that everyone will have to get used to. Eventually we will have 90 guys on the roster for training camp, and all 90 guys are going to have to get used to Mike McCoy and how he runs the program.
Chargers.com: You talked about strength and conditioning. How important is it to get the team into a regulated program led by our new strength and conditioning coaches Kent Johnston and Rick Lyle? How hands on can they be during this process?
Telesco: Phase one is their time. There are no practices on the field, no footballs on the field and no coaching on the field. It’s all just strength and conditioning. This is their time. This is their hands on time. Kent has been in this league for a very long time and came very highly recommended. The feedback I’ve gotten already from some of the guys working out on their own, they’ve been happy with him and he’s been really good. And Rick, he’s played in this league. He’s got a great presence about him. So I’m excited about our new strength staff. We’ve also added new equipment to our weight room and changed it around a bit, so the players will see that. So I’m excited about the team getting to work with these guys.
Chargers.com: Changing gears a bit, arguably the biggest event of the NFL offseason is the NFL Draft. With less than a month to go until the big day, where are you and your scouts in terms of your preparation?
Telesco: Right now the scouts are all on the road attending workouts at pro days and are still gathering information. Most of our information is done in terms of playing ability which all took place in the fall. But right now they are getting measurable data and background information. They are also talking to college coaches about players. That will finish up at the end of March. April will be a lot of meeting time. We’ve already met on all of these players once, but we’ll meet again and go over each of them. The month of April is for a lot of talking. We’ll go through a bunch of scenarios and players. We may tweak a guy here or there, but our rankings are pretty much done and now it’s a lot of decision making.
Chargers.com: That kind of leads into my next question. You and your scouts compile so much information on each player; to me it almost seems overwhelming. How do you determine what information becomes a bigger piece of the pie when evaluating a prospect? In essence, what information is most valuable?
Telesco: It’s just experience really of what you’ve done in the past. Because you’re right, there is so much information you can’t possibly use it all. So we’ll scale it down to the information that we think will fit the San Diego Chargers. A lot of that is based on prior experience and the way we’ve worked in the past and how we’ve done it. There are also some things Mike has done in the past that lead us to laser focus and narrow it down to the things that are important to us, and we’ll make our decisions off that.
Chargers.com: A lot of fans are interested in draft day trades. What is your philosophy on them? Are you more interested in trading back for more picks, or trading up to acquire someone or is it a case-by-case basis?
Telesco: It’s a strictly unique case by case situation for almost every pick. A lot of times the board will tell you what you need to do. I’m not averse to having to trade up to get a guy if that’s what I have to do. I’ll make that decision if I have to and I’ll go do it. In other situations there will be cases where you can move back and accumulate some picks and still get a player that you like. And sometimes you just stay put. In every round, the pick is a unique circumstance. I certainly don’t have a philosophy of always trying to trade back or trade up. Where I’ve worked in the past we’ve done all three. So it’s really a case by case decision.
Chargers.com: Is there any draft day trade from your time with the Indianapolis Colts that you’re particularly proud of?
Telesco: Well I know last year, (Colts General Manager) Ryan Grigson made a trade where we really liked T.Y. Hilton. We thought maybe he’d get to us but we weren’t sure, so we decided to trade up into the third round to get him. You never know if someone would have taken him in front of you, but sometimes you just have to be aggressive and go do it. There was another time where Bob Sanders was our guy. He was the guy we wanted to take, but we felt we could move down and still get him. So (former Colts General Manager) Bill Polian traded down I believe twice in the first round and we still were able to pick him and accumulate picks. So there’s all different ways to do it. But like I said, it really comes down to the board telling you what you need to do.
Chargers.com: Finally, one of your major messages when you got hired was that you wanted to build this team through the draft. What is it about building through the draft that you find most important?
Telesco: When you build through the draft, once you get the players into your program they grow and develop in your program how you want it done. That’s the big thing with the draft. You pick exactly who you think fits for you, and you develop them in your culture. That’s what I really like about the draft.