Just days away from the 2013 season opener against the Houston Texans, general manager Tom Telesco invited us into his office to discuss the Chargers 53-man roster, the start of the 2013 season and much more.
Question: So we’re less than a week away from opening night. What’s your take on the state of the team at this point in time?
Telesco: This is the next step for us. We made a lot of progress during training camp for sure, but this is the next step to see where we are as a football team. The cuts were difficult. They are hard to do, but I’m glad that they were tough decisions that had to be made because that shows the competitive level is getting better. So we saw some progress in the preseason, and we hope and expect to see progress going into the season. Just because we start opening day Monday doesn’t mean the football team stops and this is where we are for the rest of the year. We expect to keep getting better throughout the season. That’s the intent.
Question: The first major decision you made when you became general manager was signing Mike McCoy as head coach. What did you learn about him during training camp and the preseason that you may not have known?
Telesco: We knew in the interview process how detailed and prepared he was, but what we learned throughout training camp is that even though he’s detailed, prepared and focused, he can adjust on the run. And he showed that a lot during training camp. He adjusted practice schedules and how we are using players. That whole dynamic you don’t really know until you jump on the field. But he’s been great to work with.
Question: You said you planned on building the team through the draft and I believe this is the first time since 2007 that each one of the Chargers draft picks made the squad. Talk a little bit about what you’ve seen from this year’s draft class.
Telesco: The good thing about the draft class is that everything we saw in college we’re seeing here with the Chargers on our field. That’s not always necessarily the case. The big thing is you don’t want any surprises from guys when they get here. Hopefully you’ve done all your homework on the players. The draft is an inexact science. We all know that. But the six guys we drafted this year have all shown the same traits we saw in college. That’s encouraging, and now we just have to keep developing these guys. We know that rookie year is a difficult process for them all, but we’re happy with the results so far.
Question: The team also seems to have done a good job unearthing hidden talent. Two undrafted free agents made the team in
Telesco: The staff does an incredible job with their work ethic. We always say we have to turn over every rock and go the extra mile to find a player. But the other part of it is, and those three guys you named in particular, they came in with a mindset of coming in to win a job. All three of those guys did incredible jobs in the offseason program throughout training camp, practices and producing in the preseason games. So it’s a credit to those guys too to come in and win a job.
Question: You were quite busy in the aftermath of cut-down day, making four different moves. Take us through what that process was like and why you felt you had to bring these guys in?
Telesco: To cut to 53, we had some tough decisions to make even with the players we had here. But then after we made those we had to evaluate our roster and really look at where we’re going to be at game day with our 46-man dress list and where are we going to be with the roles for each individual player. It so happened that there were some players available that we thought could come in and fit right in very quickly with what we have. Some of the guys we brought in we feel can give us some depth on defense and help us on special teams. Those were two things that we saw in the preseason we wanted to try to address, and we ended up adding four players which is a little high but it is what it is. We know those guys are going to have a little bit of a learning curve these first couple weeks coming from different teams and not knowing our system yet, but we’re happy to get them into the fold.
Question: McCoy has been quite vocal about the importance of depth. When talking to fans, depth is one of the first topics on their mind as well. What are your thoughts on the depth of the team?
Telesco: We’re getting there, but I can say for 31 other teams that they’re saying the same thing. You try and build as deep a roster as you can going into training camp because as we all know, injuries happen and occur during the season. So this is an ongoing process. It was an ongoing process through training camp and it will be an ongoing process during the season. Part of that was adding a couple guys (on Sunday), and then the other part of that too is developing what we have.
Question: A lot of fans are interested in the practice squad. What was your method or reasoning in signing the players that you decided upon?
Telesco: There are a lot of different decisions that go into forming the practice squad because part of it is developing young players that will play a role in the future and part of it is that those guys are essentially backups for a lot of positions because you can only carry 53 men. The practice squad players have to be ready to go. Right now they don’t dress on game day, but at any point they could be signed so they have to prepare everyday like they’re playing. So we certainly looked at the players we had as far as resigning them to the practice squad and then looked to see who else was out there. But the practice squad typically can be a fluid situation throughout the year, and a lot of it depends on injuries to other positions. So it’s half development and half being a backup.
Question: You’ve appeared to add some solid pieces via free agency in
Telesco: When we signed them we thought they had both the on-the-field traits we were looking for and off-the-field they would fit in with the culture we’re building here. So that’s why we brought them in. They’re all going to have big roles for us. But we don’t look at them as free agents anymore; they’re Chargers now. Right now it’s about getting the core of our team ready. It’s a long, grueling season so when the real bullets start flying Monday night, it’s about figuring out everybody’s roles. This isn’t the preseason anymore.
Question: Finally, you’ve been a general manager now going on nine months. What’s been the most rewarding part of the experience?
Telesco: I love being on a team. It’s fun working with people toward one common goal, and that’s to win games. I enjoy working with the coaching staff, working with Mike McCoy obviously and working with everyone in the front office. Being on a team and the camaraderie and the accountability that’s needed and everybody working toward that one common goal, it’s fun to be a part of that. To be a part of the leadership and leading people is one of the biggest perks of the job.