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Tom Telesco: Our goal here is to create a culture and a foundation for consistent winning

Posted Jan 9, 2013

Tom Telesco addresses the media at his introductory press conference.

General Manager Tom Telesco

Opening statement:

“This is a very, very exciting day for myself and my family. I want to start off by saying thank you to not only Dean (Spanos), but to the entire Spanos family. Meeting with Dean this week, John Spanos, Ed McGuire and Ron Wolf, we spent a lot of time talking the last six or seven days. They wore me out. It was a long, thorough and really detailed interview each time that we’ve met. But the process has been great. The feeling that I’ve gotten from the organization is exactly what I’ve always wanted and always what I’ve been looking for. One of the real attractions of this job is the family atmosphere that the Spanoses have already shown to me in the Chargers organization. So with my wife, our three kids and myself, we’re really excited to be a part of this community and this passionate fan-base that I’ve seen from the outside looking in when I was with the Colts playing you guys. But I just can’t wait to get to work here in San Diego. Really quickly, I would like to thank the Colts, Jim Irsay, the Irsay family and the whole Colts organization. We spent 15 years there of my career. We had great success there on and off the field. It’s where our kids were born. I can’t say enough about what they’ve done for my career, both professionally and personally. It was where I developed and learned my craft from people there who are some of the best GM’s and coaches in football in my opinion. My experience in Indianapolis was invaluable. I wouldn’t be in this spot right now if it weren’t for the guidance, the mentoring and the support of Bill Polian, Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell and with this past year, Chuck Pagano. I can’t thank that organization enough for what they’ve done for me. But we’re here now and there’s a great history with this Chargers organization. Our goal here is to create a culture and a foundation for consistent winning. We’re going to get there. We want to win on the field, but we want to make a difference off of it too. I don’t think that we should lose sight of that. One of the common themes of ownership, front office, coaching staff, scouts, all the way down, we all have one common vision in this whole thing and we need to work together to achieve that. That would be the common theme here. As far as philosophy-wise, we’re going to be a draft-driven organization. That’s going to be our main focus. It will be home-grown, if you use baseball terminology for that. Our main focus will be the draft. We will use free-agency to supplement the roster, to complement it if that works, personality-wise, team-wise and economic-wise, if the talent equals the dollars. But we’re going to look at every possible angle to add to player acquisitions to this team, so we’re looking at the draft—which is our main focus—free agency, trades and college free-agents—which are a big part of what we’ll do here—and we’re going to look at the waiver wire 365 days a year to give our coaching staff the best players to help us win and to ultimately get that Super Bowl we all want. With that, our first order of business is to find a head coach of the San Diego Chargers. We’ve already started working on that. I had a list of candidates, which I’m not going to get into specifically, but I have a list and did some research. The interview committee had a list that they had researched and luckily our lists are almost the same, so we’re already ahead of the game there. But as soon as we’re done here, we’ll probably get right back to the meeting room and start looking at the head coaching list. The second order of business for me is to get to know the people here, get to know the staff and to get to know the roster better. I’m sure you all have questions about the roster now, but I’ll tell you right up front, I just got here, so I’m working through it. But I know this roster as an outsider. We didn’t play the Chargers this year and we didn’t have a whole lot of cross-games through the division, but I know it as an outsider. I don’t know it as the GM of this team yet. As we get new coaching staff in, we can meet with them to decide what kind of team that we’ll be running with offense, defense and special teams. As I get more into the tape, I’ll have a better feel for where we are right now. I was actually looking at some tape this morning, so I started that. But it’s going to be a little bit of a process to try and get my head around this because I’ve been working with the Indianapolis Colts all the way through the middle of last week, actually right up until this morning, to be honest with you.”

On whether or not this team is a season or two away from making the playoffs:

“It’s hard to tell because I haven’t had a chance to sit down and really go through the roster. I looked at a couple of games. There were some games where the players weren’t in them because of injuries, so I still have a lot of work to do to know this roster. We don’t even know who our head coach is right now, or assistant coaches or what we’re going to run in all three phases. When we put that all together, I’ll have a better understanding of where I think we need to be.”

On why it is important to get homegrown talent here:

“We get so much information on the draft process for almost 13 months. So for 13 months we’re working on these college players. We watch them on tape, we watch them in practice, we watch them live, we talk to their coaches, we do psychological, we do medical and we have all this information. When you look at free agency, you don’t have any of that. All you see is what you see on tape. You don’t have that intimate feeling of what the guy really is. You can’t interview him, so in the draft process, we draft and then develop, so we need a coaching staff that can teach young players and then hopefully these guys grow in your program. A college player will grow in it. A lot of times, a guy coming in off the street will have to adapt to what you already have. Sometimes they can adapt, sometimes they can’t. But that’s a college-driven focus.”

On the parameters of what is important for the head coaching search:

“As far as the head coach, there’s no parameter as far as head coaching experience. No head coaching experience on either side of the ball. No parameters there. We’re looking for a good teacher, a coach who can communicate, not only with the fans, but with us and with the players. We’re looking for a leader. The head coach is basically the CEO of the players and the coaching staff. It is a big operation. It doesn’t matter to me where he comes from, whether it’s offense or defense or not.”

On his experience with Bruce Arians and any discussion with him about becoming head coach and if he will let the head coach pick his assistants:

“As far as the assistant coaches, yes, the head coach will have a say on who he wants on his staff. In regards to Bruce Arians, we just got finished playing a playoff game on Sunday and we were all Colts, all the way through. I’ve had no discussions with him on anything of the future. It was all Colts-based.”

On the intangibles he took away from working with Bill Polian:

“Everything I’ve learned in how to build a football roster and a football organization is from Bill. In my mind, he’s a hall of famer. He gave me opportunities and responsibilities early on at a younger age when he probably didn’t have to. He is one of the best a team has ever seen. Not only football but any team sport as far as a team-builder. I have a lot of the same philosophies. Our personalities are probably different. We came up different ways a little bit. He had a coaching background. Everybody does their own thing but as far as a philosophy, a lot of what I have learned from Bill is what I believe today.”

On what point during the interview process he realized he was going to be the main candidate:

“I never count my chickens before they hatch. Until they offered me the job, I kept telling my wife to relax, we will find out eventually. I was always planning if I get the job, this is what I’m going to do. In my head I was thinking I always had it because I’m a big planner. I’m always prepared. In this business you can’t be over-prepared. In my head I was planning what we need to do right off the bat. As far as when I thought I had it, it wasn’t until they said, ‘hey look, we want you to be our general manager.’”

On why the Chargers chose him now:

“Maybe that is a question for Dean. I was lucky enough to work for an organization where we had a lot of success. We had a standard that we worked with that I know works. We saw it work. It worked with the Carolina Panthers and it worked with the Buffalo Bills. We had a plan in place that I know works. There have been a lot of tweaks to that plan over the last 20 years. I’ve also had the chance to do a wide range of things. I started at the very bottom and up until last year, worked up to the number two position. I’ve seen all different angles in the organization from the bottom up.”

On the success he was able to have with the Colts and all of the roster turnover:

“It happened in 1998 when we first got to the Colts. I was a college scout then so I wasn’t as involved. It was the same thing. We were 2-14 and you have to turn the whole thing over. This year it was the same thing. We had players that fit an old scheme. You can’t turn over a roster in one year. You have to pick and choose your spots. It was a daily grind, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays when you make all of your transactions. I joked two or three times on a Tuesday that we had not made more than 10 transactions since I’ve been here then the next Tuesday I would make 11, just in one day. It is a lot of turnover but that is why you have a scouting staff. I know that’s why our guys in Indianapolis, our pro scouts and college scouts, did a wonderful job of knowing what is out there, fine tuning for us, giving us the right names. It takes work.”

On his relationship with Jimmy Raye and what he might have to offer here in the future:

“I do know him a little bit. I do not know a lot. I do know one thing, I absolutely positively would love him back. One of the first things today or tomorrow is to talk to him and see. But absolutely, I would love to have him back.”

On lying about his age, if he is really 25-years-old:

“Someone else just said that on the way over. I’m 40 years old. I’m getting a little bit of gray hair though, on the sides.”

On interviewing anywhere else this year:

“I did not this year, no. I had some opportunities, yes. Like I said, from the first time I talked to John (Spanos) on the phone and I had a chance to meet with them in person, I just felt this was the right fit. We were in such a great spot in Indianapolis. We had been there a long time and got comfortable. In this business it’s hard to get comfortable in one spot. I was there for 15 years. I loved the people there. They have a great young team coming up. It wasn’t like I was actively looking to leave. Once I spoke with Dean, John and Ed, Ed McGuire has been great through all of this, and Ron Wolf, I just knew this was it.”

On how much having an established quarterback (Philip Rivers) helped with his decision:

“It is certainly nice. I’ve seen him up close. I’ve seen him beat us more than once. I can’t wait to meet him moving forward. Sure having Philip Rivers is certainly a big part of it.”

On the draw to the team besides Philip Rivers and the Spanos family, and how hard it was to sell the position to his wife:

“Well this is San Diego. That makes it an easy start right there. As far as the team, it’s not so much the team because we have a lot of work to do to get this where it needs to go. Really it came down to two things: one, the ownership certainly. That was the major thing. Second, I’m from Buffalo and it is a passionate fan base for football. I always felt here, we played a lot of games here, I’ve been in town, I advance scouted here a lot when we were going to play the Chargers. This is a rapid, passionate fan base for football. Those two factors really nailed me, more so than where the team is now. We have some work to do, there’s no doubt about it.”

On an outsider’s perspective of the Chargers organization:

“Like I said, I haven’t had a chance to really know what happened this year but from an outsiders’ perspective when I was with the Colts, we had a lot of problems with San Diego. I always had a very high opinion of this team. Obviously the opinion of ownership is top shelf, but until you really get here team-wise to really see what we have, it is hard to tell right now.”

On having trouble figuring out the Chargers when he worked for the Colts:

“They had a lot of talented players. The one game that sticks out is the game that Billy Volek came in (2007 Divisional Playoffs) and we thought we had them and then Michael Turner came down and ran for 80 (yards) to seal the game. They had good teams. When you get into the playoffs everybody is good. One mistake here, one mistake there, that may finish it. It is just a lot of talent.”

On having a lot of discussion between drafting Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck for the Colts:

“We will leave that for a different day. We could be here a long time talking about that. We were extremely ecstatic to have Andrew Luck.”

Closing statement at the podium:

“Well thanks. Like I said, I can’t wait to get started. We will get to work right now. I’m probably going to stay in town and have my wife send some clothes so we can get this head coach search underway. We are going to work, myself and the staff will work extremely hard to make this city proud of this football team. Thank you very much.”

On the emotion when they cleaned house in Indianapolis:

“In this business it is funny. It is hard. You become a little immune to it because it happens so often. You work so long and hard with the people in the building because there is so much time that goes into this job, your relationships with people are tight. It is hard to see people go. We also know that this is part of the business and what we sign up for.”

On what he learned the most from Bill Polian:

“We could be here all day on that one. I couldn’t even limit it to one. The one thing that he probably (taught me), he listens to people. Even with my 25-year-old scout. If I have a good opinion on a player, he will listen. He is not one of those micro-managers that it’s his way or no way. Despite what people might think. He has been a great listener as long as you back up what you have.”

On being amazed at how the team has decayed over the last few years:

“No, you know what? Every team goes through cycles. We went through a cycle in Indianapolis and every team does. You can’t stay up forever. Am I shocked? No, it just happens sometimes. That’s the way sports are. Not just football, but all sports.”

On his first priority has general manager:

“We need to find a head coach. That is number one. We are already working on that. Like I said, our lists are pretty similar which is great. We are a little bit ahead of the game. But first and foremost is to find a head coach, get the assistant coaches in order, decide what  we are going to run offensively and defensively, then go from there.”

On working with Bruce Arians and the job that he did filling in this year:

“He did an amazing job in Indianapolis.”

On how long the process will be for finding a head coach:

“There is no timetable on it. It is one of those where you want to get moving quickly but you don’t want to rush it either. We are a little bit into the process but there is no timetable on it now.”

On what he is looking forward to about having this position:

“I haven’t even thought about that yet. I like to lead. I like to build relationships with people. I’m really looking forward to meeting their scouts and get their ideas. There is no one way to scout. If I’m working for the Colts, I can’t call the Chargers and say, ‘how do you guys handle this situation.’ I’m looking forward to hearing some different points of view. Whether I agree with it or not, I love hearing it. If it is constructive criticism too, to try and pull some things from what they had here that worked well. I’m looking forward to meeting the people here and working with the scouts and getting a feel from everybody.”

On any surprise questions he got from the interview committee in the interview process:

“No but it was a long process. We were still playing at the time when I first interviewed with them. It was kind of going back and forth between jobs. Not one question, but it was extremely, extremely detailed all the way through.”

On his experience going from the bottom to the top helping run the organization:

“I think when you have seen all levels of the organization, you know what everyone is going through. I know what the guy that is driving the players back and forth from the hotel to the facility feels like. I’ve done that before. I think that is important that you see it at all different levels. I know what the college scouts go through when they are on the road by themselves scouting players. I’ve been through that already. I know what they are going through and I think that helps build relationships too.”

On his first experience at Carolina as a scout:

“That is where I really learned how to scout. I had a scouting director named Dom (Anile), who was an old-school scout. He taught me everything from how to make a schedule, to how to talk about the players, to how to write up the players. That is kind of where I started to form my basis of how to scout. I had been in football, I had played football, but I hadn’t scouted before. It was completely new to me.”

On his relationship with 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman:

“He is a good friend of mine. He is a good coach and I wish them well this weekend.”

On the importance of a GM and head coach to share the same philosophy:

“It has to be a partnership. That is what it is. You are with them all day long. You are making decisions all throughout the day. It is really a partnership and you have to have a good relationship with that person.”

On how many meetings he had with the Chargers and how many hours the entire process took:

“We met face to face three times. I talked on the phone a little bit. I wouldn’t know the hours but it seemed like forever to me.”

On speaking to Chuck Pagano about San Diego:

“Nothing specifically about San Diego other than John (Pagano) being here. I miss the heck out of those guys. We really formed a great bond in Indianapolis this year and it is a tough place to leave.”

On the Colts giving him permission to take anyone with him:

“That is something I haven’t even thought about yet.”

On the process of evaluating current free agents on the roster and who they will offer an extended contract:

“After we get the head coach and assistant coaches hired and see what we are running, that is when we start going through who we have, if they fit or if they don’t fit talent-wise and money-wise. Those discussions are all coming up soon. I will talk to the guys here that know them really well. Obviously I’ve got my opinion too from the outside, which is not bad to have an objective opinion on tape. That is what we will do moving forward after the head coach is hired.”

On where and when he learned that he will get this opportunity:

“Just this morning in one of the conference rooms. I got lost already.”

On having a top candidate for the coaching search:

“No top candidate but I have a list of people I want to talk to. Until you interview them you don’t really know what they are. I want to start that soon.”

On his availability to the media and the fans:

“The head coach is the face of the franchise but I will be visible when I need to be visible. I’m not going to shy away from anyone. It all depends on the situations. This is my first time doing this too so I don’t have a real good answer of how that will play out.”

On what he has heard about San Diego on a personal level and the fan base:

“Your stadium is loud. It is a tough place to play football-wise. City-wise I spent a lot of time scouting here. Other than getting stuck in the Holiday Bowl parade traffic every year when I came in, everything here has been great. It is a wonderful city and I can’t wait to get my family out here to see it.”

On the best advice he’s ever received:

“Just try and relax and take it all in. This is a little bit of a whirlwind. I’ve done a lot of different things in this business but this would not be one of them, talking with you guys. I’ve done a couple pre-draft press conferences, but nothing like this. You just have to lean on people. I have a lot of people support-wise.”

On anything else he can do besides winning to get the fans engaged again:

“We just have to win. We have to plan to get there. Hopefully they will see the process we are working through to get there. We are going to hire the right head coach but we have to win.”

On what they were able to do in Indianapolis to get to the playoffs:

“We had a great coaching staff. Between Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians, they did an outstanding job. We drafted well, taught the guys well, the coaches did a great job getting the guys ready and the guys really played with a purpose. They played for Chuck and everyone just gelled. It worked.”

On specifics of his vision and plan:

“I think I already covered this but as far as vision, we are all going to work together; front office, coaching, assistant coaches, all the way down it will be one common theme. It is a draft-and-develop philosophy, but we will use all angles to clear a player. We will go into free agency if that works. In Indianapolis last year we had guys from the Arena League, the indoor league, the CFL, waiver claims, trades, anything we could try to do to better our roster. I want to do the same thing here. I want to be aggressive with it.”

On additional responsibilities he took on when he became vice president last year:

“It was mostly the same job responsibilities except with the new general manager. It was not that much different to be honest with you. We used to have three people in the office then we had two. Maybe it was a couple extra things.”

On how active he will be in regards to keeping Jimmy Raye:

“I went through his process last year. I’ve gone through this transition a year ago. The same thing happened to me. I’m going to talk to him soon and hope we can keep him.”


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