Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco held his year-end press conference Thursday morning.
Here are five takeaways from Telesco's 45-minute session:
1. Recapping the season
Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco just completed his 10th season in charge.
And while it's not the first time he's had to endure a playoff loss, Telesco noted that the Bolts Wild Card loss Saturday was a tough one to stomach.
"Disappointing end to the season, obviously, losing in the playoffs. 10-7 going into the playoffs, feeling pretty good that we can make a run," Telesco said. "To lose in the opening week — any playoff loss is painful, but losing in the first round is difficult. Then, the manner in which we lost, just stings a little bit more.
"The only thing worse than a loss is when you have that feeling that you let people down," Telesco added. "We have around 200 people in this organization, football and non-football, and we're all representing them on the field. We just didn't play our best when the best was needed, especially in the second half."
Much like Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley did Wednesday at his own year-end press conference, Telesco said he certainly feels the passion and support from the Bolts fan base.
But as the 2023 offseason looms, Telesco said he's excited to get to work.
"Our fan base, they're dying for a championship, just like we are, so you have that little feeling of letting people down," Telesco said. "I will say this, our current team of players and our coaches, they are really mentally tough people, and that's not by accident, that's intentional. Those are the type of people that we bring in here.
"It's important to us because you have to be able to withstand these types of situations, especially leading into an offseason," Telesco added. "That's what we're going to work on this offseason. We're going to lick our wounds a little bit here, and then rise and fight again. We have a whole offseason to figure out how we're going to do that."
2. Strong connection with Staley
One person Telesco will undoubtedly work close with in the coming months is Staley.
The two central figures in leadership roles will put their heads together on plenty of topics, but Telesco said Thursday that he expects to see even more synergy between the two as they enter Year 3 together.
"Any time that you work with somebody, the longer that you work with them, the smoother and more efficient that it is," Telesco said. "We see things similarly, most times — you don't want to it to be 100 percent of the time, you need to have some give-and-take and some counterarguments. But I really enjoy working with him."
Staley has gone 19-15 in the regular season in his first two years and helped guide the Chargers to their first playoff appearance in four seasons in 2022.
Telesco said Thursday that the entire organization is behind the 40-year-old head coach.
"Our belief in Brandon hasn't changed," Telesco said. "He has our belief, our players believe in him. You've been around him, he's a tremendous leader, he's detail-oriented and he's a fighter.
"That's the type of person that I want to be with me going to competition," Telesco said. "I understand that the season didn't end quite the way we liked it, but he has our whole support."
3. Figuring out the puzzle
Don't expect Telesco to take a vacation in the coming months.
In fact, Telesco's plate will likely fill up as the Chargers front office dives into the usual offseason topics.
The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine begins in late February in Indianapolis, followed by the start of the New League Year/free agency in mid-March. The 2023 NFL Draft, where the Chargers have the 21st overall pick, takes place from April 27-29.
Telesco said that evaluation of player contracts — either upcoming free agents or possible extensions — will begin soon.
"Pretty soon, just not as soon as this week. I would say within the next couple of weeks," Telesco said. "[Executive Vice President of Football Administration/Player Finance] Ed McGuire is always thinking about it. During the season, I try not to think about it, but, inevitably, it's always in the back of your mind.
"It is really something that I have to be 100 percent focused on, and I just can't be 100 percent focused on it during the season. Give it a week or two," Telesco added. "We have a lot of puzzle pieces this year to fit in. It's a different offseason than last year, but we'll get into that more in February, as far as contracts, as far as extensions and UFAs [unrestricted free agents] and our own players, and kind of go from there, see how the money fits."
One piece of the Chargers offseason puzzle, as always, will be managing the salary cap.
While the Bolts were plenty active in free agency a year ago, Telesco said the team may take a different approach this time around.
"It may be different than last year's offseason. Every year is a little bit different," Telesco said. "This year will be a little bit different, not as much [salary cap] space to work with, which is fine."
4. The OC search
Perhaps the Chargers top priority right now is beginning the process of finding a new offensive coordinator.
The Bolts on Tuesday parted ways with Joe Lombardi, who held that role for the past two seasons.
When asked about that search process, Telesco mentioned the same No. 1 quality that Staley did Wednesday.
""The one thing we always talk about, and it has nothing to do with X's and O's, it's leadership," Telesco said. "You have to have that as a coach, certainly as a coordinator, because you're leading that group. That's the first thing that you look at, leadership.
"Then, the ability to teach and communicate, and those both go together. You're dealing with a lot of players. Everybody learns differently, so we have to treat them all differently, but being able to really teach the concepts," Telesco added. "In a simple manner, there's a lot that goes into it. Those are two things. I like to look at their backgrounds of where they're from, who they learned from, things like that."
Telesco, like Staley, also didn't pigeon hole the offensive coordinator vacancy as one that would go to a coach with loads of experience.
"Not necessarily," Telesco said. "I think that we're going to have a pretty wide scope of what we're going to look at, then see what it narrows down to after that."
5. Praise for the rookies
As mentioned above, the 2023 NFL Draft is still three-plus months away.
But Telesco took some time Thursday to reflect on the Chargers 2022 draft class and the impact that group made on the team.
Telesco praised first-rounder Zion Johnson and also said expectations remain high for third-round safety JT Woods and fourth-round running back Isaiah [Spiller.
"JT and Isaiah, this will be a big offseason for those guys, since they didn't get as many snaps their rookie year," Telesco said. "Zion, really happy [with him]. He had his ups and downs like a rookie offensive lineman is going to have.
"I know when we drafted him, I said, 'You can't expect him to step in like Rashawn Slater did.' What Rashawn did is just really uncommon, but Zion give us an edge and a toughness inside," Telesco continued. "He's smart. If he makes a mistake, he doesn't make the same mistake twice. I just think he has a really high ceiling. He's really mature.
"A lot of that stuff that we thought when we drafted him, you don't know until you see it at this level, and see him out there, but he battled for us," Telesco added. "I'm really proud of how he played, and I think he has a long way to go."
Telesco was asked separately about sixth-rounder Jamaree Salyer, who ended up starting 15 total games (including the playoffs) after Slater suffered a biceps injury.
Telesco had high praise for the former Georgia standout.
"He saved us this year," Telesco said.
Telesco added that while Salyer played tackle in college, the team wanted to see him at guard during training camp and the preseason. But when Slater went down, the Bolts moved him back to tackle in order to avoid a complete shuffle along the line.
"Jamaree never flinched. He has great poise and balance, and patience at that position," Telesco said. "I think a lot of that is because he played it a lot at the college level and played at a pretty high level. He played really efficient football for us at a critical position.
"As you move into next year, as good as Jamaree played, I feel pretty comfortable that Rashawn Slater will be our left tackle, but we'll figure out what the best role for Jamaree is. It's a negative when a player gets hurt," Telesco added. "The one little positive is other players getting an opportunity and now, we know what he can do, rather than thinking he can do something. It will give us some flexibility. Do we see him at a guard or a tackle for next year? I don't know yet, to be honest with you. I'm not sure."
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