Chargers general manager Tom Telesco joined "The Final Drive" podcast to discuss the 2020 season, quarterback Justin Herbert's impressive rookie year and the team's ongoing head coaching search.
Watch the full interview below. Here are five takeaways from the conversation:
Appreciation for Anthony Lynn (:50)
Telesco praised Lynn for the way the team closed the 2020 season with four straight wins – including three straight in the division – after losing 45-0 to the New England Patriots in Week 13.
The team's character is something the general manager believes will stay consistent entering 2021.
"He's built a very good foundation here," Telesco said of Lynn. "It starts with the locker room, it starts with the players. It starts with how he made them accountable and that will carry over to next year – especially with our younger players that we drafted here and we've developed."
Justin Herbert's record-setting season (2:54)
When asked what surprised him most about what Herbert accomplished during his rookie season, Telesco pointed to poise and protecting the football.
"It is a big jump from college to professional football," Telesco said. "It's a big jump for a rookie quarterback especially, like you said, no offseason program, no preseason games. Just incredible poise and toughness he showed in the position.
"And then the one tangible factor, which I'm very proud of him for: He didn't turn the ball over. … He showed it in college (that) he protects the football. He protects the football in the pocket, he protects it throwing the ball downfield. He only had 10 interceptions this year. That's hard to do. Peyton Manning had, I think, 28 interceptions his rookie year."
Derwin James' return in 2021 (6:29)
NFL teams do not use injuries as an excuse when reflecting on performance. And while Telesco said in Wednesday's press conference that the Chargers didn't sustain as many injuries as other NFL teams did in 2020, Los Angeles lost perhaps its best player to a knee injury during training camp: All-Pro safety Derwin James.
Telesco said one of the things that fans missed by not being able to attend camp last summer was watching the way James practiced.
"I've been in this league for 25 years," Telesco said. "There aren't very many people who practice like he does. Not only his snap-after-snap – the intensity he plays with – he plays with an edge and physical and aggressive, but with a smile on his face most of the time, which is hard to do both of those."
Earlier this week, James said that he's had no setbacks during rehab and should be all the way back in a month.
"I'm thrilled to see how he's rehabbing his injury right now and he should be good to go for the regular season, and I can't wait to get him back out there," Telesco said.
Ideal characteristic of the Chargers' new head coach (13:25)
The search for the organization's next head coach is underway. Telesco shared what he's looking for in the ideal candidate. Number one is leadership.
"You have to lead the whole football team," Telesco said. "So, whether it's an offensive background, defensive background, special teams background, it doesn't matter. Now, that coach, they need to have a plan of what they're gonna do on the opposite side of the ball of what their expertise is, but the number one thing is you have to be able to lead young men and adults that are veterans. It's a wide demographic between 20, 21-year-olds and 34, 35-year-olds. You have to be able to connect with everybody.
"… There's no specific model that if you hire a coach with these traits, you will win a Super Bowl. They come in all shapes and sizes. So, we're gonna talk to a pretty wide list of candidates and kind of take it from there."
'We get a chance to start from scratch' (18:22)
When asked what excites him most about 2021, Telesco explained the ability to reset while also having the assets and personnel to get better.
"That's what excites me is we get a chance to start from scratch and everybody will be 0-0 and we start off," he explained. "So, like I mentioned before, we have nine draft picks in this draft. We'll have a healthy cap situation. We have some players on both sides of the ball to build around.
"And then hopefully, next year in the stadium we actually have fans in the stands; people get a chance to come by and see SoFi (Stadium) and see what an awesome place it is. And have fans at training camp, get back to normal. That's just something that, from a fan experience you just miss. You miss that touch of being at training camp up against the fence 10 feet from Derwin James watching practice."