Life is a learning experience, especially in the National Football League. The San Diego Chargers franchise hopes their hiring of Tom Telesco as their new Vice President and General Manager will help turn a slipping franchise into a winning franchise.
They hired the Indianapolis Colts Director of Football Operations after an exhaustive seven-day search, covering at least six candidates. In doing so, they bypassed a trusted longtime in-house scout to hire someone with a world of experience.
Telesco had been with the Colts for 15 years, walking into an awful situation, helping rebuild it, watching its sudden demise again and then laying the foundation for a possible return to glory.
He inherits possibly the best GM opening in the NFL. The Chargers have a franchise quarterback, good skill players, young aggressive defensive players and a couple of high draft picks.
This isn’t Jacksonville, where there is no talent base and surely not Buffalo, strangled by the salary cap. And it’s not Chicago which has players, but age and injury concerns.
Dean Spanos, the beleaguered owner of the team, has known great times, and on his watch, is now experiencing really bad times.
The Super Bowl run of 1994 is long gone. The early 2000s magic of “Marty-ball” is history, too. During his time, Spanos allowed Bobby Ross to leave as coach, then agreed to run off Marty Schottenheimer. The ache and pain has been awful.
Telesco can identify with that. Under the guidance of Bill Polian, who came on board as General Manager of the Indianapolis Colts, he took part in a massive rebuilding job. Indianapolis had an enormous decade-long run while he was there. And, as age, salary issues and injuries took a toll on the team, he experienced the horrors of losing.
But, in his final season he brought the Colts back.
Jeff George was the quarterback in Indy when he got there. A (2-14) season followed. But the result was a first-round draft pick in quarterback Peyton Manning and the drafting of a load of offensive linemen, then defensive talent.
Telesco was in charge of the draft. He then took over player personnel. And in his final year, after Polian was removed, he was Vice President of Football Operations.
The Colts went 3-13 in Manning’s first season, then 3-13 a year ago as Manning sat out recovering from neck surgeries. The pain of that year has been offset by the drafting of Andrew Luck and a just completed 11-5 season.
He subscribes heavily to the draft and his history in Indianapolis shows there will likely be more Dwight Freeney impact players, rather than Larry English missing-in-action picks.
When the Colts needed to dabble in free agency, they went and got young guys who could run and play; not aging, over-the-hill guys looking for a payday.
First up on the plate will be the hiring of a new head coach. There are marquee names out there. There are red-hot coordinators out there. There are veteran established names out there.
It will be interesting to see how the Chargers make this work. In Indianapolis they had an old war-horse in Jim Mora in Manning’s early days. They then hired Tony Dungy, a Pittsburgh Steelers coordinator, a man of very different values and hit the jackpot. A Super Bowl appearance, a near unbeaten season and all those divisional championships followed.
Telesco will try to find that mix quickly in San Diego. It is doubtful he would hire a dominant personality like Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher. Despite enormous success, Mike Holmgren may not be a viable candidate at his age.
There is Bruce Arians, who did a magnificent job with the Colts going 9-3 as head coach Chuck Pagano fought off leukemia is in the mix, but there is little experience as a head coach.
If you connect the dots, Denver’s bright young coordinator Mike McCoy might be the fit.
The ex-Bears coach Lovie Smith brings class and defensive passion, but his Chicago tenure was marred by coaching conflicts and incompetent offenses.
Within seven days we will know who the head coach is. Anything going forward will be better from what we just came out of – the A.J. Smith scorched earth policy way of doing business and the Norv Turner era of errors and underachievement.
Everyone seemed nervous at the press conference – Telesco, a quiet intellect, and Spanos, under fire for the downward trend of the team.
“Outside the box” seems to fit the Chargers’ choice. They went young and they went for someone with a world of experience under a pretty good teacher in Bill Polian.
Telesco’s life experiences of fixing a bad Colts team twice might serve San Diego well.
Set your watch. Telesco Time is now in place with the Chargers.