Some tend to think because new general manager Tom Telesco chose not to bring back a handful of veterans that he was going into full rebuilding mode; that's not the case. The reason Telesco didn't bring these players back was because these players were either on the wrong side of 30, their level of play had diminished, or they simply weren't worth the money their salaries demanded; in some cases it was a product of all three.
Strong arguments can be made that each of the veterans that were let go can be easily replaced, but we won't get into that, let's look at some reasons see why 2013 will not be a rebuilding year for San Diego.
In Tom We Trust
It was noted here that during the Colts' best seasons, Telesco was the clear #2 guy in terms of scouting and evaluating talent. He was a vital part of the Colts front office when they were plucking future Pro Bowlers from the draft annually.
While this year's signings haven't been sexy, the players he's added were all brought in for a purpose. Whether he's adding depth at value positions — an area where his predecessor failed miserably — or he's upgrading necessary skill positions, Telesco has made the most with the money at his dispoal. We're not even to his strong suit yet: the draft.
The Chargers have clear positional needs: left tackle, guard, inside linebacker, corner back, pass rusher, strong safety and nose tackle. Most of these needs are pretty obvious. You don't need to watch many games to see that the Chargers offensive line was abysmal last year.
Back to the draft, the Chargers are in a fortunate position where the draft is relatively deep in the positions they need to address the most. Telesco has stressed in the past that he takes the best player available on the board, he's cited instances like the 2001 draft when they took Reggie Wayne, even though WR wasn't a need at the time. There was also the 2003 draft when the Colts selected TE Dallas Clark, again when TE wasn't a position of need. I believe that is the same process he'll take this year.
You don't go into drafts thinking you'll get an inside linebacker in the 4th round. You have a draft board, and if your guy is still on the board when you're on the clock, you take him. That's the most successful way to draft. Telesco has also hinted at doing whatever it takes to get the player he wants, whether that means trading up or down. Telesco seems to have a good grasp on how to be successful through the draft.
The draft is a great opportunity to get 7 players (for now) that will be able to plug some of the glaring needs the Chargers have and give them a great opportunity to compete next year.
"We are going to build a football team that is going to win a lot of games"
- Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy
Yes, at first glance one might see one of the tougher schedules out there. The Chargers play 5 playoff teams from last season, and that doesn't include teams like the Giants, Cowboys, Chiefs, Eagles & Dolphins. Looking deeper, I don't see how the schedule is all that tough. The NFL is a league of parity, teams rarely remain consistent year to year and many are unable to repeat success from the previous year.
Let's start with the Colts, whose success last year was helped immensely by having the easiest schedule in the NFL.
Denver? Yes, they've made plenty of additions, but the Chargers played them very well last year with next to nothing at o-line. As good as Welker is he has a key drop basically every game, and Rodgers-Cromartie has technique issues that rival Mike Harris; yes, that bad.
I don't want to bore you by going into every team's issues, but please believe that every team on the schedule can be beaten. Each team has a weakness, some several weaknesses, and the Chargers can do a good job of keeping games close. I have no real reason to think 2013 will be any different, assuming they'll have better players on the field and their young guys from a year ago having gained more experience. It's just a matter of finishing.
McCoy said the team will adapt some zone-blocking philosophies, but will use whatever scheme best fits his talent on the offensive line.
New Staff, New Results
Mike McCoy makes adjustments, and he makes them quickly. Per Pro Football Reference, the year before he took over in 2006, the Broncos averaged 5.5 yards per offensive play, 5.8 net yards per pass attempt, and 4.4 yards per rushing attempt. Over the next two years those numbers gradually improved to 6.2 yards per play, 7.1 yards per attempt and 4.8 yards per rushing attempt. He's proven that he can have successful offenses when there is a QB not named Orton or Tebow.
For those wondering, the Chargers never averaged more than 6.2 yards per offensive play. McCoy is an innovative offensive mind that knows how to use the strength of his players to their advantage. McCoy is also a QB guru that will look to fix Rivers' recent footwork and ball security issues, and get him back to being one of the top tier QBs in the league.
Now we know the offensive line is a problem. Enter coach "Joe-D." He's a highly–regarded offensive line coach who helped several college teams, coached Jamal Charles to his first 1,000–yard season. His most impressive stat comes from his time with the Buffalo Bills in 2011. The O-Line that year gave up just 23 sacks; fewest in the league that year. It's even more impressive when you learn that the Bills also started 8 different combinations that year, sound familiar?
What he did in Buffalo was nothing short of amazing as they've increased the yards per carry since he started from 4.3 to 5.0 in 2 years, ranking 4th and 5th respectively the last 2 years. Both coaches have proven that they can make teams better right away, both are top minds in their respective fields. With the help of Ken Wisenhunt, look for Philip Rivers and the offense to return to being one of the better offenses in the league.
"You take advantage of what your players do best"
- Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy
Despite the popular sentiment in San Diego these days, 2013 won't be a rebuilding year because the pieces are in place to be successful. The pieces that aren't in place already are currently being added, or will be added through the draft.
The Chargers went 7-9 last year and were in good positions to win 14 of those 16 games. It's a new year, with new coaches, and new players. There is reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season. A top–10 defense in terms of yards per play has some really good young talent returning and should be even better this year by benefiting from being fresher. The Chargers were below average in forcing interceptions and also allowing too many passing yards, so 3 new starters in the secondary is a good thing. Even if we don't quite know yet who the strong safety and other starting corner back is, you'd be hard–pressed to find worse starters than Atari Bigby and the combination of Cason & Jammer last year. Those positions should be an upgrade moving forward.
"Philip is a big asset of this job, it starts with building around him"
- Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco
The Chargers have needs, yes, but it's not the end of the world. Few teams go into the draft that don't have to address multiple needs to better their team. The Chargers are in a good position to fill several holes and Telesco will do a good job of making the team better sooner than later. Don't fall for what the media portrays, they're paid to be pessimistic. The Chargers will be a formidable opponent to everyone on the schedule next year. The question is, how many games will they win?