The best quote of the offseason came from Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco, shortly after Mike McCoy was fired:
Tom Telesco dismisses report he petitioned for McCoy to be retained. "I think I've said before reports are for entertainment purposes only."— Michael Gehlken (@sdutGehlken) January 2, 2017
At the time of the quote’s utterance, I found it fascinating on so many levels. Telesco, whose prior work has been everywhere from solid to horrendous (depending on who you ask) had the audacity to call out the media for citing unnamed sources.
Already forgetting the specific situation? Here’s some context. Rumors swirled regarding Mike McCoy’s potential firing, and multiple outlets reported that TT was in favor of keeping the head coach in place. Several days pass, McCoy gets the boot, and we get this comedic gold.
See, when it comes to sports, I’m just like the next guy. I freaking love ‘em so much that I even dedicate time to blog about my favorite football team. Quite often, for me, whatever LeBron James accomplishes on a basketball court is more important than the current president’s policies on topics everywhere from pipelines to department stores.
But I would be remiss to not acknowledge that, in the end, sports are nothing more than a product being sold to us—a really good product, at that. The Gronks of the world spike footballs and us fanatics clap and cheer to the point where the deluxe Sunday Ticket package is a necessity, not a luxury.
Where am I going with this? Well, I’ve always found the professionalism that goes into sporting jobs to be really interesting. I mean, I get that a PR guy will always take his position seriously—he should.
Yet for someone like Tom Telesco to scoff at these media reports just exemplifies the disconnect between the Chargers’ organization and sports culture as a whole. I’m not sure if he realizes it, but without the media bridging the gap between the average person and his or her favorite team, Telesco wouldn’t even have a job.
So, Tom—can I call you Tom? Tom, here’s my message. Personally, I have been a mild fan of your work, and I’m usually one of the first ones to defend your many questionable moves.
Well, except for the move to pick Melvin Gordon. I held a constant facepalm for about thirty straight minutes when that trade was announced.
Anyway, Tom, I’d just like you to know this: your job position as General Manager for the Chargers is for entertainment purposes only.
With that being said, let’s get on with the show!
On the Chargers’ Defensive Potential
Remember way back in the beginning of the season, when newcomer Brandon Mebane issued a hilarious proclamation?
This is a fiery hot take from former Seahawks/current Chargers DT Brandon Mebane. https://t.co/9yG4asZSjy— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) May 17, 2016
2016 came and went, and we now have a body of work to judge Mebane’s statement by.
Was he right? Well...meh.
No one is going to confuse this unit with the Legion of Boom—that’s a couple seasons away, at best. But there really is some legitimate talent on the defensive side of the ball.
First off, Joey Bosa is the game-wrecker you expect when you’re picking third overall in the draft. He’s a generational talent that, at age 21, already looks like he’s well on his way to being the next dominant force in the league.
I will admit, I was not sold on the pick at the time. However, even if I did not prognosticate the former Buckeye’s success to the same degree as Sisti and Hoyle, I did write about how excited I was about the rookie to make his debut in Week 5. And the same sentiment remains—the Chargers need to continue to build around Bosa in order to create a top defense.
We forgot about another great player on this defense who barely saw the field before tearing his ACL: Jason Verrett.
Verrett’s 2015 campaign showed me everything I need to know. The dude’s a baller. If you’re struggling to remember how dominant he was, just (re)read this article previewing the 2016 season by PFF’s Nathan Jahnke.
I don’t think Verrett’s past injuries automatically qualify him to miss the 2017 season, but they are a concern. Nevertheless, if we get the cornerback duo of Hayward and Verrett to play a full schedule together, the defense will be boosted dramatically.
Yeah, pass-rushing will be a concern, with Melvin Ingram set to hit free agency (more on that later) and a lack of talented outside linebacker depth behind him. Though I’m not ready to give up on Jeremiah Attaouchu just yet, it’s pretty clear that Kyle Emanuel and Tourek Williams, among others, should probably not be seeing as much meaningful time as they did in last year’s games.
However, the switch to Gus Bradley’s 4-3 means more work for the capable inside linebacking trio of Jatavis Brown, Denzel Perryman, and Korey Toomer. Brown showed flashes in his rookie season of a budding star, while Denzel Perryman looks to rebound after a somewhat disappointing season. It’s hard to gauge Toomer’s value, a current free agent who truly came out of nowhere, but I think it would be a mistake for Telesco to not bring him back when he amassed the second-most tackles on the team.
There are improvements that need to be made on this defense—lots of them. The Ingram situation must be figured out, as well as what to do with Corey Liuget’s massive contract. The safety positions are anything but admirable, and they should figure to be a priority going into free agency and the draft (hello, Tony Jefferson and Jamal Adams!). Another CB will probably need to be added as soon as Brandon Flowers is cut unless the new staff can work some magic on Craig Mager.
All in all, there are some good-to-great pieces on this defense. If Telesco continues to accumulate talent, we’re looking at a top unit in the not-too-distant future.
Really good, but not Legion-of-Boom-good. Sorry, Brandon.
On Various Nuts and Bolts
- The most polarizing player for Stan Kroenke’s Lovable Misfits is none other than #54, Mr. Melvin Ingram. The outside linebacker has sparked quite a lot of debate as to how much he should get paid. If you regularly read content posted on this site, you would have seen both Louis’ and Ryan’s articles on whether Ingram should be re-signed or shown the door, respectively. The general consensus shared between most BFTB readers and writers is that we’d like to keep Supa Mel in lightning bolts, but that he is not worth what he will most likely ask for. Now, if you follow other football accounts, you would be under the assumption that Melvin Ingram is the second coming of Von Miller, even though they’re both the same age (27) and Melvin Ingram isn’t even in the same stratosphere as Von Miller. Most assorted football pundits have collectively gathered that this year’s free agency pool fails to rise to even kiddie pool level; therefore, a solid pass rusher like Melvin automatically gets overvalued as the next big thing. So when I see this kind of sentiment from fans of other teams, it makes me frustrated.
Chargers fans hate Melvin Ingram. It's amazing. https://t.co/n3NxLTEbqN— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) February 21, 2017
- Just because most Chargers fans watch Chargers games and have a better appreciation for a player’s capabilities does not mean we hate him. There are legitimate flaws in Melvin’s game, whether it be finishing a sack or run defense, though he has shown improvement in both of those areas. But if he’s as great of a commodity as people are lead to believe, why did the defense become good as soon as Joey Bosa hit the field, and not during Ingram’s breakout 2015 campaign? Sure, that’s a poorly worded argument, but I don’t think you can justify breaking the bank for someone who has two good seasons to his name. I think the Bolts are much better-served building around #99 and drafting lots of edge defenders in the draft--after all, TT does hold the #7 overall pick. In conclusion, you probably get where I stand on the Ingram debate. For $12 million a year? I’m all for it. For Olivier Vernon money? No thanks. The Chargers would have to make too many moves to free up $15 million to spend on Ingram, such as restructuring Corey Liuget’s contract (coming up next!) and cutting Brandon Flowers. In the end, though, I do think Telesco signs Ingram to this kind of contract, as they’ll be looking to make a splash in the new market. Someone like Supa Mel, who recently signed with Roc-A-Fella and finds himself entrenched in the rap scene, would be the perfect way for the Chargers to promote the team, as he’s homegrown and somehow a big name.
- Corey Liuget better be getting his a** into the GM’s office sometime soon, or else Tom Telesco is not doing his job. Liuget is a guy I’ve liked since he was drafted--hard-working and got the job done, all without being in your face about it. Since he signed his contract extension in 2015, however, I don’t think there are many people that can say Liuget has backed it up with his play on the field. The only 4-3 defensive tackles--the position Liuget is set to play under Gus Bradley--making more money than him in 2017 are as follows: Ndamukong Suh, Fletcher Cox, Gerald McCoy, Malik Jackson, and Geno Atkins. $30 million of Corey’s contract was guaranteed, so if Telesco wants to retain Ingram, or even make any sort of dent in the free agent market, the GM must figure this situation out. Either restructure now or draft accordingly, so that #94’s replacement is well-groomed come 2018. Sure, I’d like to see how Liuget plays at his more natural position this upcoming season, but if he underperforms for the third season in a row, you better believe he’ll be looking for a new job a year from now.
- There will be a lot more time to overanalyze the draft--after all, the thing doesn’t happen until the end of April. At the current moment in time, there are very few ways I can see the Chargers going wrong with the #7 overall pick. Drafting a receiver such as Mike Williams would be one; also, I’m not a fan of Malik Hooker that high in the draft. However, between Jamal Adams, Solomon Thomas, Malik McDowell, Derek Barnett, Marshon Lattimore, Jonathan Allen, and Myles Garrett, I’m fairly confident the Chargers can snag a bonafide talent in their current position. This is, in fact, one of the only years where I wouldn’t advocate for Telesco to trade down unless he has a plan revolving around an OT such as Ryan Ramczyk. Though I constantly change my mind throughout the whole draft process, at the current moment in time, I think the best move would be to draft a DL in Round 1, FS Budda Baker in Round 2, and pretty much OL the rest of the way (I haven’t really delved deep enough to formulate opinions about late-round guys yet--hat comes later. However, all Phil and MG3 need is a beast of an OL, and this offense will work absolute wonders.) Retain Ingram and sign Tony Jefferson in Free Agency (pipe dream? Maybe…), and boy oh boy, we have a winner. Even though I’m a big proponent of building the OL through the draft, a veteran LT is most likely required to fill King Dunlap’s spot. I actually think that the interior of the offensive line is pretty solid; should Orlando Franklin falter a combination of Matt Slauson, Max Tuerk, Spencer Pulley, and Donovan Clark (goodbye, DJ Fluker) can hold down the fort. Nevertheless, competition breeds talent, and bringing in younger guys up front will strengthen the most important spot on the roster.
- I don’t know if I talked about it before, but losing two out of the three best players on your roster in the first quarter of the season had to have cost the Bolts a two or three games. Yes, Joey Bosa has obviously vaulted Keenan Allen and Jason Verrett in terms of value to the franchise. Nevertheless, I would say that going into 2017, the core four guys--Bosa, Allen, Rivers, and Verrett--must stay healthy in order for the team to go anywhere. Where’s Casey Hayward on that list, you may ask? Well, knock on wood, but a big reason the Packers did not re-sign him was due to injury concerns. After all, #26 really never improved on his stellar rookie year until his 2016 campaign. If Hayward can put together another great season, I’ll be more than willing to proclaim him a captain of the team. Yes, my nitpicks can easily be transferred onto Allen and Verrett, but to me, those two have shown to consistently be top talents when on the field. Seeing those two suit up for the first game of 2017 will be truly awesome, as I feel like we have forgotten just how promising they really are.
- I’ll place a bet now--there’s no way the team lets Danny Woodhead walk. He’s such a fan favorite around the league, and the Chargers need all of the recognizable faces they can get in Los Angeles. If the Bolts truly believe that they’re in win-now mode, I think that the mutual trust between Rivers and Woodhead is important enough to warrant a small, two-year deal. As long as Whisenhunt can make sure to keep Melvin Gordon on the field, of course.
- Speaking of RBs, drafting a scat back in the late rounds sounds all and well. However, I think between Gordon, Woodhead (if re-signed), Andre Williams, Kenneth Farrow, Brandon Oliver, and Ronnie Hillman, the team can craft a solid-enough committee. Gordon should be carrying the load, regardless, so I don’t think anything other than a fifth-rounder should be spent on a back.
- Don’t look now, but Hunter Henry ended the season with eight touchdowns, tied for the league lead. I know, right!?!? The kid is only 22, and yet he’s already established himself as one of the best dual-threat tight ends in the league. What’s more impressive is the fact that most rookie tight ends struggle in making the transition to the big leagues (see: Maxx Williams), but Henry looks the part as both a savvy route runner and physical specimen. As Antonio Gates is phased out in the last season of his career, Henry will definitely pick up the slack in replacing the Chargers legend.
- I think Travis Benjamin was given more crap than he deserved. Yes, he signed a big contract, and his disappointing work on special teams was a downer. However, he was signed to complement Keenan Allen as the deep threat, and he still performed okay in that role, even though defenses did not have to worry about any of the receivers. Sure, Tyrell Williams looked great--ya gotta love the guy for coming in, working hard, and fulfilling his potential. But I think Benjamin was forced in as the go-to guy, and when he hurt his knee early on in the season, he never truly recovered. I’ll reserve judgment for #12 until we get to see him lining up across from Allen next season. Hopefully, he gets another shot to reclaim his return duties, as we need all the help we can get on not-so-special teams.
- How about the AFC West? Well, the Raiders will be the frontrunner next season, as Reggie McKenzie rightfully deserves recognition in crafting one of the most talented rosters in the sport. The Chiefs will be the same Chiefs they’ve been every year under Alex Smith and Andy Reid--good, just not good enough. The Broncos are, in my opinion, trending downwards, but their defense is still just as scary as it has been in years past. Where does that leave the Chargers? Well, for starters, looking up. If the defense can take the next step, though, and the offense can become more consistent in helping out #17, I don’t see why this roster is not good enough to contend in not only the division but the entire league. I think it all comes down to how the new coaching staff maximizes the talent they have, as well as Telesco hitting another home run in the draft.
On Some Random Stuff
- I’ve thought about it more and more, and I think I’ve gotten cold feet. However, I’ll go ahead and attempt to argue the inarguable: The Prestige is the best movie Christopher Nolan has ever made. Okay, let me just get it out there, I freakin’ love The Dark Knight. The sheer controlled chaos seen in that film is unparalleled by any other movie. Batman Begins is a favorite, as well, as I think Nolan truly nailed the art of the origin story. However, I’m not a huge fan of Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises, or Inception; also, I will admit, I have never seen Memento, so my opinions might just go straight out the window. Nonetheless, I’ll go forth in stating that The Prestige walks the fine line of crafting an engaging yet coherent plot admirably. Upon a second watch, everything revealed at the end of the film falls right into place. The beautiful setup, in which the viewer questions the nature of magic, obsession, and sacrifice, all begs the question: What did I just watch? Did I miss something, or is it just like Michael Caine said--while we try to find the secret of a magic trick, we will never find because we don't really want to, as we just want to be fooled? I love these types of thinking-man films, and in the final twist scene of the movie, all the pieces start to come together in golden Hollywood fashion. The thrilling conclusion almost tops another one of my favorite movies of all time, Bryan Singer’s debut film, The Usual Suspects. If you have not seen The Prestige, I’ll cease to talk about it, as I do not want to give anything away. I highly encourage you to, as Nolan’s hit features a star cast of Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, and Andy Serkis. The late David Bowie even shows up as Nikola Tesla!
- When it comes to movies either in theaters or upcoming, I highly recommend going to see The LEGO Batman Movie. Even if it’s pegged as a PG kids movie, it’s really meant for those who love references to not only Batman’s rich film past but also pop culture as a whole. I guarantee you’ll walk away from it with a grin on your face--I sure did. Just maybe try to find a little person to tag along, as you don’t wanna look too creepy all alone in the theater.
- Also, the final chapter in Hugh Jackman’s 17-year-run as The Wolverine premieres on March 3, as Logan debuts in theaters. With Deadpool paving the way for R-rated movies becoming blockbusters, Logan is sure to be a wistful ode to Jackman’s legacy as the brutal protagonist. If you have yet to hear anything about the movie, watch the trailer below and try not to get as excited as I am.
- Speaking about movies, I started to create a list of films I must see when I have the time. The list currently consists of: There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men, Reservoir Dogs, The Shawshank Redemption (have never seen it in one sitting), A Few Good Men, Fight Club, Forrest Gump (same as Shawshank), Terminator 2 (same as Shawshank), Whiplash, 2001, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Hell or High Water, This is Spinal Tap, and Sicario. BFTB fam, got any unearthed classics I should add to the list? Make sure to comment below!
- Not to advertise my own YouTube channel, but...anyway...I’m currently in the process of making a mockumentary in the same vein of ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 series. The film will center around the greatest game of basketball ever played, a game between one 6’7” giant and four much smaller kids. Anyway, if I’ve piqued your interest in any way, shape, or form, you can find my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdYsNiSz8QusFuFKG9kinEQ. Make sure to follow for official teasers and trailers, as well as the film’s debut on March 10. Maybe even give me a sub while you’re at it! ;)