As we hit midday on Black Monday, it appears that John Spanos, President of Football Operations (35-45 career record), is prepared to bring back the same coaching staff and front office that gave us the incredibly painful 5-11 regular season that we all just sat through for the last 4 months.
Given that it looks like there will be no changes in leadership, it behooves us to revisit that leadership group’s philosophy. Nine months ago, Tom Telesco laid that out for us in pretty clear (and honestly pretty arrogant) terms.
Chargers GM Tom Telesco on approach to FA: "If you could buy a championship, everybody would do it. We’re fine where we are. Just check our record at the end of the year. We’re not really judged by the offseason. We’re judged by how we play in the fall, and what our record is."— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) March 25, 2019
Telesco’s big moves in free agency were to sign an expensive backup quarterback to backup a Hall of Fame QB that hasn’t missed a start in his career and to sign a washed up linebacker who lacked either the speed or ability to tackle needed to contribute on a football field in 2019. He also re-signed the washed up Brandon Mebane and mediocre veteran Denzel Perryman. The move (or rather non-move) that had the biggest impact on the team, though, was allowing Tyrell Williams to walk away in free agency without actually attempting to meaningfully replace him.
That was the context in which Telesco gave that quote to ESPN’s Eric D. Williams. Two days later they re-signed the valuable Adrian Phillips to a team-friendly deal, which unfortunately did not pay off as much as it could have with Phillips missing a chunk of time due to injury.
Telesco followed up that disaster of a free agency period with arguably the worst draft of his 7-year career. The only member of the 7-player draft class that contributed in a positive way to the 2019 Chargers was his 4th-round linebacker, Drue Tranquill. The coaching staff notably wasted his talent to a degree by insisting on giving snaps to less-talented veteran players.
By late June, the Chargers learned that it was possible they would be without their starting left tackle (and only NFL caliber tackle) for at minimum the beginning of the season and potentially for the entire year. They responded to this in classic Tom Telesco fashion by doing nothing.
I am a big believer in process over outcome when reviewing situations and deciding how to proceed in the future, but when you have 7 years of outcomes to analyze, you have to be open to the possibility that your process is flawed if you’re not having success. Telesco’s record after 7 seasons is 53-59. For context, if he were to try to reach the record that A.J. Smith had when he was fired following a 7-9 season, Telesco’s Chargers would need to go 14-2 for the next 3 seasons. That’s an indication that what Telesco is doing is not working.
Unfortunately, it seems that Telesco is rather a firm believer in Telesco, and he may again be inclined to chalk up his consistent failures (three 11+ loss seasons out of seven) to bad luck. That would, I believe, be a rather big miscalculation on his part. It is time for Telesco and Spanos to actually make moves that have a chance to improve what was one of the 10 worst teams in football this year.
What do you think? Will Telesco continue on the same path? Would he be right or wrong to do so?