The Chargers announced that Indianapolis Colts vice president of football operations Tom Telesco will be the next general manager. The fans in San Diego are undoubtedly excited that the Chargers have hired the successor to A.J. Smith, but don’t pop the champagne cork just yet. Telesco has a lot to prove.
Telesco beat out Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye for the job and several other candidates. Telesco has received mostly glowing reviews around the league since becoming a hot candidate two weeks ago, and is one of the better candidates that were available.
Unfortunately, Telesco’s draft history in Indianapolis is a bit murky. Starting in 2006, Telesco was the Colts’ director of player personnel and was elevated just last year to his VP position. During that span, the Colts didn’t draft particularly well.
What’s unclear was just how much say Telesco had over the selections since Bill and Chris Polian were running the show. It’s also unclear how much credit he deserves for the Colts’ 2012 draft. You’ll basically have to trust that he’s a skilled talent evaluator without much evidence to prove it. Telesco comes highly recommended, so clearly not many people are holding those poor drafts against him.
Telesco reportedly blew the Chargers away with his knowledge of the roster and ideas to fix it without referring to his notes. Shouldn’t a good candidate know the roster and how he would improve it off the top of his head? That’s part of any interview, and any good candidate would have prepared himself appropriately.
Since Telesco became one of the key decision makers in Indianapolis, the Colts drafted Joseph Addai, Anthony Gonzalez, Donald Brown, Jerry Hughes, Anthony Costanzo and Andrew Luck in the first round. There were a few players drafted in the lower rounds that have become solid players, like Antoine Bethea, Pierre Garcon and Phillip Wheeler.
There is a possibility that Telesco was often a dissenting opinion, and that’s why he was promoted when Bill and Chris Polian were fired last year. It’s also naïve to think that Telesco didn’t have a lot to do with scouting the players in Indianapolis, even if Bill Polian overruled him.
The Colts also released Peyton Manning and let several productive starters leave in free agency last year. Garcon signed a big deal in Washington and the Colts used their first, second and two third-round draft picks on offense.
The Colts drafted just two defensive players and neither of them played a snap for the Colts in 2012. Statistically, the Colts had a very poor defense and gave up the second-most yards per play of any team in the league.
It’s not that Telesco is totally responsible for the problems with the Colts, but he is at least partially responsible. Since there are plenty of examples of the Colts making poor draft and roster decisions, Telesco is going to have to prove that those mistakes were not on him.
Building a roster can be just as important as being a skilled talent evaluator. Scott Pioli was fired in Kansas City mostly because of a failure to bring in a quarterback and his choices at head coach. Telesco has his quarterback, which makes his job considerably easier, but finding quality players to fill roster needs will also be vital.
Telesco will join Dean Spanos, John Spanos, Ron Wolf and Ed McGuire in the search for the Chargers’ next head coach. The synergy between the front office and the head coach could make a huge difference in the results.
Telesco seems like a very sharp guy and could be the next great general manager of the Chargers, but the honeymoon period will be very short. Telesco has a lot to prove and the clock is ticking on his franchise quarterback. The Chargers want to win their first Super Bowl and, unless they want to start the process of looking for a quarterback again, it’s Telesco that will have to quickly rebuild the Chargers into a contender.