COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Tom Telesco and the Los Angeles Chargers have spent most of their time "licking their wounds” after last Saturday’s second-half collapse in an AFC wild-card round game at Jacksonville.
The general manager will only have a little more time to wallow, with many questions looming going into the offseason.
“To lose in the opening week — any playoff loss is painful, but losing in the first round is difficult. Then, the manner in which we lost, just stings a little bit more,” said Telesco on Thursday about the Chargers’ 31-30 loss to the Jaguars after they squandered a 27-point, second-quarter lead. “We didn’t play our best when the best was needed, especially in the second half.”
The biggest question answered shortly after the loss was when owner Dean Spanos retained Telesco and coach Brandon Staley after speculation that their jobs were on the line.
Telesco said the speculation — especially about Staley — was more outside noise than the opinion of Staley inside the organization.
“That was probably more your discussion than ours. Our belief in Brandon hasn’t changed. He has our belief; our players believe in him,” Telesco said. “I understand that the season didn’t end quite the way we liked it, but he has our whole support.”
Staley is 19-16 in two seasons as coach. Yes, the Chargers made the playoffs for the first time in four years with a 10-7 mark, but the team collapsed late for the second straight year because of some of his decisions.
In his 10 seasons as general manager, Telesco’s track record isn’t much better. He has the eighth-longest tenure of a GM or de facto GM, but he's the only one of that eight who hasn’t won a division title or made a Super Bowl appearance.
This season was only the third time the Chargers have made the playoffs with Telesco as GM. His overall record is 81-86.
Telesco was taken aback when asked to evaluate his tenure and he had a hard time answering.
“I don’t even know how to answer those questions. We’re trying to put the best team on the field that we can,” he said. “There are some positives here. Understand that I’m not sitting up here saying that I deserve anything. I work really hard at what I do. I put all of my time, effort and energy into this job because if you don’t, you can’t compete at this level.”
Among the things Telesco will address immediately is working with Staley to find a new offensive coordinator after Joe Lombardi was fired on Tuesday.
The Chargers were ranked ninth in total offense, but 20th in scrimmage yards per play and had the NFL’s second-biggest discrepancy between passing and running plays (65% pass to 35% run).
Telesco isn’t looking for an equal balance between run and pass, especially with Justin Herbert at quarterback, but he does want more consistency with the rushing attack.
“You have to be able to run the football efficiently and effectively, especially in the second half of games where you have leads. We were unable to do that this year,” Telesco said. “Yards per carry should be better. We’re going to look at it in the offseason because that has to be better to be a good playoff team.”
Telesco’s other significant tasks during the offseason will be trying to get under the salary cap and beginning discussions with Herbert’s agents about a contract extension.
When offseason workouts begin in April, there will also be the process of trying to prevent the collapse against the Jaguars, causing a lasting hangover into the next season.
“I think it’s all about the people that you have here and the mentality that you have. It’s really cliché-ish to say that this will motivate us in the offseason, but I am not going to forget about it,” he said. “One really good way to not lose a lead like that is being able to run the ball better in the second half and get off the field at least once in the second half on defense and make a kick, stuff that we already knew.
“Myself, I don’t really dwell on those negative parts. Brandon and myself, as the leaders here, our job is to make sure everybody has the right mindset.”
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