Tom Telesco Instrumental in Bolts' Return To Playoffs
By Andrew Burer
CINCINNATI -- The San Diego Chargers are building for the future.
Many thought, myself included, that the process of revamping this roster would take at least a season, if not more.
And it still might.
However, general manager Tom Telesco was superb in his first offseason at the helm. Some moves were costly (letting Shaun Phillips and Louis Vasquez leave), but others (his first draft class and the signing of Danny Woodhead) have far exceeded expectations.
More than a third of this year’s roster didn’t play for San Diego last season, and yet the Chargers still reached the playoffs. Even former head coach Norv Turner, after his firing, cautioned fans about the Chargers’ playoff chances in 2013.
Credit Telesco. He deserves it.
He found playmakers at a good price, all while cleaning up former GM A.J. Smith’s mess (see Jared Gaither’s and Robert Meachem’s contracts). And perhaps most importantly, he got his coach in Mike McCoy.
The Denver Broncos’ former offensive coordinator completely changed the culture at Chargers Park. He’s big on planning, details, family and cliches to name a few.
He can kill 15-20 minutes in a press conference without listening to (and subsequently answering) a single question. It’s impressive.
But what's more impressive is that he has gotten his team to believe (he must know how to communicate). Despite losing three straight games after the bye, including a disastrous finish in Washington, McCoy’s Bolts finished the season winning five of six games, including four in a row. The Chargers went 5-2 against teams with records above .500 this season, the best record in the NFL. San Diego beat three playoff teams on the road in the Philadelphia Eagles, the Kansas City Chiefs, and Denver, and beat the Indianapolis Colts at home.
And despite nearly losing to the Chiefs’ backups in Week 17, the Chargers never gave up.
“We’ve matured a lot as team,” said tight end Antonio Gates regarding the Chargers’ progression. “One thing about it, when you have a new staff, guys coming in and out from different places, adding guys to a team, and then you have the core guys who have been here, it takes time to build that continuity. Fortunately we were able to overcome some bumps in the road early in the season to be fortunate enough to play in the playoffs so now you can see a sense of urgency, you can see the confidence and belief that we have.”
In the tournament, that’s all that matters. Once you’re in, you're in and it's any given Sunday (no pun intended). Look no further than last year’s Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens squad, a No. 4 seed.
The Chargers have returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Win or lose against the Cincinnati Bengals, the fact that San Diego has gotten this far is remarkable given the mediocrity of the Bolts’ recent seasons.
It marks a major building block for the Chargers’ future and is the first meaningful step in their return to prominence.
It didn’t take long.