2014-Chargers season is over (9-7) without a playoff berth for the fourth time in last five seasons.
End of season comments from Chargers GM Tom Telesco on the Roster-Philip Rivers-Team needs-The Draft.
Invite you NFL fans to read what he has to say and to react to it.
“I’ll just make a couple quick statements then I’ll open it up to any questions that you guys would like to ask. For our overall season there were positives. It was a good year, but in the end not nearly good enough. We started at 5-1 got to 8-4 through 12 games and then just lost some steam in December. We lost three out of four in December and when that happens it’s hard to make a playoff run that way. We’re disappointed over the Kansas City game, obviously disappointed in our playing in December, but I can tell you I am really proud of our players and very proud of our coaching staff. We’re already working on 2015 and like I said as disappointed as I am of the Kansas City finale I think we have a really, really bright future here. I think Mike McCoy has done a tremendous job coaching this team last year and this year. I’d say in the last two years we’ve built a really strong foundation here and set a culture and to me that’s the first thing you have to do and a lot of times it’s the hardest thing to do. I feel like we’ve accomplished that and now it’s about adding some more pieces, developing the players we have and that’s what we intend to do and that’s what we’re starting on as early as Monday this week. As far as the calendar moving forward, the immediate calendar, we will meet with the coaches (and) go through our evaluations of the players we have on our roster right now. (We will) meet with the pro scouting staff and go over some free agency type issues that will start in March. We’ve already started working on that but we will get into that more in the month of January, end of February. We’ve already had some draft meetings in December. We have the Senior Bowl in the third week in January and then that goes into the Combine, so we’re right in the preparation for 2015. Like I said I think we do have a bright future. I’m still probably not quite over the game on Sunday but I am excited about getting ready for next year, because I think that we have things going the right direction. I feel good about where we are and we’re going to get better so with that I will open up to any questions.”
Why does that game still linger for you?
“You work all year and your number one goal is to win the division. We didn’t accomplish that. Second goal is to get into playoffs. So you work all year to get to that point where we didn’t play our best football in December but still had a chance to get in and then obviously when you lose that game everything just stops. It’s over. You didn’t accomplish your goal and you’re starting on next year. Typically you take a little bit of time for those emotions to subside which is why this week (we will) try not to make any big decisions this week. You have to get over it and move on so we’ve got time. We’ve got a lot of decisions to make into the offseason. We’ll take that time to make clear, concise, focused decisions, but it was a tough loss.”
How does Ryan Mathews fit into your plans moving forward, or does he?
“Yeah, those are the discussions we’re going to have. I like having time. I don’t like making decisions right after a season. We as a group, there are too many emotions involved. We have to sit back, look at the whole year and really discuss things. We have a lot of questions that have to be answered in the offseason with Ryan and a number of our free agents. We know what Ryan brings to us. He’s a great kid. We’ll take our time and decide what we’ll do with all our guys and what’s the best thing to put out there next year. We have some work to do.”
If you were to keep Ryan because of his talent and were able to work out something, do you need another back like him?
“I like the backs we have right now. I really do, so not necessarily. No.”
If you were to bring Ryan Mathews back and he got hurt and missed 7-8 games, Danny stays healthy (and) Branden Oliver… you’d be ok?
“And Donald Brown. Yeah I like our guys so I don’t think necessarily. You can only carry so many running backs. But we will see I guess, those are questions we will answer in the off season.”
I assume that you are still thinking about this but Donald Brown will be back?
He will be?
“Yes, he’s got a contract for next year.”
Well a lot of people are, so is Jarret Johnson. Can you talk about Donald Brown and the year he had? He was asked to do some things that you probably didn’t anticipate that he was going to have to do in terms of a few games where he had to play a lot.
“When you sign a guy you’re anticipating he’s going to have to play so I don’t think we sign him with the anticipation that he wasn’t going to have to play.”
So he didn’t play more, carry more than you thought and he played up to expectations?
“I think he did a very good job this year. Donald is the same back as he was last year- he averaged over 5-yards a carry the year before. Did he get as many good opportunities? I don’t know. But certainly when we signed him we signed him with the fact that he would play hopefully at some point. You don’t go into signing a guy and think oh well we don’t want him playing very much. We thought he mixed in well with our guys and I have a lot of confidence in Donald, I really do. Whether we didn’t see enough out of him this year or not I’ve had a lot of confidence in him. Even in the passing game as far as take a chuck down you know five or six yard pass and turn it into 15 or 20 yards he’s got some big play ability. Like I said, he probably didn’t see enough of that this year but it’s there and I feel good about it and I’m glad he’s here.”
Where do you assess your offensive line in the running game if you are comfortable with all of your running backs moving forward?
“Yeah, there’s no doubt the running game as a whole has to get better. There’s no doubt. I mean we saw 16 games of that so that’s pretty easy to see. That’s all part of the offseason. We have to figure out where the issues are because there were some good things this year. (There were) probably more good things in pass protection than the running game, but it is something we do have to work on moving forward. There’s no question about it.”
Are you comfortable with DJ Fluker at right tackle moving forward?
“Yes. He had some uneven performances early, but you know that we had some games late in the year playing some teams with some pretty good pass rushers on both sides including back to back Denver and New England and Philip wasn’t touched in those two games and DJ was a part of that. I think he’s someone as a young player you just have to keep working with. Does he have some versatility? I think he does. But I think he can still play right tackle in this league. I do.”
When you mention versatility what kind of guard do you think he’d make?
“I think he’d probably be a pretty good guard. I really do. He’s a talented player. His future is probably right tackle or guard, probably not so much left tackle. Although, when he stepped in his rookie year and played left tackle he did ok. I think he’s got some versatility to go where he has to go. He’s a really good football player and he’s still growing too. Not physically, but growing mentally. I think he’s going to be just fine.”
Kind of the same thing but with Chris Watt, did you see enough there at center that that’s his position going forward or is he more of a guard?
“We’re going to talk about that. You try to take positives out of when players get hurt so the one positive is we got a chance to see Chris play center in live action and I thought that he did a really good job. He can play either guard or center. It’s up to us to decide where his best spot is for our team. Those are things we will talk about in this offseason and some may depend on whose on the offensive line and where. But, number one we know he can play and number two the center position is so important. It’s essentially a quarterback of the offensive line and Chris has the intangible skills. He has those smarts and no one’s ever going to be Nick Hardwick, but Chris has a bright future so we’ll see where he ends up playing, but we know he can play.”
How troubling was it that you lost four out of six in the AFC West?
“It’s not ideal obviously. It shows we have work to do. You can’t win your division unless you win the games in your division so going 2-4 in our division, it has to get a lot better.”
Are you disappointed in what you got from Ladarius Green this season and how do you kind of make him more part of the offense?
“I’m certainly not disappointed. I think having Malcom back took catches away from people and touchdowns. We had four guys with over 50 catches so the ball was spread out a lot this year and Ladarius is a good player. He is a weapon for us. It just so happens that he didn’t’ get as many looks this year but no I’m not disappointed in him at all.”
Do you expect him to kind of make a jump next season?
“No it’s not so much a jump it’s just a matter of the opportunities being there. It really is.”
Do you expect to give him more opportunities next year?
“I guess we shall see. It’s December 31st but he’s a weapon for us and I’m glad he’s here.”
How excited are you about this offseason in re to cap space?
“I think we have a bright future. That’s part of it. We have some more maneuver ability in 2015 and even a lot more in 2016. I think the big thing is like I said we’ve built a really strong foundation. That’s the first thing; the hardest thing. I think we’ve accomplished that and now it’s about adding more pieces and I think we’re set up to make a run here which is one of the reasons why I am excited for next year. Still trying to get over this past year but I am excited for next year.”
You have guys that are under contracts be it extensions be it reworking be it hey maybe this guy doesn’t fit in our future. How many of those types of contracts situations do you have?
“I don’t know the number of them but we have a number of them.”
Based on injuries, how much are you wondering, “What could have been?”
“You never really allow yourself to go there. I will say this, we had five starting centers this year but each one of those guys that came in played good football. I just don’t see that as a big issue. Having new centers is a little different for the quarterback. But as far as how they played, I think they all did well. Seriously, you look across the league and you’ll see that everyone has issues. I still think we can get through those. It is comforting to know that going into next year we have Danny Woodhead coming back. We have Jason Verrett coming back as well as some other guys. So, that’s exciting. I wish we would have had them in Kansas City but that’s just part of the game.”
Is it important to get younger?
“Obviously, that is always something we monitor. Usually when you take the temperature of your roster coming out of training camp after you cut it to 53. It obviously goes up when you bring in a guy like Matt McBriar who is 33 and a guy like Ronnie Brown. At that point we were around the average age of 26.2/26.3. The youngest ten teams are around the age of 25.75. We probably had seven or eight prominent players on our roster that were over 30. But, for me, those are the guys who really built this foundation for us and we couldn’t have done it without those guys. That’s key. Secondly, a lot of our backups are younger players developing. We don’t have a lot of older backup players. There is an old adage, never let a position group grow old together. I think we are okay there. You are right. We do like to monitor but it’s not a huge issue with the age of our roster. We will obviously get younger with some of the guys towards the ends of their contracts. All in all, there will be some prominent 30 year-old players but in the last two years they have gotten this team where they need to go.”
On Philip Rivers’ health:
“We are committed to make sure Philip retires as a Charger. At the appropriate time we will definitely get to it (restructuring his contract).”
Thoughts on the upcoming draft:
“No. At this time and really all the way up until April we will be scouting every position thoroughly. We haven’t narrowed it down at this point in regards to what we are looking for. We have a lot of areas we are going to look to strengthen. I think I’ve said before, I’m not really big on prioritizing team needs. I think when you do that you may concentrate too much on what you want and never get the rest. We have some areas we need to strengthen and we will use free agency and the draft to do that.”
How to evaluate Brandon Flowers and Shareece Wright?
I thought Shareece made some strides from last year to this year. He got better, he really did. He did a nice job for us. With Brandon, he fit in really well with us so we are happy we had him. He is a good player on the field. He was great in the locker room. Both of those guys are great workers and good people to be around. I thought our secondary overall was improved from 2013.”
Is there a top priority?
“Like I said before, there are areas we need to strengthen but I just don’t like to prioritize because I think it takes your focus off.”
On if we have the talent at edge rusher to compete?
“You know what, I think so. You guys have seen Melvin (Ingram). Melvin has a lot of talent. Jerry Attaochu is coming along. We saw that in the opening game against Arizona when he had the strip-sack for a fumble, a blocked punt and a tackle inside the 20-yard line. I think he is going to be a really good player. He had some hamstring issues in the middle of the year. He was a rookie feeling his way through things but he did well. He almost had a big sack to finish it off in Oakland but Jason (Verrett) finished it off. I think we have two really good young guys at those spots and they could be good pass rushers in this league.”
On how Marcus Gilchrist transitioned from last year to this year:
“Gilchrist is a good football player. He transitioned last year from corner to safety last year. This year he played safety for us but also nickel corner. He is just a solid football player that you love having on your team.”
Thoughts on Donald Butler’s season?
“I think early in the year, I agree, was uneven. But, I thought as the year progressed he played a lot better. He got hurt during the last couple weeks of the year. But, as the season went on, I thought he played good football.”
Are we a 3-4 defense?
“I have this same conversation with our scouts all the time. I know we are a 3-4 on paper but it’s as close to a 4-3 as you’re ever going to see. We are an under and over defense. Guys are over gaps moving. Very rarely will we end up with a nose tackle lined up over the center. Two ends two-gapping, we don’t play that kind of defense. It’s a 3-4 by name only.”
Did we take a step back from last year or do you think we progressed?
“Yes, I do. I understand how the fans could see how we took a step back. We went 9-7 last year and made the playoffs. We went 9-7 this year and didn’t make the playoffs. But with that said, I feel really good about what we built here. Being here every day, I seeing these guys work, and I also see what we have here moving forward. Like I said, I think this is a pretty exciting time here. It’s an exciting time in the city because of what the Padres are doing. I know they haven’t played a game yet but it’s exciting what they are doing right now. San Diego State is a power. Their basketball team is fun to watch. I understand that sentiment but I truly believe that we are going in the right direction”.
How big was Seyi Ajirotutu this year?
“He was really big for us this year. He played well last year too but he made some plays this year. He stepped up this year not only as a player but as a leader for us. He played solid, consistent football week after week after week. Like I said, these are all questions we have to answer in the offseason.”
On how to address the quarterback, left tackle, and wide receiver position:
“Every situation is unique to itself. Obviously the quarterback and left tackle positions are primary positions. That’s something you have to make sure you have. Receivers are so hard to find (in free agency) because the good ones end up staying where they are.”
Will you be addressing team speed?
“Yes. We’re not looking to get slower.”
Could we afford to have a kickoff specialist?
“I think one team did it this year, through the whole year, and that was Buffalo. Denver did it late in the year. You can do it, but you have to take away from one position which is not easy. Last year and for at least half of the season this year, our kickoff coverage was outstanding. In December we didn’t play that well as a team and that was part of it. We didn’t cover very well in December like we had in the past. That is something we definitely will have to work on. We have done it before. Having a kickoff specialist is hard, it’s a maybe, and it’s one of those questions that will be addressed much further down the road. We just have to see where the roster is.”
Do we have a special return man on this roster?
“I do think Chris (Davis) flashed. He didn’t qualify for kickoff returns as far as the rankings but if he had he would have been tied for 10th around 25.1 yards-per-return. He has some tools. He has some tools at punt returner too so he may have a chance.”
Is it important to address that issue moving forward?
“Yes. It’s the hidden yards. We saw it against Kansas City with the yardage they got and we didn’t. We saw some of that in other games this year. It’s certainly an area we will look at.”
On if he knew in the summer Jeromey Clary was not going to be available to play this year:
“No. That was more into September and October when it looked like it wasn’t going to go the way we wanted it to go.”
On Clary’s absence making it tough on D.J. Fluker given their chemistry the year before:
“You’re right; it was good chemistry the year before. We thought it could be an issue. And, I guess it wasn’t as big of an issue as we thought it was going to be. But it certainly was a little bit. It was not the factor, but certainly a factor. Jeromey (Clary) played well at guard last year. I thought he did a really good job. People seemed like they were really on him around here, but I thought he did a very good job. He’s as tough as they come. He’s smart … helping the rookie tackle. In the end, I thought Johnnie (Troutman) and D.J.—as far as communication went—it was fine. Good question though.”
On how this offseason will compare to last offseason in terms of freedom:
“Yes. There are still three things that have to line up between now and March—a lot of players may resign with their own teams, but—No.1, the ability of the player in the future. You’re not signing a player for what he used to do. What can he do for us in 2015, ’16 and ’17? So that has to line up. His market value and then where we are (salary) cap wise. Those three line up, you’re active. If it doesn’t, then you’re not. A lot of it depends on the type of players there, market value and where we are. We’ll see.”
On foreseeing if he’ll have to create a little more cap space with the players he has now:
“I think what we have now we can work with.”
On if he will create more:
“If we didn’t I think we can do with what we have right now.”
On how he feels about free agency vs. Bill Polian’s feelings about free agency:
“We all have our own beliefs. I do have the belief that people you sign in free agency are not the saviors when they come in. You’re bringing them in to supplement what you have and contribute. But, it is an avenue that you have to use. There’s no doubt about it. You can’t just sit back and try to use your draft year after year. Like I said, a lot of it comes down to what I just said; those three things have to line up. You don’t go out and sign a position just to get a guy in. If those things line up, we’ll be active and be in it. I wouldn’t say Bill (Polian) has a hatred of free agency. He has a hatred of dealing with agents in free agency.”
On Bill Polian returning to the NFL as an executive:
“I hope he doesn’t. The less competition, the better. I hope he does not.”
On if permission was granted to Frank Reich to interview with the New York Jets for their head coach position:
“You don’t have to grant permission for an assistant coach once the season is over. We don’t have any control over it. But I am not surprised there are teams interested in him.”
On what he saw in Frank Reich’s first year as offensive coordinator:
“I think Frank in his first year did a very good job. He’s smart. He’s detailed. He’s prepared for this for a long time. He’s a great teacher. (He’s a) great communicator, and he can really handle a room, as far as handling the offense in a room. I thought he did an excellent job, and I like I said, I’m not surprised teams would have interest in him. Selfishly, I hope he stays here.”
On the number of injuries this year being random or unlucky and how they can be addressed:
“We put a lot of working into filtering out before players get here as far as injury risk, and I said this earlier in the year, I think we’re more conservative than most. You still get injuries. Sometimes it is just the luck of the draw. But we put a lot of effort into (that), and I really believe in the system we use, as far as trying to assess what the injury risk is going to be on certain players … certainly coming out of the draft and signing as free agents. To me, the best way to try and lessen your injuries on the field is to filter those guys out before they get here. We put a lot of work into that. It does get frustrating to still see guys go down, but sometimes it’s just bad luck.”
On surrounding Philip Rivers with more tools:
“Always. When you have someone like Philip, you want to give him as many weapons as possible and protect him as much as possible.”
On the draft being his top focus vs. free agency:
“The draft is your lifeblood. Those are the players you can really handpick into your system and grow them in your system. You can’t do that as much in free agency. In this day and age, you have to use both avenues. You can’t just go with one or the other. A lot of it just comes down to what I talked about before. Three things have to line up. If those three things line up, you’ll get free agents in here. But the draft is still a major part of how you’re going to add your players.”
On entertaining a deal for Ryan Mathews that includes incentives given his history with injuries:
“We’ll probably look at all of our options. We’ve got a lot of different ways we can go.”