On January 9, the Chargers began a new era of professional as Chargers President Dean Spanos named former Indianapolis Colts Vice President of Football Operations, Tom Telesco, the team’s new general manager.
Having spent the previous 15 seasons serving a variety of capacities with the Colts, Telesco, 40, became the youngest general manager in Chargers history. Recently, Telesco took time from his busy schedule to answer some questions from MP reporter Art Garcia Jr. In the first of a two-part interview, Telesco talks about his experience so far as a first-time general manager, injuries to key players and getting players experience at different positions.
AG: So as we talk this team is 4-3 coming off the bye week – what’s you’re assessment of this team as you head into the strength of your schedule?
TT: You know we’re not satisfied with being 4-3 but we’re encouraged with the results and the improvement we’ve seen week after week, that’s been the good thing.
AG: This is your first year as a general manager, what did you do to the ‘football gods’ that they would strike this team with so many injuries at key positions?
TT: You know what, they (injuries) happen everywhere. Whether you’re a fan of us or you work here – you always think that it’s always worse on us than everyone else because you see it every day but it happens everywhere. You always try to prepare for it going into the season and it always seems like it hits at specific positions where you get multiple guys at one position – like this year at receiver and offensive line have been two big ones for us. But you have to make do with it and this is one of those years when we need all 53 plus some – we’ll use more than 53 players this year to get through. We knew going in that there would be some adversity but everyone does and you have to make do with it.
AG: It was reported that last year with the Indianapolis Colts you guys went through some 36 guys from the start of the season until the end; do you think you might top that number this year?
TT: We probably did (go use that many plays), but I don’t know (about surpassing those numbers), I’m not keeping track of those numbers.
AG: Have you ever experienced the kind of sweeping injuries that you guys are having this season before?
TT: I’ve been on teams with a lot of injuries before. The offensive line this year, as far as the amount of combinations we’ve used of those starting first five – I don’t know if I’ve seen that before. But it’s a testament to the offensive line, the players and the coaches as far as getting guys ready to play as we saw in the Jacksonville game. Even through training camp we worked a lot of guys at other positions just preparing if some guy gets hurt we have to be versatile enough to move a guy into a different spot. DJ (Fluke) was the one guy that, since he was a rookie, we wanted to get him into one spot to get him comfortable working at one spot – so he was probably the one guy who didn’t as much at other positions. But he flipped over (from right tackle to left tackle) and played a great game against the Jaguars – so it’s been a pretty unique year so far.
AG: So had you done that before where you rotated players at different positions to get them experience prior to a season?
TT: I think most teams do… with the 53-man roster you usually have, on the offensive line, on average maybe eight as far as active – on your active roster eight to nine sometimes, we have 10 right now because of injuries. If you’re going to go into the season with just eight linemen you do have to make sure they can play different spots just in case you have to mix-and-match throughout the course of the year. What you can’t have is your starting five and then have five more behind them – because it’s hard to carry 10 on the roster, so you can have eight but some guys will have to play multiple positions.
Telesco’s experience in the NFL includes working as a summer intern for the Buffalo Bills while he was played wide receiver at John Carroll University in Ohio during the 1991-1994 seasons. He landed his first NFL job as a scouting assistant with the Carolina Panthers in ’95-’96 and became an area scout in ’97 before joining the Colts in ’98. Telesco quickly moved up the ranks in Indy starting off as an area scout (1998-00), a pro scout (2001-03), director of pro scouting (2004-05), director of player personnel (2006-11) and vice president of football operations (2012).