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Takeaways From Tom Telesco's End-of-Season Press Conference

Tom Telesco recaps the Chargers' 2022 NFL season.

COSTA MESA – The Chargers' 2022 campaign came to a crushing end Saturday night at TIAA Bank Field following the team's 31-30 loss to the Jaguars in the Wild Card Round. Following their playoff shortcomings, the organization has turned the page to the offseason, which has led to a few firings among the coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.

On Thursday, at the Chargers' team headquarters, general manager Tom Telesco addressed the media for his end-of-season press conference, recapping the year and what lies ahead for the offseason.

Here are the main takeaways from Telesco's final media availability of the season:

Justin Herbert will have input in the hiring of the Chargers' new offensive coordinator

There are 10 NFL teams with an opening at offensive coordinator this hiring cycle, but the Chargers' vacancy is unequivocally the top position on the market with the opportunity to pair up with quarterback Justin Herbert.

Herbert, who will enter next season learning his third offensive system in four years, will have input in the team's hiring process throughout their pursuit for the next offensive coordinator.

“I know that is what Brandon [Staley] thinks, and that is the way that I have always operated with quarterbacks, they have kind of earned that," Telesco said of Herbert having influence on who the team hires for offensive coordinator. "At least some contact and some thought of what goes into the process, and some input.”

Staley emphasized on Wednesday that he's most importantly looking for leadership qualities among the candidates for the offensive play-caller role. Telesco delivered his view for what he wants from the position, aligning with Staley's thought process.

“The one thing we always talk about, and it has nothing to do with X’s and O’s – it’s leadership," Telesco said. "[Former offensive coordinator] Joe Lombardi has leadership, that was great. You have to have that as a coach, certainly as a coordinator, because you’re leading that group. 

"That’s the first thing that you look at, leadership. Then, the ability to teach and communicate, and those both go together. You’re dealing with a lot of players. Everybody learns differently, so we have to treat them all differently, but being able to really teach the concepts."

Telesco said, when evaluating possible candidates for the job, they'll take into consideration the backgrounds of who they learned from coming up the coaching ranks. He also stated that experience isn't a must, as they're keeping all options on the table.

“I think that we’re going to have a pretty wide scope of what we’re going to look at, then see what it narrows down to after that," Telesco said.

Brandon Staley's job was never in jeopardy

Despite rumblings about Staley's job status being threatened following the team's early exit from the playoffs, he said Wednesday that he never felt his position was truly on the line.

Telesco backed that statement, saying all the noise surrounding Staley's job was on outside looking in. None of the chatter came internally from the Chargers' organization.

"That was probably more your discussion than ours," Telesco said when asked if Staley's job was ever at stake. "Our belief in Brandon hasn’t changed. He has our belief, our players believe in him. You’ve been around him, he’s a tremendous leader, he’s detail-oriented and he’s a fighter. 

"That’s the type of person that I want to be with going to competition. I understand that the season didn’t end quite the way we liked it, but he has our whole support.”

Staley will remain as head coach in 2023, while the team shakes up the coaching staff, currently conducting searches for an offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and linebackers coach.

Telesco cautiously acknowledges the need for speed at wide receiver

The Chargers' wide receiver group, highlighted by Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, make up a solid one-two punch. When healthy, they stack up near the top of the league among wide receiver pairings.

But where the Chargers have struggled to receive production from the pass-catching group is in the deep part of the field. The roster simply doesn’t have the speed to threaten defenses and hit on chunk plays on a consistent level. It was an issue entering this season and it remained problematic throughout the year.

Telesco, who refrained from drafting a wide receiver ahead of the 2022 season, acknowledged the need to add speed.

"It’s definitely something that we need to add to our repertoire, as far as being able to get down the field just a little bit more," he said.

However, he also believes they have a dimension of speed already on the roster. Telesco thinks Williams is a field-stretcher that can win deep on routes. But just having one player who adds a vertical wrinkle to the passing attack, who's also experienced injury concerns in recent years, can cap the team if he goes down for an extended period of time.

"If you talk to people that work with me and for me, I want speed at every position on our roster," Telesco said. "That’s kind of the philosophy, it always has been. Would I love an explosively fast, stretch-the-field receiver? Absolutely, I would love to have that. But, I’m not going to give back Keenan Allen. I’m not going to give back Mike Williams. I’m not going to give back Josh Palmer. 

"This past year, our dual punt and kickoff returner was DeAndre Carter, who was going to have a smaller role in the offense and ended up having a bigger role due to injuries. He had a really nice year for us."

Initially signed as a return man, Carter finished the season with the team's highest big-play percentage at 14.9%.

"I like our group of receivers. I would love to have some speed there. We’ll see how that kind of works out," Telesco said.

Telesco believes the team's injury narrative is overblown

This one is surprising. Injuries hit the Chargers to great lengths this season. In some weeks they were forced to take the field without half of their defensive starters.

From Joey Bosa to Rashawn Slater to Keenan Allen and everyone in between, a variety of high-end players missed extended time as a result of injury.

The discussion of injuries seems to always surround the Chargers. But Telesco says the narrative of injuries is overblown.

"We had some injuries this year," he said. "Overall, we were slightly above the average. I wouldn’t call it an epidemic. There were a lot of teams that had a lot worse off than we did. We weren’t even in the bottom third [of the league in terms of healthiest teams]. 

"Last year, we were in the top-five healthiest teams. Every team has to try to get through some different points of the season with injuries. I understand that. We did that this year. I thought we did that pretty well, both by the depth we had and the coaches adjusting to what we had. I kind of think the injury narrative is a little bit overblown unless somebody has numbers that can show me differently."

The adversity the Chargers faced this season wasn’t just role players being sidelined. But rather, it was Pro Bowl-level talent being put on the shelf for weeks, in some cases months. Despite that, Telesco says the over-arching talking point regarding the Chargers' long-list of injuries is a bit exaggerated.

“You can weight [players], but even with that — when a player get hurt, as far as time missed, they’re all important to us," Telesco said. "The injury doesn’t necessarily, because you’re a starter and you’re a backup is different. That’s the same to us.

“I’m not saying [losing Bosa] is not big. When you talk about the strength and conditioning staff, the medical staff, that doesn’t really matter what type of player that is. But yes, Joey was big. When you compare to the rest of the league, we weren’t in the bottom of the league."

Keenan Allen remains in the team's future plans, Justin Herbert's contract extension remains a wait-and-see

The Chargers currently sit $19.9 million over the salary cap for next season, meaning they'll need to cut or restructure contracts to get under the threshold. Allen, the team's longest tenured player, carries a cap hit of $21.7 million in 2023, with just $1.5 million in guaranteed dollars.

The team could presumably trade or release Allen, who's entering his age 31 season, without taking on a large dead cap hit. However, Telesco doesn’t see that as a realistic option. He still views Allen as a quality asset to the team and fully expects him to be a part of it.

“It’s not tempting to me," Telesco said when asked if they could move on from Allen for salary cap purposes. "Good players make money, and I would rather have a lot of good players on our roster than a lot of cap space.”