SAN DIEGO – When the search for a new general manager began more than two weeks ago, Chargers President Dean Spanos said the person to fill that position would be “anybody that could win.”
On Wednesday, Spanos and his committee found that person in Tom Telesco, a 40-year-old, who was, as of last Sunday, the vice president of football operations for the Indianapolis Colts.
Dressed in a pin stripe suit and blue and gold tie, Telesco was introduced as the new Chargers general manager, the first in more than a decade.
His youthful appearance brought out some ribbing from reporters who questioned the verity of his age. In good humor, Telesco confirmed his age, adding that he does have a little bit of gray in his hair.
During the interview process Spanos, with his son John, Ed McGuire and consultant Ron Wolf, said Telesco never missed a beat in answering the “million questions,” they asked him.
“And the most important thing, I would say, is his answers were correct, especially on the personnel evaluations. Pretty impressive,” Spanos said.
But what impressed Spanos the most was Telesco’s vision of how to build a franchise.
“Everybody knows you have to have the right draft picks, you have to have the right free agent moves all that kind of stuff – hire the right coach.
“But the one thing he said that was kind of compelling to me was that you have to do all those things, but you got to bring the organization together as a whole. There’s some cohesiveness that you have to have and it’s through him, it’s through his leadership and I really believe he has that quality to do that. And that struck me,” Spanos added. “It’s something very important. I haven’t heard that in a long time.”
A Buffalo, New York native, Telesco graduated from Ohio’s John Carroll University in 1995 with a degree in business management. He began his NFL career as a scouting assistant with the Carolina Panthers that same year.
In 1998 he became an area scout within the Colts organization. Since then he has climbed the ranks.
“I came from an environment that won a lot,” Telesco said. “Not only in Indy, but in Carolina…I’ve been around winning my whole professional career.”
He looks to bring that winning feeling with him to his new position, but he knows there’s some work to do to get his system in place.
“His basic philosophy is building through the draft,” Spanos said of Telesco. “And I think we’ve gotten out of that a little bit and we need to get back into it and he’s the right guy to do it.”
The results of the previous three seasons in which the Chargers failed to make the postseason, and finishing the season with a losing record under the previous regime of Head Coach Norv Turner and General Manager A.J. Smith, proved it was time to make changes in the organization. Spanos said that Telesco will bring in a new perspective that is needed for the Chargers.
“He’s going to command a lot of respect around here. People are going to really respect him for what he is,” Spanos said.
Telesco said he understands that his position isn’t a “one-man job.”
“You hire the right people, very talented people and you manage them, and you let them do their work,” he said.
As for one of his greatest strengths: “I’ve always thought I could listen to opinions well and take a lot of different opinions on one subject and then make a nice educated decision,” Telesco said.
His first major decision as general manager will be to hire a new head coach. He has a list of names ready to interview, though he wouldn’t elaborate on who’s on it.
But he did describe the ideal relationship between general manager and head coach as one of a partnership.
“We’re here to support that head coach, make sure he has the right players, make sure the roster is where he needs it to be,” Telesco said. “That’s a daily endeavor. But it’s a partnership everyday in season and off season.”