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Chargers: What could have been

HAMID KOLAHDOUZ. Sports Columnist.

When the Charger’s comeback bid against the Broncos in the divisional playoffs fell short, the most exciting season in recent Chargers’s history commenced. While the season saw the rise of Ryan Mathews out of a shroud of doubt and Philip Rivers erase his turnover tendencies, it is troubling to think of what could have been if first year General Manager Tom Telesco had resigned a few key veterans in the past offseason.

Imagine if this year’s defense still had veteran nose tackle Abrayu Franklin, who went on to start on the vaunted 49er’s defense after Telesco declined to resign him, or even still had cornerback Antoine Cason, who while not an outstanding player to say the least would be a considerable upgrade over Richard Marshall.

Losing Abrayu Franklin hurt the run defense badly as it quickly became apparent that Cam Thomas could not get the job done. The worst non-signing has to be that of pass rusher Sean Philips, the Chargers’ second all-time sack leader, because he went on to make an impact for the Superbowl-bound rival Denver Broncos. The defense could have kept at least part of the dominance it flashed in 2012 if the team had resigned its veterans. The Chargers’s offense was superb this year, but the team’s lack of defense dragged the team to seven losses and allowed the Broncos to overpower the Chargers in the playoffs. If Telesco had just signed the veterans he had available for very economical salaries, then the team could have gone the extra distance.

Telesco had an excellent draft and made great free agency signings in left tackle King Dunlap and running back Danny Woodhead, but in 20/20 hindsight we can see he made a few vital mistakes. Cornerback Derek Cox ended up being a gigantic whiff in free agency and was eventually benched and rookie Manti Teo looked enormously underwhelming during the season. Granted, Teo missed significant developmental time in the pre-season to injury. Overall Telesco improved the team considerably in the off season and turned the team into a real playoff contender; however, in his zeal, he brashly discarded key veterans who could have pushed the team to the next level. Hopefully, Telesco will learn from these early mistakes and successes and elevate the organization to the ultimate goal: the Superbowl.

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