John Spanos – ‘No limitations’ on Chargers’ coaching, GM hires

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers president John Spanos said the team would have “no limitations” on its next head coach and general manager pairing, from experience to salary, attempting to dismiss the narrative that the organization is unwilling to spend for coaches and executives.

“I think sometimes it’s maybe the misses that help you grow the most — that you can learn from the most,” Spanos said Monday, speaking for the first time since the team fired coach Brandon Staley and GM Tom Telesco last week. “And I think we always have to be pushing ourselves as an ownership to get better, to be better.”

Spanos declined to discuss the specifics of why he and his father, owner Dean Spanos, fired Staley and Telesco during the season, but the decision came one day after the Chargers lost to the Las Vegas Raiders 63-21 on “Thursday Night Football.” It was one of the most embarrassing losses in NFL history, not only because of the margin, but also because it came against a Raiders team without much to play for — a team that had already fired its own head coach and general manager.

Thursday’s defeat encapsulated three seasons under Staley and 11 seasons of disappointment for Telesco. John Spanos — who began working for his father’s team in 1995 as a seasonal assistant, was promoted to vice president of football operations in 2013 and then president in 2015 — has had a hand in all of the Chargers’ shortcomings.

Spanos’ first major hire in 2013 was Telesco, and then together they hired Mike McCoy as head coach six days later. Since then, the Chargers have fired McCoy, then hired and fired Anthony Lynn and Staley.

In total, the three coaches and Telesco produced two playoff wins over 11 seasons.

“In my opinion is everything starts with ownership, so I think ultimately we’re responsible for everything,” Spanos said.

When asked why fans should have faith in the Spanos family to make the right hires this time around, Spanos said that he “empathizes” with the feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment that fans may be feeling. But said that they have learned from past errors.

“When I looked at these last two hires, we did some good things,” Spanos said. “We didn’t get where we ultimately wanted to go, but I know that we’re all going to learn from it, and we’re going to do even better the next time. The commitment to winning and the commitment to do whatever it takes to get there is as strong as it’s ever been and really will not waiver.”

Spanos explained the commitment to winning as “providing the resources” and supporting whatever the next front office needs. It was a noteworthy point from Spanos because resources and money, particularly for coaches, have been a critique of this organization.

Lynn, who coached the Chargers from 2017 to 2020, said in a Los Angeles Times article in 2022 that the “resources” at his new position as assistant head coach and running backs coach with the San Francisco 49ers were “different” compared to his time with the Chargers.

Spanos dismissed that narrative, however, pointing to their new facility set to open in El Segundo next spring and their investment in players. He said that he’s “never felt any or seen any limitations because of cash or any other reason.”

“I think if you look at the last three coach hires that we’ve made, all three of them are coaches that were sought after to the point where they were going to get other jobs if we didn’t step up and get them, right?” Spanos said. “So we’ve competed for players, we’ve competed for the staff, you know, we’re competing for a new facility.”

When asked if the franchise would be willing to spend $20-25 million on a coach, Spanos said in part, “I can tell you that there have been no discussions internally about there being a max.”

Despite the Chargers projected to be $34.8 million over the salary cap next year, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System, their coach and general manager openings are expected to be among the most desirable of this cycle partly because of quarterback Justin Herbert. It’s a point Spanos recognized but said isn’t his focus.

“I’ve been very fortunate in the [coaching] searches that I have been a part of what has come through during the process is that … this has been a very desirable place to be,” Spanos said. “… And I can tell you already in two days, that’s been expressed to me on more than one occasion by outside contacts. And I’m grateful for that.”

As for Staley and Telesco, Spanos said that there was never any consideration to firing them before Thursday, including after the Chargers’ playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, when the team blew a 27-point first-half lead, the third largest in playoff history. Spanos said he felt the team was still headed in a positive direction despite the loss.

He also said he had no regrets about keeping Telesco as general manager for 11 seasons.

“I think hindsight’s always going to be 2020,” Spanos said. “… Never before did we feel making a change was in the best interest of the team; otherwise, we would have.”

The Chargers’ next three games are against teams all looking to make a playoff push: the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers will be led by interim coach Giff Smith, who was the outside linebackers coach, and Jojo Wooden, who was director of player personnel. Spanos said that the next three games will be “business as usual” for this team.

“We’re not worried about getting a high draft pick,” Spanos said. “We want to go win these next three games.”

Spanos declined to comment on whether Smith, Wooden or any of the Chargers’ current staffers would have a chance at becoming the head coach or general manager.

“Right now, to decisively say yes or no to any candidate would be a big mistake,” he said. “I’m not going to limit the search in any way.”

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