June 16, 2024

They didn’t rebuild as much as they re-upped, the Chargers convinced their roster was close enough coming out of the 2022 season to make only a few significant changes.

Jamaree Salyer replaced guard Matt Feiler. Linebacker Eric Kendricks and safety Alohi Gilman assumed the starting jobs that had belonged to Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley.

Veteran defenders Kyle Van Noy and Bryce Callahan were allowed to depart as a pair of new coordinators — Kellen Moore on offense and Derrick Ansley on defense — took over.

Soon enough, everyone would know just how badly the Chargers had miscalculated their potential, the fallout starting Friday morning with the firings of general manager Tom Telesco and coach Brandon Staley.

The tweaked roster produced twisted results, the Chargers’ warped path to 5-9 including a Thursday night defeat during which, at one stage, they trailed Las Vegas 63-7.

Several players afterward called the loss embarrassing while explaining they never had been part of a game so comprehensively lopsided. Most used some version of the term butt kicking.

“We are clearly not where we expect to be,” owner Dean Spanos said in a statement only hours after the game. He then added that the Chargers “need new vision.”

A lot of new is coming to this franchise as Spanos now opens the search for leadership that will inherit a mess to clean up and a roster to shore up around franchise quarterback Justin Herbert.

The Chargers will move into their new training facility in El Segundo in 2024 with a new general manager and head coach and a group of players that could look vastly different.

Following an offseason of only limited adjustments, this organization will enter January looking at possibly sweeping changers in the coming weeks and months.

“Building and maintaining a championship-caliber program remains our ultimate goal,” Spanos said. “And reimagining how we achieve that goal begins today.”

The process won’t be easy.

Part of keeping the roster intact last offseason included restructuring the contracts of stars Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Those decisions will eat up significant cap space in 2024.

During his first decade with the team, Telesco was expert at avoiding the sort of dead-money charges that can hamstring personnel decisions. That changed with the more all-in approach of 2023, the Chargers now facing some serious space-cap gymnastics.

The failed free-agent signing and subsequent trade of cornerback J.C. Jackson will continue to haunt the team as the new general manager must maneuver around a dead-money charge in excess of $15 million.

Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. lines up against the Dolphins.

Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. has not lived up to NFL expecations so far.

(Los Angeles Chargers / Mike Nowak)

There will be weighty decisions about veterans who could be cut. It’s important to remember that whoever the team hires probably will arrive without any recent attachments to these players, perhaps easing some otherwise difficult choices.

Eight players who have had prominent roles this season are set to be unrestricted free agents.

That group includes Gilman, Austin Ekeler, Kenneth Murray Jr., Gerald Everett, Michael Davis and Austin Johnson.

In 2021 and 2022, no player in the NFL scored more touchdowns than Ekeler. A high-ankle sprain slowed him early this season, however, and he has been unable to find his stride in Moore’s system since.

Given the state of the running back position leaguewide, Ekeler appears to be facing the end of his time with the Chargers over these final three games. An all-time fan favorite, he’s basically fading into whatever is next.

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) reacts after getting a first down as Broncos safety Justin Simmons watches.

Austin Ekeler’s (30) days as a Charger could come to an end after this season.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Murray, one of Telesco’s two first-round picks in 2020, has played better this season, though his growth hasn’t matched the expectations that come with being taken in Round 1.

Because of the presence of Herbert, the Chargers are considered an inviting opportunity for any general manager or head coach. Joining this team means not having to worry about the most worrisome position in sports.

But the franchise also lacks the cash resources that can make a major difference in critical times and in hiring for positions such as general manager and head coach.

Established in 1960, this is still an organization without a Super Bowl title and with only two playoff victories since the 2008 season.

With all the new that’s in their future, the Chargers again will attempt to distance themselves from a past that feels very old.

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