John Spanos on Monday pushed back against a suggestion that the Chargers’ financial situation could limit their searches for a new general manager and head coach.
Saying, “I want to know where narratives come from,” the team’s president of football operations said he and his father — chairman Dean Spanos — are as committed to winning as they’ve ever been.
“I can tell you there have been no discussions internally about there being a max [salary for the new hires],” Spanos said. “I mean, we’re always going to do what’s in the best interest of the team.”
The Chargers generally are considered to be one of the NFL’s less wealthy franchises but Spanos pointed to the team’s recent investments in players and construction of a training facility in El Segundo as examples of willingness to spend.
“I can tell you,” Spanos said, “I’ve never felt any or seen any limitations because of cash or any other reason.”
The Chargers fired Tom Telesco as general manager and Brandon Staley as head coach on Friday after a 63-21 loss at Las Vegas continued a disappointing season that has seen grand expectations turn into a 5-9 record.
Spanos said the decision to part ways with Telesco and Staley was the result of the Chargers not being “where we needed to be.” He refused to get into the specifics behind the moves, explaining “there were a lot of factors at play.”
The Chargers named JoJo Wooden interim general manager and Giff Smith interim head coach to finish the season. Wooden had been the team’s director of player personnel and Smith the outside linebackers coach.
Spanos said the Chargers would put no limitations on their searches, suggesting the team will consider a wide field of candidates for both jobs. He also didn’t rule out anyone currently employed by the team.
As for the timing of the hires, Spanos said there is no plan yet as it relates to which position is filled first. He said the hires could happen simultaneously, something that is not uncommon in the NFL.
“We’re not going to lock ourselves into any one way or any one structure right now,” Spanos said. “[We’re going to] kinda see how it unfolds as we get closer to the end of the year. But really open to anything.”
The franchise’s past three coaches — Staley, Anthony Lynn and Mike McCoy — were hired with no previous head-coaching experience.
Because of that, there has been early speculation that the Chargers would go in a different direction this time around. Spanos said that’s not necessarily the case.
“I do think there’s value in previous head-coach experience,” he said. “I think we all recognize that. It helps having been through it before. I don’t think it can be the end-all, be-all in regards to not looking at anyone but experienced coaches.
“But, absolutely, we’ll factor in that. That’s an added bonus if someone does have previous head-coach experience.”
The Chargers finished 9-8 and 10-7 in Staley’s first two seasons, making the playoffs in 2022 after being eliminated on the final play of the 2021 regular season.
But that lone playoff appearance was ugly as the Chargers blew a 27-0 lead and lost 31-30 at Jacksonville. Much public debate about the job statuses of Telesco and Staley followed the defeat.
Spanos explained that the decision was made to retain both because the Chargers, coming off back-to-back losing seasons, had put together consecutive winning seasons and earned a postseason berth.
“Despite the way it ended, the trajectory at that point was still going up,” he said. “So [we] didn’t feel a change then was in the best interest of the team.”
Spanos emphasized that his preference is to hire executives and coaches and then allow them to do their jobs. He did say, however, he talked to Telesco and Staley “almost daily” as a means to support them.
The Chargers would seem to offer an inviting opportunity based on their upcoming move to their new facility and the presence of quarterback Justin Herbert, who is under contract through 2029.
Even with some salary cap and dead money issues entering next season, the chance to build around a player of Herbert’s caliber probably gives the Chargers an edge over other teams seeking new leadership this offseason.
“Providing Justin with all the resources to help him be his best and the team be its best is, without question, our No. 1 priority,” Spanos said.
The decision to promote Smith to interim coach allowed the Chargers to keep all three coordinators — Kellen Moore (offense), Derrick Ansley (defense) and Ryan Ficken (special teams) — in their current positions and limit disruption.
Smith has been with the team eight years, longer than any other assistant, and has spanned the tenures of the last three head coaches.
Spanos praised Smith as a coach and leader and called him “the best man right now” to front the Chargers. He also said the team will push forward over the final three weeks of the season in games against Buffalo, Denver and Kansas City.
“I can tell you what our family’s message to Giff was,” Spanos said. “It was, ‘Let’s go compete and try to win these next three games.’ I mean, we’re not worried about getting a high draft pick.”
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