Davis: New GM Telesco right ‘fit’ for Raiders


HENDERSON, Nev. — While Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN he was “uncomfortable with the concept” of pairing a rookie coach with a rookie general manager, as he had done in 2012, that was not the reason he selected Tom Telesco as Las Vegas’ general manager.

Telesco, who had been the Los Angeles Chargers‘ GM from 2013 until he was fired last month, was chosen to work with new coach Antonio Pierce because it was the right fit, Davis said.

“I had to get the right guy, at the right time, to fit the Raiders,” Davis said. “It was always a battle to play the Chargers. They always had good talent. At times, great talent. They scared you. I actually liked him, which was different for me with guys from other teams. I respected him.”

Pierce, who was officially named the Raiders’ head coach Friday, and Telesco, named GM on Tuesday, were introduced in a joint media conference Wednesday.

Davis said Champ Kelly, who served as interim general manager the last nine games of the season, was still with the franchise as assistant GM, his title before being elevated Nov. 1. Kelly had interviewed for the position, as well as with the Carolina Panthers, but Davis said he hopes Kelly remains with the Raiders. He and Pierce, as interim coach, went 5-4 down the stretch for the Raiders, who finished 8-9 and in second place in the AFC West (Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels were fired as GM and coach, respectively, on Halloween).

“I think he brings a lot to this organization,” Davis said of Kelly. “I have a lot of respect for him and what he was able to do.”

One of Pierce’s accomplishments was beating Telesco’s Chargers 63-21 in Week 15 at Allegiant Stadium, setting the franchise record for most points scored in a game.

Asked how long it took for him to mention that score to Telesco, Pierce smiled.

“Right away, you know it,” Pierce laughed. “Told him I was going for 71. We were going to go for two.”‘

Telesco threw up his arms in feigned exasperation.

In fact, Telesco did not see Raiders cornerback Jack Jones‘ acrobatic 16-yard pick-six that gave Las Vegas a 63-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. Disgusted and having seen enough, Telesco was already in the elevator on the way down from the press box when Jones scored.

“Why? Why?” Telesco said upon seeing the replay. “That’s enough. Never seen anything like it.”

Telesco and Chargers coach Brandon Staley were fired the next day, Dec. 15.

Telesco, 51, and Pierce, 45, met for the first time Monday, during Telesco’s second interview.

“He knows I was poking at him trying to get him going, trying to get that AP juice out of him, but he stayed very poker faced, which I was like, ‘OK, cool, this is good.’

“But I think as this relationship grows, like anything else, it’s going to have its ups and downs. We’ve got to be adults and grown men about it. We’ve got to hash it out. We’ve got to understand our roles, check our egos at the door, like everybody else in the building, but understand that we’ve got a plan, and that plan is to do it together, be hand in hand with it. Obviously, if he goes down, I go down. That’s just how it is. That’s the nature of the beast. We get it.

“But that’s not our plan. Our plan is to win, put a team in place that is competitive each and every week and gives ourselves an opportunity to win.”

Davis said the GM will have final say on roster decisions. Telesco called it a “partnership” between himself and Pierce.

And while Telesco’s former team is an estimated $40 million over the salary cap, Tom Delaney, the Raiders’ senior vice president and director of football administration, will continue to manage the cap for Las Vegas.

“As far as building the roster, you’re working through the vision of the head coach. How does he want to play on offense? How does he want to play on defense? How does he want to play on special teams? And you build it that way. There’s a lot of discussions. You work through things. We’re going to be able to bounce ideas off each other.”

Telesco, who said he would “adapt” to the current Raiders staff while “learning” the roster, said he was attracted to the Raiders due to their “storied history and tradition.”

The Raiders, though, have had only two winning records and a pair of playoff appearances since the start of the 2003 season.

And while Telesco, who will be the fifth GM to work for Davis since he assumed control of the franchise since his father Al Davis’ passing in 2011, saw his Chargers teams go 2-3 in three playoff appearances in his tenure, the Chargers were just 84-92 with Telesco as GM. Telesco had three head coaches with the Chargers, who moved from San Diego to Los Angeles in 2017, in Mike McCoy, Anthony Lynn and Staley.

Telesco was seen as the architect for some of the most talented but also most underachieving rosters in the AFC West. He drafted the likes of receiver Keenan Allen, running back Melvin Gordon, defensive end Joey Bosa, safety Derwin James, quarterback Justin Herbert, linebacker Kenneth Murray and defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu. He also traded for edge rusher Khalil Mack and signed All-Pro cornerback J.C. Jackson and defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Morgan Fox.

His ability to nail early round picks would be a welcome change for the Raiders, who have had 13 first-round picks since 2013 — yet only three of those players remain on the roster in left tackle Kolton Miller, running back Josh Jacobs, who is headed to free agency, and defensive end Tyree Wilson.

His scouting report on Pierce, who played linebacker for nine years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl while being named to the Pro Bowl, read like a classified ad for prospective Raiders players.

“If you can play like him,” Telesco said, “you can play for us.

“It would be a chance to be part of an organization with the Al Davis legacy. It’s just so exciting to have. Then, on top of that, you look at the resources that are here and the head coach that’s here, I think we can win. That’s why I want to be here.

“We all know the pressures that come with the job. But we can work side by side with a smile on our face and get things done. So, it was two things — find the right fit and the chance to win, and that’s what they have here.”

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