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ASK THE GM | Chargers & Draft Picks

QUESTION: Mr. Mueller, I personally think the Chargers are Super Bowl contenders IF they had a QB like Cam Newton or even Andy Dalton. However, Tyrod scares me. Why do you think they elected not to get a FA QB during the offseason AND what should we expect from Tyrod?

- Chico Madaina

Perris, California

A couple different things come to mind. Obviously Head Coach Anthony Lynn “loves” Tyrod, having had him in Buffalo. I really think, him being the QB is 100% coach Lynn’s wish/call. He has to be feeling the heat to save his own job and most coaches always want a veteran QB, with familiarity (see Chicago Bears as well) at the helm in these circumstances. As much sense as signing Cam Newton made to you and I, the Chargers are not willing to adjust their offensive scheme, like the Patriots, on either side of the ball, to fit its personnel. They have a young, second year offensive coordinator who is still learning “his job” as well and he is trying to get comfortable in his own skin. I’m sure the thought of a big personality like Cam and a skill set that their current offense doesn’t require, might make some nervous inside their own building. They have never been a team to step out, and be aggressive in acquiring talent and make the needed gamble to move forward. They probably should have fixed this QB quandary a couple years ago, knowing Phillip Rivers’ exit was inevitable.

I’m with you and don’t happen to think Tyrod has shown the consistency needed to hold a full time starting gig in the NFL. My guess is, they think they have filled out the rest of their roster well enough so that if Tyrod can “manage the game” they can win 8 or 9 games. I hate the thought of mediocrity too, so I get your concerns.

GM Tom Telesco had no choice but to pick a QB to groom in this year’s draft- thus Justin Herbert was on the board and really their only choice. They were going to pick a QB regardless, they had kicked the can long enough, in prior years, without pulling the trigger on a QB. The offseason has been a mess do to Covid-19, so any early development will be slowed for all young QB’s but Herbert is far from a polished prospect and this will really stunt his short-term growth. The system he ran at Oregon does not make it easy for him to step right in to an NFL offense. I expect Tyrod to be the starter and a security blanket short term but because of current “state of affairs” within the league, you may be stuck with him for longer than what makes you comfortable. Not to mention, seeing Patrick Mahomes twice a year, would make anyone uncomfortable in its own right.

QUESTION: Randy, I read a Twitter thread amongst NFL players talking about young freshly drafted prospects and how they can know within the first week, if a high draft pick will be a bust or a success. Is this true? And if so, as a former GM, do you ever talk to players about prospects? - Eric Revering

Good question. I’ve often said, players in your locker room are your biggest and most valid judges of incoming talent. Players, do know players. I am not sure they can determine a player’s growth potential but they definitely know talent level when it lines up across from them. I always go back to a couple specifics in my career. When I was GM of the New Orleans Saints, we signed a WR from the Chiefs who was 4th or 5th on their depth chart. This player had not played a ton so he was unknown to most. Players led me to this decision, without them even knowingly saying a word.

I had just come from the 17 years in the Seahawks organization and we obviously played the Chiefs twice a year, in those days. Regarding this particular receiver, I noticed on film that when he did get in the game- our corners would take a step back in alignment, right before each snap. It happened consistently. It didn’t take a genius to conclude that “this kid was fast” and that said corners, were afraid he was going to run BY THEM, so they were just hedging their bets. If you follow what I’m saying, by stepping back and increasing the cushion they were protecting giving up the deep ball. I wanted that speed for our then, slow and plodding New Orleans Saints team. That receiver was Joe Horn, who went on the become the Saints all-time leading receiver by the end of his career.

To that end, I always like watching practice with the players on the sidelines. I like to observe the same things they feel. I like watching players reactions during practice as to what they are seeing on the field. They are not easily impressed by other players but hearing the chatter and taking mental notes of such conversations or body language should be part of what a GM does daily. It might be a simple raising of eye brows, or a wink to another payer over his shoulder but they know talent. Another example of listening to acquire knowledge.

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