Raiders Hire Tom Telesco As GM

Although the Raiders kept Antonio Pierce, previous reports indicated he and interim GM Champ Kelly were not necessarily a package deal. That detail looks to prove critical now. The AFC West team is expected to go in a different GM direction.

Former Chargers GM Tom Telesco looks set to have an immediate second chance. The Raiders are likely to hire the 11-year GM veteran,’s Ian Rapoport reports. Telesco worked as the Bolts’ GM from 2013-23 but was fired shortly after the Raiders’ 63-21 demolition late this season. With no other team interviewing Telesco for its GM vacancy, he is now set to team with Pierce in Las Vegas. The Raiders subsequently announced the hire.

This hiring comes after the team had Kelly sitting in on HC interviews ahead of the Pierce hire. While Kelly had established clear momentum and was certainly on the radar to join Pierce as the rare interim figure to keep a job, the Raiders will go with a more experienced candidate. This could well lead Kelly elsewhere, though The Athletic’s Tashan Reed notes he remains under contract. The well-respected front office figure only met with one other team — the Panthers — about its GM job. Carolina promoted Dan Morgan to fill that post Monday.

It would be a bit odd to see Telesco sign off on working with perhaps his top competition for this job, so it bears monitoring to see if Kelly will remain with the Raiders.

For Telesco, this will provide a chance to start over after his Philip Rivers– and Justin Herbert-centered rosters repeatedly ran into obstacles in Southern California. Injury issues routinely plagued the Chargers during the 2010s and 2020s, though their rosters always always generated praise coming into seasons. Telesco will now work with another first-time HC. Hiring only rookie HCs during his run with the Chargers (Mike McCoy, Anthony Lynn, Brandon Staley), Telesco’s teams only qualified for three playoff fields in his 11-year run.

Telesco, 51, came in for a second Raiders interview Monday. That meeting may have changed the team’s thinking. The longtime Chargers front office leader will bring more than 30 years of NFL experience to Las Vegas. Beginning his career as a Bills intern during Bill Polian‘s GM run, Telesco followed the future Hall of Famer to Charlotte and then Indianapolis. With the Colts, Telesco worked his way up to director of player personnel. He held that title for six years, being with the team during its Super Bowl XLI win and its Super Bowl XLIV loss three years later. A year after the Colts fired Polian and hired Ryan Grigson, Teleseco received his GM opportunity and became one of the longer-serving true GMs entering this past season.

With the Chargers, Telesco gave Rivers Pro Bowl pieces in the late 2010s. He drafted Keenan Allen in the 2013 third round and added Joey Bosa and Derwin James in 2016 and ’18, respectively. Telesco added Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater in the 2021 first round as well. He excelled on the extension front, giving new deals to Melvin Ingram — ahead of the veteran’s Pro Bowl years — along with Allen, Bosa, James and Mike Williams. Telesco also signed Austin Ekeler to what became one of the best running back deals in recent memory, a four-year, $24.5MM pact that locked in the passing-down dynamo before back-to-back seasons leading the NFL in touchdowns.

Telesco landing Herbert at No. 6 overall may be his defining GM move, and the decision-maker gave the next Chargers GM a boost by extending Herbert through 2029 last summer. Herbert has become one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, quickly showing that form. However, Telesco’s Staley hire — and the litany of injuries to plague the Bolts — have restricted the prodigious passer. The Chargers are just 1-for-4 in playoff appearances with Herbert, and the lone cameo resulted in a 27-point wild-card collapse in Jacksonville. Rather than fire Staley and go after Sean Payton — long rumored as interested in the job — Telesco (and Chargers ownership) retained Staley. This preceded the December firings of the Bolts’ HC and GM.

Pairing Pierce with a seasoned GM makes sense. Of the candidates the Raiders interviewed, Telesco is the only one with experience as a full-time GM. Mark Davis spoke of the possibility of bringing in a football ops-type presence to lead the way. With Telesco being hired, he might well be that figure to work alongside the owner and head coach.

Kelly and Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds were believed to be the other finalists, per CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones. Dodds and Kelly were believed to be the frontrunners recently, Reed adds, indicating the team was leery about putting Pierce with a first-time GM. Dodds interviewed for the Las Vegas GM job in 2022 and was believed to have made a good impression on Davis. It is unsurprising the longtime Indianapolis exec was again in this race until the end. While Dodds figures to stay in his current post, it will be interesting to see if Kelly — hired to be Dave Ziegler‘s assistant GM in 2022 and taking over as interim GM in November — ends up elsewhere.

Given Pierce’s limited coaching background, it should be expected it will be Telesco making the final calls regarding the team’s 53-man roster. While Josh McDaniels was widely believed to be calling the shots in Vegas during his short HC tenure, Davis emphasized it was Ziegler controlling the roster. The Raiders’ coordinator hires will be the next dominoes to fall. While the team has blocked DC Patrick Graham from making lateral moves, it will be interesting to see if the HC carousel regular will be OK working for a head coach with considerably less experience.

For now, Telesco will step into a situation that differs from his Chargers setup. Rivers was entering his eighth season as a starter when Telesco took over in 2013. With the Dolphins selecting Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall in 2020, Herbert was available. The Raiders are unlikely to have comparably easy access to a top-tier QB talent this offseason, holding the No. 13 overall pick after an 8-9 season. That will be the top roster need for Telesco, who will join Pierce in assembling a coaching staff.

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