Tom Telesco To Control Raiders’ Roster; Team Wants Champ Kelly Back

Mark Davis‘ two recent regimes featured head coach-centric operations, with Josh McDaniels and Jon Gruden the much higher-profile figures compared to their respective GMs. Although Mark Davis made a point to say Dave Ziegler controlled the Raiders’ 53-man roster, comparisons to Mike Mayock‘s shotgun role alongside Gruden also emerged after the Patriot Way model combusted.

In pairing Tom Telesco with Antonio Pierce, the Raiders have an experienced GM and an unseasoned head coach. Davis confirmed (via ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez) Telesco will control the roster, but the longtime Chargers front office boss said he and Pierce will work collaboratively.

It’s a partnership,” Telesco said, via The Athletic’s Tashan Reed. “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. … We’re going to be able to bounce ideas off each other.”

Telesco will become the rare GM to receive an immediate second chance. Although Trent Baalke is in place as the Jaguars’ front office leader, four years passed between Baalke’s San Francisco ouster and his elevation to this role. Baalke and Telesco are the league’s only current GM retreads, with the rest of the league using first-timers or having a setup in which the owner is the team’s de facto GM. Telesco, 51, lasted 11 years as Chargers GM but only oversaw three playoff teams.

Pierce and Telesco did not have any connection prior to this partnership, though the two joked about the 63-21 December result that ultimately led the latter to Las Vegas. The team preferred Teleseco’s experience to finalists Champ Kelly and Ed Dodds and liked the Chargers’ roster makeup, according to’s Albert Breer. Telesco’s knowledge of the AFC West also worked in his favor.

It is true Teleseco built well-regarded Bolts rosters for most of his tenure, though they regularly fell short of expectations. The ex-Colts exec also inherited Philip Rivers in his prime and had Justin Herbert waiting for him when the Dolphins chose Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall in 2020. This Raiders effort stands to be more difficult through that lens, and the lack of a prior relationship with Pierce will make the setup worth monitoring.

Kelly is under contract, and Davis said (via Gutierrez) he hopes the veteran exec will stay with the team. It appeared Kelly was close to landing the job, with the Raiders having him sit in on their few HC interviews. But it had been reported Pierce and Kelly were not necessarily a package deal. Davis also added Tom Delaney would remain in place managing the Raiders’ salary cap. Part of the search committee that produced Pierce and Telesco, Delaney has been with the Raiders since the late 1990s.

Hired as Ziegler’s assistant GM before becoming the interim leader midseason, Kelly interviewed for the Panthers’ GM job. That has gone to Dan Morgan; Kelly has not been connected to any other job. Unless the Raiders let Kelly out of his contract or he quits, a situation in which Telesco works with his top competitor for the job could conceivably come to pass.

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