Perennial NFL playoff teams are built through the draft and the Chargers accomplished that starting back in 2004 and carrying it over to the following year.
Those two drafts built a solid foundation for the Chargers to go 67-29 from 2004-09. In those back-to-back drafts the Chargers selected future Pro Bowlers: Philip Rivers, Nate Kaeding, Nick Hardwick, Shaun Phillips, Michael Turner, Shawne Merriman and Vincent Jackson; along with key contributors Igor Olshansky, Shane Olivea, Luis Castillo and Darren Sproles.
Though a lot of those players ended up leaving for other teams in the future, they all played vital roles during their time in San Diego.
One of the things A.J. Smith didn’t do well while General Manager in San Diego that Tom Telesco has to do, is resigning the team’s own key players. This is what Bill Polian did with the Indianapolis Colts and Telesco worked under Polian his whole career until last season when the Chargers hired him. He has to implement Polian’s philosophy into the Chargers’ organization if he wants to consistently be a playoff team.
Smith let Turner, Jackson and Sproles all walk in the prime of their careers without getting any compensation back in return. While these players moved on to have very good seasons with other teams, the Chargers were left with big holes on their roster. Smith also only picked one starting offensive lineman in the top six rounds of the draft from 2007-12. This resulted in huge offensive line problems over the past few years for San Diego.
Telesco already started to resign key players this offseason with an extension given to Donald Butler, then resigning offensive linemen Jeromey Clay, Chad Rinehart and Rich Ohrnberger to give the Chargers better continuity on the offensive line. Telesco put together a great draft last year filling three major needs with D.J. Fluker, Manti Te’o and Keenan Allen who all became starters in their rookie season.
If Telesco can put together another great draft this year and continue to resign key players down the road, San Diego should be able to sustain the kind of run it had between 2004-09.