It’s crunch time for newly minted Chargers general manager Tom Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy.

After suffering through another underachieving season, team president Dean Spanos finally pulled the trigger so many of the Bolt faithful longed to see pulled in dispatching A.J. Smith and Norv Turner.

Their replacements will begin putting their stamp on the franchise when the NFL Draft gets underway this Thursday at 5 p.m. The Chargers’ middling 2012 performance garnered them the 11th pick in the first round, and one pick each in the early-middle of rounds two through seven, held on Friday and Saturday.

Telesco will have the final word on which prospects San Diego selects. He certainly will not want for advice and input in the war room. McCoy can be expected to provide his perspective as the person responsible for coaching the new players. Alex Spanos’ grandson John, the team’s executive V.P. of football operations, will provide some unknown measure of influence, along with a laundry list of team scouts and front office executives.

Team fortunes can be made or broken in the annual draft of collegiate amateurs, as no Chargers fan need be reminded. A bright future dawned with picks like Dan Fouts in 1973 and LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001, while crashing to earth with epic busts like Ryan Leaf in 1998 and the small-college reaches made by Bobby Beathard from 1994 to 1997.

Speculation on which players and what positions the Bolts will target is all over the map. The team clearly needs a starting left tackle. They could hope the offensive lineman they covet falls to them at the 11th pick, or maybe trade with the Raiders to move up to the No. 3 spot, or stockpile picks by trading down for Minnesota’s picks. Or none of those things! It’s all pure guesswork, and any wisdom from so-called draft experts and clues from team officials should be regarded with deep suspicion.

With Philip Rivers cemented, for now, as the team’s starting quarterback, a monumental disaster like Leaf is likely to be avoided. So is San Diego building to a brighter tomorrow or continuing on an inexorable march to mediocrity? We’ll likely be no closer to an answer after this weekend, but at least we’ll know some of the new names involved.

Beau Lynott is a contributor to Voice of San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @lemonverbena_ or email

Beau Lynott is a private investigator and a contributor to Voice of San Diego.

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