The Los Angeles Chargers hired Brandon Staley, the Rams’ former defensive coordinator, as their head … [+] coach to replace Anthony Lynn. Time will tell if Staley, who hasn’t directed a team at any level, is the right fit for the Chargers. (AP Photo/Doug Murray, File)
Among the NFL winners in the playoffs’ final push before Super Bowl 55 were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers?
OK, the Chargers weren’t a party to the conference titles games and that’s not a surprise. The franchise has qualified for just four, with its lone triumph forged when the then-San Diego Chargers upset the Pittsburgh Steelers to reach Super Bowl 29.
It’s another reach to say they prevailed last week, or is it?
Did the Chargers complete the equivalent of game-winning, two-minute drive in hiring Brandon Staley to replace Anthony Lynn as their head coach?
Or will their decision be viewed as a failed Hail Mary in believing in a first-time head coach at any level, and one with just a season as a coordinator? That’s a dramatic leap up the coaching ladder for someone whose majority of experience was absorbed through 11 seasons at the Division III college level.
If the Chargers did win last week, it’s because Staley won his first press conference. Staley was smart, on-point, showed charisma and also was humbled by the opportunity presented to him by owner Dean Spanos.
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Staley, 38, didn’t act as if he knew all the answers and it was refreshing. He didn’t deflect questions about him earning enough NFL stripes to become a head coach, with only four seasons of working at the game’s highest level.
It’s true he led the Rams’ defense to the No. 1 ranking in 2020, but it came with a squad which included two All-Pros in tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
The Chargers have defensive weapons too, if health allows end Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James to deliver their slice of domination.
But the Chargers are excited about the future because of quarterback Justin Herbert. The sixth overall pick of the draft set numerous rookie records and he seems poised to be a top-shelf performer for years to come.
Herbert clearly outplayed his L.A. counterpart, the Rams’ Jared Goff. That’s not only significant between the sidelines but especially in a star-driven city where both teams are peddling tickets for games next season, ones that hopefully will be safe enough for fans to attend if the pandemic is tamed.
Staley’s selection did raise eyebrows in that he made his mark as a defensive coach. Although he played quarterback at the University of Dayton, Staley took the accelerated path to his position by stopping the ball, not moving it.
Herbert’s second NFL coach has a clear defensive slant, although there’s varied predictions on if that will slow Herbert’s progress.
It’s worth noting the second coach of another once-promising Chargers quarterback, the great Dan Fouts. When the Charger turned to Don Coryell in 1978 after dismissing Tommy Prothro, Fouts’ career catapulted into another stratosphere.
“I would have never made the Hall of Fame without coach Coryell,’’ Fouts said.
Will Herbert say the same thing, some day, when eyeing Staley in the loving and appreciative manner that Fouts never fails to do when Coryell is mentioned?
We’re not here to prejudge and Staley could provide the Chargers with their version of the Rams’ Sean McVay: young, studious, innovative and possessing the communication skills which clicks with players.
McVay was among Staley’s biggest boosters. He was floored when he interviewed Staley, then a linebackers coach, to replace Wade Phillips.
The Chargers were knocked off the feet as well, ignoring Staley’s lack of experience and instead focusing on what he could become.
They turned from a trio of candidates with offensive pedigrees: the Buffalo Bills’ Brian Daboll, the Carolina Panthers’ Joe Brady and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Eric Bieniemy, a former Charger.
Instead, the Chargers take no offense in plopping Staley on the payroll. L.A hopes that defense wins the day, and the required number of games, that has it doing something in January other than yet again hiring a new coach.