Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley has given the Chargers an identity. They’re a team that has a high-powered offense centered around the talents of superstar quarterback Justin Herbert and an attacking defense.
Staley has shown – for better or worse – that the Chargers aren’t afraid to go for it. But not just on fourth down, to go for broke, making big free agent signings like Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson. Off the field, Staley carries himself well. He’s good with the media. His players don’t shove over photographers at the end of games. There are no scandals associated with the team.
Those are all things that didn’t used to be that important but are now in the Social Media Age where every pratfall, yawn or emotion can become a meme and every decision second-guessed on a never-ending timeline.
Through 22 games, Staley is 12-10 with the Chargers, yet, there are still doubts about his ability to make big decisions when the game is on the line. Is Brandon Staley a good NFL coach? Let’s go for it.
What Do The Numbers Say?
There were seven new coaches, counting Staley, hired in the NFL for the 2021 season. Two of them, incredibly, are already fired: David Culley with the Houston Texans and Urban Meyer and his lap dance with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Of the other four, Staley has the second-best record of the group, trailing only Nick Sirianni of the Philadelphia Eagles at the moment.
Staley had a meteoric rise through the world of coaching. He went from John Carroll College to the Chicago Bears in 2017 and worked with the linebackers there. He caught on with the Broncos in 2019, and then was the Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator in 2020. The Rams defense was No. 1 in points against that season.
Staley will always be connected and compared to Rams coach Sean McVay. They are both young, both from Ohio. They coach in the same stadium. McVay’s record through his first 22 games? 17-5.
What Staley Was Asked To Do?
Context is king here, remember just where the Chargers were after the 2020 season. Anthony Lynn (who was 14-8 in his first 22 games) had run out of mojo. It was Herbert’s rookie year, and man, did he look promising, but the Chargers couldn’t win any close games. They were 7-9, with seven of the losses by eight points or less, two in overtime.
Lynn didn’t ‘lose’ the locker room per se, as much as it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Chargers would lose a close game because they always lost close games. Other teams knew it and they could just wait for it to happen.
The biggest job of an NFL coach in 2022 today is to establish belief. No, I’m not going to go Ted Lasso, on you. The truth is every NFL team is talented. The margin for victory is razor-thin. That’s why you see crazy results each week. Teams that have sustained success are the teams that believe in themselves and their coach.
You Have To Play To Win
That dovetails nicely into what has started to become Staley’s reputation. The Chargers go for it on fourth down. A lot. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
People want to talk about the analytics. What the Chargers did at the end of the Browns game seems strange in a vacuum. Why do you go for it on your side of the 50 up by two points? Well, plenty of reasons. Offenses are so much more efficient now. Defense can’t cover wide receivers, you certainly can’t hit the quarterback, so when you have the ball with a chance to win the game, you want to keep it.
The other thing that no analytics ever measure is the fact that in order for a coach to get the players to believe in him, he has to demonstrate he believes in them. That’s what Staley’s decisions are all about. I believe in MY offense, MY players, to get the first down. That’s a huge factor in all these decisions. The Chargers know that they have a coach who believes in their ability to execute in clutch situations. It’s up to them to prove it.
Is Brandon Staley A Good Coach?
12-10 is not that impressive a number. Chargers coaching great Don Coryell was 15-7 through his first 22 games, Marty Schottenheimer was 9-13. Forgettable Al Saunders was 11-12 through 23 games (Saunders coached during a strike year with 15 games).
I think Staley is a good coach. A great coach? Maybe not. We still have a ways to go.
I don’t like the total egg the Chargers have laid a few times under Staley, like the Jaguars game a few weeks ago and the Texans game last year. Good coaches don’t let that happen. What that tells me is that preparation is inconsistent from week to week, and that’s on Staley.
But I also think that the Chargers roster isn’t quite as talented as the national media thinks it is. The offensive line is doing it with two rookies. Herbert got hurt. Staley built his bones on defense and the Chargers defense ranks in the bottom half of the league against the run and the pass right now.
What really separates good from great is the ability to self-evaluate and adapt to what’s going on. After 22 games, we’re at that stage now with Staley, if he can evolve and adapt, Charger fans will have a lot more belief in him taking this team forward to the playoffs.