As the LA Chargers search for their next head coach, they could look to find the next great defensive mind.
The LA Chargers have begun their coaching search after parting ways with Anthony Lynn on Monday. The decision created one of the best coaching openings in recent memory, due to the play of Justin Herbert and the talent around him.
Shortly after the news about Lynn’s firing broke, the Chargers were connected to several coaching candidates, including Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator Brandon Staley – per Sports Illustrated’s Michael Silver.
It has been reported that they will interview at least ten coaching candidates, and that is something that should be looked at as a good thing. This shows they are doing their due diligence by casting a wide net.
Former Chargers beat writer Eric Williams pointed out that Staley and Chargers general manager Tom Telesco have a common connection through their alma mater John Carroll University. Telesco played wide receiver there and Staley served as the team’s defensive coordinator early on in his coaching career. Connections like that can somewhat play a role in these hiring processes.
The formal interview request surprised a lot of Chargers fans on social media, but Staley is one of the hotter names on the coaching circuit these days. He’s considered a young, defensive-minded genius in the coaching world.
His name first surfaced a few months ago as a potential head coaching candidate because the Rams were one of the hottest defensive units in the league, they finished the 2020 season as the best defense in yards per game and points per game allowed.
And many pundits around the league consider that to be a massive over-achievement – given the lack of proven talent around their two superstar players.
Staley has an incredibly unorthodox coaching history and has risen up from the very bottom of the coaching ranks. He’s spent more time coaching Division III teams than he has NFL teams. He got his start as a coach at Division III St Thomas, then moved to Hutchinson Community College, James Madison University and the aforementioned John Carroll – where he had two separate stints.
What also makes him a unique coach is his background as a player. He’s been a defensive coach at every turn in his coaching career but he actually played quarterback at the University of Dayton.
It is quite rare that we see a former quarterback become a defensive guru, but Staley has said that his playing experience as a quarterback helps give him a different perspective on coaching the defensive side of the ball. It certainly doesn’t hurt his case as a viable head coaching candidate to have that versatile experience on both sides of the ball.
Staley taught himself the defense that Vic Fangio has been running for decades in the NFL and used it at John Carroll, where he earned the Division III coordinator of the year honors for helping turn their defense into one of the top defenses in the country.
The story reached Fangio’s ears, and he decided to give Staley his first big break when he hired him as the outside linebackers coach in Chicago back in the 2017 season. When Fangio left for Denver, he took Staley with him to hold the same position.
His experience with the Bears, Broncos and Rams means he’s worked very closely with Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald over the past few seasons. He helped maximize the production from each of those elite talents, despite a high level of double teams for all three.
That experience working with some of the league’s best defensive players is invaluable, and it’s paid off this year as a first time defensive coordinator. One key thing you always want to look for in a head coaching candidate is palpable evidence of player development, (Josh Allen under Brian Daboll for example) and Staley has that as well.
Yes, the Rams defense has Donald and Jalen Ramsey, but Staley helped Leonard Floyd to a career high 10.5 sacks this season. Darious Williams and Troy Hill have each had career years after not being all that highly touted heading into 2020.
Prior to Staley’s arrival, the Rams defense was led by Wade Phillips. So it’s not like they weren’t well-coached, but Staley has taken them to new heights in 2020 and turned them into the best defense in the league. And everyone knows Sean McVay is an offensive coach first and foremost, so there is no doubt that the credit for the Rams defensive turnaround belongs almost exclusively to Staley.
Overall, Staley has the same kind of meteoric rise about him as Joe Brady – offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. The lack of NFL experience will be a cause for concern for some people.
However, it seems that he has the requisite qualities and characteristics about him. The players on the Rams love him and have touted his detail-oriented approach. The majority of the last few head coaching hires have been teams attempting to find the next McVay – the young offensive genius.
It could make some sense for the LA Chargers to zig when everyone else in the league is zagging, and hire the next great defensive mind instead; especially as they look to deal with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs for the next decade.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.