LA Chargers: The stigma around defensive head coaches is unjustified
By Jason Reed
The LA Chargers announced that they hired Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to be the team’s next head coach late Sunday night. Staley has one season of being a DC under his belt and the hiring was surprising for many fans.
The consensus among the fanbase was that the Chargers would hire an offensive-minded head coach to help with the development of Justin Herbert. Instead, the Bolts went with a defensive-minded head coach and the only coaches that were reported to get a second interview were Staley and San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
A lot of smart football minds have had great things to say about Staley. Jalen Ramsey heaped extreme praise on Staley and ESPN’s Louis Riddick raved about how he was blown away by Staley.
But the hiring still does not sit well with some fans. There is this idea that Justin Herbert’s progression is going to be compromised by not getting an offensive-minded head coach, like Brian Daboll.
First of all, Staley is not inept offensively. Just because he is a defensive coach does not mean he is completely lost in developing an offensive style. Heck, he played quarterback at the collegiate level!
Second of all, the stigma around defensive head coaches is really misplaced. The truth is in the pudding.
LA Chargers: Why the stigma around defensive head coaches is unjustified:
Let’s look at all of the defensive-minded head coaches that are currently in the NFL. Below is the list of actively employed head coaches with a defensive background along with their career winning percentage.
- Bill Belichick – .678
- Mike Tomlin – .640
- Pete Carroll – .600
- Mike Vrabel – .596
- Sean McDermott – .588
- Mike Zimmer – .568
- Ron Rivera – .527
- Brian Flores – .469
- Vic Fangio – .375
The only currently-employed defensive head coach that has a poor resume is Vic Fangio. Some of the best coaches in the league are defensive-minded head coaches, including the greatest head coach in NFL history.
The problem with defensive-minded head coaches and quarterbacks occurs when these defensive-minded coaches take over projects that they cannot fit. In the case of Vic Fangio, it was Drew Lock. In the case of Matt Patricia (who was extremely overvalued anyway) it was a terrible organization.
Justin Herbert is not a quarterback that needs to be fixed. He is far from reaching his ceiling, but we know that he is not a Drew Lock. The relationship and offensive philosophy are the biggest things to focus on with Herbert, not hiring someone that is going to help develop (or “fix”) him.
Sean McDermott being on this list is the perfect example. He was a young, defensive-minded head coach who has a great football mind. His focus might be on the defensive side of the ball but he has still established a culture that absolutely helped raise Brian Daboll’s stock.
Daboll also gets too much credit for Josh Allen’s progression, in my opinion. McDermott and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey deserves credit. Most importantly, Allen deserves the most credit.
If the LA Chargers had a raw quarterback talent that needs more work, like Tua Tagovailoa or someone like Sam Darnold, then yes, getting a QB guru would be massively important for the sake of the team.
That is not the case, and as the list above shows, having a defensive-minded head coach with a good quarterback is a really good recipe for success. Compare that to some of these “offensive geniuses” (Zac Taylor, Adam Gase, Kliff Kingsbury, Matt Nagy) that don’t work out.
Of course, there are defensive head coaches that don’t work out as well, but it is worth mentioning that five of the seven fired head coaches from this season were offensive-minded.