The 2021 NFL offseason is fully underway and the LA Chargers have their head coach locked down for the foreseeable future. It is former defensive coordinator for the LA Rams, Brandon Staley, and his hire furthers a trend we continue to see around football.
I’m obviously a little late to the party on this one, but I wanted some time to digest this hire and really get a good opinion formulated on Staley. So here it goes.
My initial reaction was that of perplexion. Is it a real word? Is it not? I certainly don’t know. But upon hearing of Staley getting the job, I couldn’t help but scratch my head. Not in an overreacting negative way like the Giants drafting Daniel Jones 6th overall in 2019, but rather in an awed state that this Chargers team thought outside the box for what feels like the first time in forever.
Brian Daboll was the biggest name out there and was vehemently connected to the Chargers’ opened head coaching job upon Anthony Lynn’s firing.
And that made total sense, right?
Daboll crafted one of the strongest relationships in football today with Josh Allen and has helped the former “project” quarterback develop into an MVP candidate this season.
And to make the connection to this Chargers team, Allen and Justin Herbert have a lot in common. Big bodies. Big arms. Sneaky athleticism, though Allen has a solid edge over Justin there. But above all, they are both clearly unfinished products- at least Allen was.
Herbert is not as wild as Allen was/still is to a degree and in all likelihood, he appears to be one of the most cerebral quarterbacks in today’s game.
I’m trying to avoid saying Justin is “smarter” than Allen, so the only way around it is to say he’s smarter than just about every quarterback today, outside of the active Hall of Famers like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, etc. and (arguably) a couple of grizzled veterans like Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan. “Smarter” in terms of football at this stage in Justin’s career.
But Herbert’s ceiling may even be higher than Allen’s, so if Daboll was going to leave Buffalo and grab a head coaching gig, Justin Herbert and the Chargers would certainly be a match made in heaven. Daboll would have been able to have that same type of connection with a raw, young quarterback, only this time it would be his own team and he wouldn’t be beneath a Sean McDermott.
All of a sudden, here comes the news that Brandon Staley is getting the LA Chargers job.
The Chargers go defense, NOT offense and NOT a quarterback-friendly head coach, which was the route I’m sure every Chargers fan out there had at the top of their head coach list in some capacity.
And although it’s drastically different than what most were expecting, I have to say I think the Bolts made a fantastic decision in this hire for two reasons which I’m sure you can probably guess off the top of your head.
First, look at what Staley was able to do with this year’s Rams defense. He jumped on board the Rams for one season and took over the reins as defensive coordinator. After Wade Phillips went into semi-retirement and left the Rams, I personally thought that team would be missing a huge piece of their defensive identity despite the talent still remaining on the roster.
But Phillips went from Denver where he won a Super Bowl as the DC to the Rams where he got back to a Super Bowl and kept Tom Brady’s Patriots out of the end zone until the fourth quarter in a losing effort.
Staley didn’t collect the accolades Phillips did, but he took a very similar path and his defense mirrored in many ways the greatness Phillips put forth in defensive schemes for both the Broncos and Rams.
Yes, he took over a Rams defense with talent all around it, but look at who we’ve never heard of until this year who all had fantastic seasons. We knew about Jalen Ramsey, John Johnson III and Taylor Rapp, but Troy Hill and Darious Williams received PFF grades of 80.0 and 74.2 completely out of nowhere while combining for 7 interceptions and 24 pass deflections.
In the pass rush, we knew about Aaron Donald who won Defensive Player of the Year and Michael Brockers, but we all probably forgot about Leonard Floyd who landed with the Rams last offseason after he failed in Chicago to go for a career-high 10.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and 19 quarterback hits this season.
Staley helped bring those guys out of their shells and I think he’s going to do the same for a few guys on the Bolts who need an extra push.
The second reason I think Staley is a fantastic hire is that looking at the trend of coaching hires, what are we seeing? Aside from the usual suspects who have earned league-wide respect and will always get calls for open jobs, the league is moving towards giving head coaching jobs to fresher faces- mainly, guys who don’t have much head coaching experience at any level much less the NFL.
From Sean McDermott in Buffalo to Brian Flores in Miami to Sean McVay in Los Angeles, Kevin Stefanski in Cleveland, Mike Vrabel in Tennessee, Frank Reich in Indy, Matt Nagy in Chicago, and Joe Judge in New York, the trend is now to go to younger coaches who don’t have a ton of experience. And for the most part, I’d say it’s working out so far.
Now we can add Brandon Staley to that list and for that reason, the Bolts are going to be a REALLY interesting team come 2021.
I think Staley is just what this Chargers team needs right now and they’re going to see major improvements in their defense, which is already very talented (eerily similar to the Rams’ this year talent-wise), as well as their overall organizational output; this is a franchise that just moved on from its long-standing quarterback in Philip Rivers. Now it just cleaned house in the coaching departments and in will come fresh sets of eyes.
I have no particular team I root for; that’s just who I am. But I’d be VERY excited right now if I was a Chargers fan. New coach. New stadium. Awesome second-year quarterback with weapons and a super-talented defense. Your Chargers are going to cause some problems in 2021 and I’m strangely pumped for it.