Chargers History

Chargers: How Brandon Staley can match Don Coryell legendary status

Tim Daniel
TAMPA BAY, FL - DECEMBER 13: Head coach Don Coryell of the San Diego Charger talks with his players on the sidelines against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL football game December 13, 1981 at Tampa Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida. Coryell coached the Chargers from 1978-86. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
TAMPA BAY, FL - DECEMBER 13: Head coach Don Coryell of the San Diego Charger talks with his players on the sidelines against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL football game December 13, 1981 at Tampa Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida. Coryell coached the Chargers from 1978-86. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
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Brandon Staley has one job to get legendary head coaching status for the Los Angeles Chargers organization. Keep his job for four years

To understand Staley is to understand the variables that follow him in his first gig as a head coach in the NFL. You need to be well versed on the average lifespan of a head coach of the Los Angeles/San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers – Three years.

In the 60 years of Chargers football, the average stint of a Chargers head coach is to be exact, 42 months. This a coaching tree that does not have a history of job longevity.

Variable number one; he is part of the new era of ‘wonder boy’ coaches. It’s a hiring pattern of very young head coaches who are noted as exceptionally bright offensive and defensive football minds. A youth leadership movement in the professional game that is changing the NFL more rapidly than all three other professional sports combined.

The second variable is that youth is creating dynamic ways to play the game of football at the professional level. But what is constant and not even close to being unique is the drafting of players at the highest athletic level. How Staley follows the new school way of coaching and scheme development will help determine his employment lifespan.

But to answer to those variables is an equation that is much less extensive – Hire players to lose fewer games than everyone else. Oh, and to keep his job longer than three years.

With all of the newer younger coaches that is known as the ‘wonder boy’ circle of coaches, Staley’s is seen as one of those young guys that can change the game. But no matter what Staley’s IQ is, the one thing that will determine his genius is something very simple and elementary – Buck that Charger head coach history.

With all the variables, there is ultimately an equation, and that equation is easier than you think – Keep his job past three years and hire the players that will lose fewer games than everybody else.

Doesn’t take sports Einstein to figure that one.

With all of these young coaches that are getting the call to be in charge of an NFL team in their 30’s and succeeding at a supremely high level, are working.

His former boss, Sean McVay, took his Los Angeles Rams to the dance at the very tender age of 33. Kyle Shanahan took the 49ers to the Super Bowl at 39 just like John Gruden of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The only difference, Gruden won his championship.

Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco has done a pretty reputable job of drafting players and building a talent-rich championship team but has less success at hiring coaches.

When Telesco hired Staley, 38 years old, his energetic youth was one of the reasons he was favored over several coaches throughout the league. But one word that was thrown out there by a few coaches and even more former players was ‘genius.’

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey said it best when he told ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry, “The dude’s a genius.” One of his very own current players right now believes it. “He is very, very smart,” said Chris Harris, who was with Staley in Denver.

That ‘smart guy’ moniker started as the defensive coordinator/secondary coach at John Carroll University in 2013. This is a guy from an NCAA Division III school and ended up as a head coach in the NFL just four years later.

That John Carroll connection is with current Chargers GM Tom Telesco who played at John Carroll. People in the league were out on notice where he was the outside linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears for two seasons, then spent one year with the Denver Broncos in the same capacity before becoming the Rams DC in 2020.

Rams head coach Sean McVay went as far as to say, “he basically ruined my night that night. That was not a good night for us,” he said. “We talked a lot about that game and a lot of the things that we’re doing are reflective of some of the things that they were doing then, but also you see some carryover from what Coach Fangio and then what they’re doing under Coach (Chuck) Pagano. But it certainly is Coach Pagano’s system and they’re doing an excellent job executing that defense now.”

McVay hired Staley shortly after that as a defensive coordinator wherein his very first year as defensive coordinator, they were the number one rated defense in the entire NFL.

Before we anoint Staley as the chosen one, we must lump him in with a few other old-school Charger head coaches. When you think of Chargers coaching history, Don Coryell is the one coach who built the Chargers brand.

They have a lot in common and winning is one of them. Even though Staley has yet to coach a game, he is favored. Unfortunately, they all have the dubious distinction of equivalence – Fans were pissed when they were hired.

Staley is in great company. Sid Gilman won the 1962 American Football League championship in the Chargers’ second year of existence. Bobby Ross took a middle-of-the-road talented team to its first super bowl in 1994. And Marty Schottenheimer led the Chargers’ most talented team in organization history to a 14-2 record in 2006. Only to lose to a Tom Brady New England Patriots in the first round of the playoffs.

All four were hired with a lack of overwhelming anticipation. Even the old-timer Charger faithful remember the only excitement of Gilman was the Charger were a new professional football team in the city of angels. Gilman had to be coaxed to take over the Chargers.

Ross was hired from Georgia Tech after leading the Yellow Jackets to an undefeated season in 1990. Marty was highly respected in the league for his toughness of smashmouth football and over 200 wins as a head coach. and tenacity of winning.

Marty’s hire was not received well at all from the Charger faithful. “Marty Ball’ came in as the coach who could not win the big one. And he left with the same moniker, with one exception – The loyal fan base loved him and still do. A 14-2 record in 2006, #1 seeded AFC team in the playoffs, and an early loss at home to Brady and the Patriots.

Coach Staley snuck into the conversation late amongst the hiring process and before anyone fan had a chance to comment. So, what is the vast and enormous difference that will answer the question of why Staley will be a Charger until he wants to leave or not? I’m going by the number of players and other coaches that have used the synonyms to describe Staley.

NFL Network’s Matt ‘Money’ Smith went very far as saying that the Chargers got “the Sean McVay of defense”.

Former Northern Illinois coach Joe Novack who hired Staley said, “You spend a half-hour with him, and you’ll know what I’m talking about,” Novak said. “You just know. With that kid, he’s got all the qualities.”

It’s well stated that Brandon Staley knows football. That intelligence moniker goes much deeper than just knowing Xs and Os. There are many other variables to describe that type of football savant. Firstly, he is PeopleSmart.

PeopleSmart is an actual word of intellect and when you look up the definition, you will know why. Understanding people, expressing himself clearly, asserting needs, influencing others, resolving conflict, and being a team player. That’s Staley.

Jalen Ramsey of the Rams told The Athletic he noticed his PeopleSmart’s. “You can’t treat everybody the same, so I think he knows how to talk to different people,” Ramsey said. “I know he knows how to treat different people differently. He’s about ball, but at the same time he’s a player’s coach.”

“I told him the first time we were on the Zoom call, he had me fired up, ready to go,” defensive lineman Michael Brockers said. “I wanted to put my helmet on, on the Zoom call, because he had me so fired up.”

There is a natural intelligence of work ethic as well. McVay also noticed it right away. “We talk about being totally present, and he is certainly present. He’s so present, that he can’t hear anything else,” said McVay. “He’s got great focus and concentration. Everything that he’s done, he’s checking all those boxes. I’d like to think that I love football as much as anybody and you’re sitting there and you’re thinking, ‘This guy might be sicker than I am.’”

His leadership in the meeting room, on the grass, his ability to make corrections in real-time — that’s what separates the good coaches from the others: the ability to quickly identify problems and fix them on the field.”

The Chargers head coaching history tree has not been a healthy one. In the end, it doesn’t matter what Staley’s football IQ is. The equation is simple to be legendary – Hire the players that will lose fewer games than everybody else.

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