It looked like the LA Chargers were going to come away with a comfortable win against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Chargers dominated the first half to the tune of a 24-7 lead. However, in classic Chargers fashion, the game had to come down to its final moments.
Los Angeles did not score a single point in the second half and ultimately won 24-17. Vegas had a chance to tie the game with the ball deep in Chargers territory in the fourth quarter. Third-year corner Asante Samuel Jr. then made the defensive play of the game, intercepting Aidan O'Connell to give the Chargers the ball back.
The Bolts still needed to pick up a first down to ice the game. On third and long, Justin Herbert (who was wearing a cyborg-like splint on his hand) dropped a dime downfield to Joshua Palmer to get the first down (and then some) and win the game.
Even in a win, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley is getting immense criticism. For the second week in a row, Staley went for it on fourth and one from his own territory as an attempt to ice the game. For the second week in a row, the Chargers didn't get it. And for the second week in a row, the defense backed its head coach up with a red zone turnover.
Brandon Staley must ignore the critics, the Chargers win when he is aggressive
Trey Wingo was not the only person that hopped on social media to criticize Staley and it won't be the last time that the Chargers head coach is questioned for his decision-making. It does not matter what the rest of the NFL world thinks, though. Staley has to make decisions based on what helps the team win and being aggressive helps the team win.
The Chargers have historically won football games when Staley makes an aggressive call late in the game, even when those calls do not work. These decisions galvanize the team and most importantly, have followed the math. These calls are often easy decisions based on analytical models and the empirical evidence backs up those models.
Here are games that the Chargers have won where Staley made an extremely unorthodox decision that got ridiculed for being too aggressive:
- 2021 Week 3 vs Chiefs (Bypassed long FG while tied)
- 2021 Week 4 vs Raiders (Bypassed punt while up 7)
- 2021 Week 5 vs Browns (Four different fourth-down attempts)
- 2021 Week 9 vs Eagles (Went for it on fourth down while tied in fourth quarter)
- 2021 Week 11 vs Steelers (Went for it on own 34 while tied)
- 2022 Week 4 vs Texans (Went for it on own 45 in fourth quarter while up 3)
- 2022 Week 5 vs Browns (Went for it from own 45 up 2)
- 2022 Week 12 vs Cardinals (Went for 2 while down 1 to end the game)
- 2023 Week 3 vs Vikings (Went for it from own 24 up 4)
- 2023 Week 4 vs Raiders (Went for it from own 34 up 7)
All of those decisions were considered risky and the Chargers won all of those games. Ten of Staley's 21 wins as the Chargers head coach have included a controversial decision. Meanwhile, the only game where the Chargers may have lost because of a bold decision was the last game of the 2021 season against the Raiders.
But even then, Staley's decision to go for it on fourth down deep in his own territory wasn't the deciding factor in that game as Vegas only kicked a field goal after that and the Chargers still took the game to overtime.
On the flip side, let's look at how the 2023 season has gone. In both Week 1 or Week 2 the Chargers had an opportunity to either go for it on fourth down or go for a touchdown instead of a field goal. In both games the Chargers took the more conservative "accepted" route, and in both games the Chargers lost.
There are plenty of things to criticize about Staley and the job he has done as the head coach of the LA Chargers. His aggression has not been one of them. Staley should stay true to his style of coaching because it has historically helped the Chargers win games.