It has been a week since the LA Chargers fired head coach Brandon Staley and GM Tom Telesco. The rest of the 2023 season is essentially a wash as fans (and the organization) prepare for the upcoming head coaching search and offseason.
Staley's tenure with the Chargers crashed and burned quickly. The first-time head coach was 19-16 in his first two seasons with a playoff win that was earned through immense adversity. Then it all came crashing down, starting with the team's 27-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Wild Card Round last season.
After a 5-9 start and 63-21 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, it was time for the Chargers to move on. With a week removed from the decision to fire Staley, fans are starting to get the "empty the notebook" stories from reporters about Staley's tenure.
ESPN's Kris Rhim dropped his notebook-emptying story on Friday and there was a lot of ammunition on Staley that Rhim's team sources shared.
Embarrassing stories emerge a week after Brandon Staley's Chargers departure
According to Rhim's sources, Staley led a divided locker room full of "his guys" and players who were not in that fraternity. An example of this was how Staley would celebrate players' birthdays, and who he would decide to celebrate
"In a team meeting on Nov. 16, Staley projected birthday graphics for linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr., defensive tackle Jerrod Clark and guard Jordan McFadden on a video screen, but only said happy birthday to Murray in the meeting, according to a team source who was present. After practice two days later, Staley said happy birthday to offensive guard Zion Johnson in front of the team. Multiple players mentioned that it was also rookie linebacker Daiyan Henley's birthday, to which Staley replied, 'and Daiyan, too,' in a dismissive way, before quickly wrapping up practice, according to team sources."
Yes, it is a bit silly to get upset over birthday messages and this may not seem like anything, but it is merely a microcosm of what was obviously happening behind the scenes in Los Angeles. If players were feeling slighted by how Staley would address things like birthdays, that tells you that there was already a sense of animosity in the building that was hurting the team.
If the team was not divided, and Staley wasn't separating his locker room, then him forgetting a rookie's birthday would have been a laughing matter that the team joked about. Instead, it stood as an— albeit silly — example of a team divided.
Even more troubling is the clash that Staley had with former linebackers coach Michael Wilhoite in the AFC Wild Card Round. Rhim does a great job of detailing exactly what happened in that moment, which eventually led to Wilhoite getting fired by the team.
"As the unit collapsed, Staley could be heard screaming at linebackers coach Michael Wilhoite. Staley believed Wilhoite's group had made an error on a big Jacksonville play. Wilhoite countered that Staley had made a 'dumbass playcall' and that the linebackers had done their job, according to team sources who witnessed the sideline exchange."
Yikes. A lot of Chargers fans have had that exact same reaction as Wilhoite when watching Staley's defense operate. What makes this more troubling, though, is the fact that the Chargers let both Kyzir White and Drue Tranquill walk in free agency on extremely cheap deals.
With this exchange in mind, it is not a reach to assume that Staley had a big say in not bringing back Tranquill last offseason or White the year after that. Instead, the team was stuck with a floundering Kenneth Murray (one of Staley's reported guys) and an over-the-hill veteran in Eric Kendricks (who Staley lauded when he signed).
Finally, the cherry on the disastrous Brandon Staley cake was how he never took accountability, which is something fans saw when he spoke to the media. According to Rhim, Staley's message to the team after the Jacksonville loss was that, "games like that happen in the NFL." That, according to Rhim, is where the fractured locker room started.
Fast forward 12 months and Staley is out of a job. Hopefully, the Chargers don't make the same mistake and hire someone who can actually build a strong culture.