The Chargers may not fire Brandon Staley because of built-in excuses
We have already made this case here at Bolt Beat but it is worth repeating again. Justin Herbert fracturing his finger and (likely) missing the rest of the 2023 season might end up giving Staley that last bit of job security that he needed heading into 2024.
Herbert's injury is the straw that broke the camel's back and gives the Chargers the built-in excuse that this was a cursed season from the start. Ownership can do mental gymnastics and convince itself that this season went south because of external factors and bad luck.
Just look at the examples that the front office can turn to. Herbert not playing in the second half of a winnable game against Denver, and probably missing the last four games. Mike Williams tearing his ACL in Week 3. Corey Linsley being on the NFI list nearly all season. Joey Bosa suffering multiple injuries. Joshua Palmer hitting the IR. J.C. Jackson being an unexpected disaster.
These are all things that ownership can look back on and tell itself that "any head coach would struggle with this". Add in the fact that the Chargers have so many close losses and ownership can convince itself that this is a good team that simply got unlucky.
That does not make it right but it doesn't mean that ownership won't take this approach. After all, in McCoy's 4-12 season the Chargers lost nine games by one score. You can go back to several of those games and pick one moment to flip and the season looks much better.
You can do the same thing in 2023. If Jackson doesn't commit a pointless pass interference in Week 1 then the Chargers win that game. If Derwin James and Sebastian Joseph-Day don't get called for two ticky-tacky penalties in Week 2 the Chargers win that game. If Justin Herbert didn't miss a few wide-open throws in Week 5 the Chargers win that game. If Keenan Allen and Quentin Johnston don't drop two touchdown passes in Week 11 the Chargers win that game.
Just those examples alone get the Chargers from a 5-8 record to a 9-4 record. What-ifs don't mean anything in the NFL, and they shouldn't be the basis for the team's decision-making, but we have seen this franchise make decisions using this logic before.