The LA Chargers narrowly escaped with a victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 5 as Cade York missed the game-winning 54-yard field goal near the end of regulation. When the kick missed far right, Brandon Staley exhaled a sigh of relief as his controversial fourth-down call gave the Browns life in the game.
Staley and the Chargers went for it on fourth and two in Browns territory with just over a minute left in the game and Cleveland having no timeouts. Staley has made a name for himself for being aggressive, but this was a bridge too far for many fans, who pointed out the fact that Cleveland doesn't really have a great quarterback and would have to drive 50+ yards with no timeouts.
Future NFL Hall of Fame head coach Sean Payton also weighed in on the coaching call on a recent episode of Fox Sports 'The Herd'. Payton, who is rumored to have interest in the Chargers if a coaching vacancy opens, was not a fan of Staley's decision and the message it sent.
Payton said the following when Colin Cowherd brought up the difference in going for it against Jacoby Brissett and Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers:
"When we play Rodgers, when we play Mahomes, we think differently. The numbers are different. These guys are the best in the last 20 years in two-minute offense. Jacoby is doing a great job but all of that is factored in and it also, whether you like it or not, you're sending your defense a message. And I don't like that. "
Brandon Staley's faith in the defense has been inconsistent for the Chargers.
That is a great point by Payton. Staley has been preaching that these decisions are born out of confidence for the offensive side of the ball but what kind of message does that say to the defense? He could spin it and say that he trusts them to stop Cleveland from going only 10+ yards to get into field goal range but the defense will see right through that.
What is interesting about this decision in particular is how Staley has already been inconsistent this year. In Week 2 against Mahomes and the Chiefs he trusted his defense and punted the ball on key spots where many expected him to go for it.
For the most part, that worked as the defense played really well against the Chiefs. But why is this game different? To be fair, the defense was getting slashed by the running game but it also made some key stops in important moments to keep this game close.
Every decision is different but the variables involved almost favor going for it against the Chiefs and punting against the Browns but Staley did the opposite. When a Hall of Fame head coach, who some fans are already pleading for, disagrees with you then it cannot be a good look in front of the fan base.