This is the surprise of the entire head coaching cycle thus far. Not that Staley is underserving (he was my pick for the Jets head coaching opening), but we hadn’t really heard much about the Chargers opening, then when we did we’d been told Brian Daboll was the favorite. Ultimately, it was Brandon Staley destined to become the next head coach.
Staley, 38, entered my radar early in the season as the Rams defense was beginning to make some noise.
I thought it was a fluke, as their first 4 wins game against each team in the NFC East, but as the season went on, the unit was proving it was legit.
I remember Benjamin Solak of the Draft Network pointing out the success of the Rams defense and how ahead of the curve they seemed to be during a Monday Night game against the Bears (Solak went more in-depth about Staley and the Rams defense here). That’s when I made a mental note of the young coach.
2020 was Staley’s first season as an NFL defensive coordinator. Prior to this past season, he worked with Vic Fangio as outside LBs coach in Denver (2019) and Chicago (2017-18). In 2016 he was the defensive coordinator at John Carroll University, so it’s been a meteoric rise from those days to where he is now.
Cleary there’s something special about him, and when people call him the defensive version of Sean McVay, there’s legitimacy to the claim.
Still, I was surprised he got this job.
I figured the Chargers would look for an offensive mind (like Brian Daboll) to mold Justin Herbert, their franchise QB who just had an excellent rookie season. The QB/head coach duo is the most important relationship for any team, and it can bring a franchise a title or sink them. When your head coach is a defensive-oriented coach, it does make things harder.
After the 2015 season, Tampa Bay was so scared to lose offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter they fired head coach Lovie Smith and promoted their OC to head coach. They did not want to stunt the development of their prized QB, Jameis Winston. Their fear? Well, think about the other top QB of the 2015 Draft, Marcus Mariota, who had four different offensive coordinators during his time in Tennessee; he never truly developed as hoped.
Are the Chargers making a massive mistake?
It’s not wrong to fear losing offensive coordinators moving forward because Justin Herbert does so good they become head coaches. Staley knows this. Still, you shouldn’t let these fears let a really good coach go through the doors.
Look at the Buffalo Bills under Sean McDermott. He changed the whole culture in Buffalo, found the right QB, and now they’re a win away from the Super Bowl. They could lose Brian Daboll, either this offseason or one in the near future, but they wouldn’t throw away where they are right now because of that. The Patriots built a dynasty with a defensive-minded head coach who helped develop the greatest QB of all-time. Tom Coughlin won two rings with Eli Manning. Mike Tomlin won a Super Bowl with Ben Roethlisberger and made another. Peyton Manning’s best years (including a Super Bowl win) with the Colts came under Tony Dungy.
Yes, the current trend is offensive-minded coaches. It’s easier to develop a QB when you don’t have to worry about the offense changing. Teams like the Chiefs, Browns and Rams can attest to this. Still, it’s a discredit to defensive-minded coaches that they can’t figure this out; some of the best coaches ever did so.
Staley seems like a special coach, and I think the Chargers realize that. He had to have sold them on his vision for Herbert, and for the franchise as a whole. He’s got a good foundation to work with, and he’s impressed everywhere he’s been thus far. I think this is a great opportunity for him and that the Chargers made a good hire.
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