Last weekend, the Los Angeles Chargers suffered the third-largest collapse in NFL playoff history. After charging out to a 27-point lead, Trevor Lawrence and the upstart Jaguars outscored LA 31-3 the rest of the way. What is next for Brandon Staley?
Brandon Staley was subject to countless rumors regarding his job security all season. The firing of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Shane Day seems to point to Staley retaining his head coaching gig for the 2023 campaign.
Staley is known as a defensive specialist, serving on that side of the ball with the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams before taking over for the Bolts. Unfortunately, even with a slew of talent on defense, the unit disappointed as a whole in 2022.
The 2022 Chargers boast these underwhelming rankings (via PFF):
•No. 30 rush defense grade (36.5)
•No. 26 tackling grade (45.7)
•No. 21 pass-rush grade (68.2)
•No. 24 overall defense grade (62.8)
To their credit, the Chargers own a stellar coverage grade (86.5; No. 6 overall), so there is optimism in the secondary. Still, LA must add multiple starters to the front seven if they hope to field a respectable unit in 2023.
Khalil Mack will likely be released as a cap casualty this off-season. The veteran played well vs. Jacksonville, bringing Lawrence down for a sack and recording multiple tackles. However, his age began showing in the final two months of the season.
Additionally, the Chargers could stand to add multiple bodies in the trenches. The team’s run defense was abysmal in 2022, allowing nearly 150 rushing yards per game. Simply put, this is not a recipe for winning a Super Bowl.
The decision to move on from Lombardi is one that Chargers fans have wanted for the past 12-18 months. He gets accused of being too conservative with the play calling, lacking the willingness to adapt his philosophy to better fit Justin Herbert’s style of play.
Lombardi stuck with an offensive game plan that exclusively attacks defenses horizontally. The only starter to average less aDOT than Justin Herbert is Matt Ryan. There is no reason for a player with as much arm talent as Herbert to have training wheels on. They must add more verticality to the offense.
To be fair, LA doesn’t employ a single receiver with 4.3-speed. That alone will handcuff a play caller. Austin Ekeler is a stud football player, but he doesn’t bring much to the table as a between-the-tackles runner. The lack of a bell-cow-type running back also stifles an offense.
The Lombardi move proves that two things can be true at once: Lombardi lacked ingenuity and the Chargers lacked the correct personnel.
Chargers: HC Brandon Staley Lives to Fight Another Day; What Comes Next?
So, what is next for the franchise? Well, first and foremost, they must find a new offensive coordinator. Former Chargers’ OC Frank Reich feels like the leader in the clubhouse at the moment, but Todd Monken from Georgia is a name to keep on your radar.
Whoever the team rolls with as offensive coordinator will need more to work with on offense. Health at receiver and the talent on the offensive line make a strong foundation, but a pass catcher with elite top-end speed, a pure runner at running back, and a younger tight end would help Herbert reach new heights.
The Sean Payton pipe dream is not happening for the Chargers in 2023. The front office will give Brandon Staley one more chance to put it all together in Los Angeles. Hiring the correct play caller is vital, but addressing the holes on offense — and in the middle of the defense — is equally as important.
The roster features a handful of top players at their respective positions in the league. To make the most of Justin Herbert’s time with the Bolts, general manager Tom Telesco enters a turning point offseason for the franchise. If he can nail it, the Chargers will be a favorite in the stacked AFC next season.