Brandon Staley has gone from gasping for air to blowing smoke as his seat heats up
Let’s take a little walk down memory lane, to the first week of December 2021. Brandon Staley was riding high in his first season as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, coming off a victory over the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals. put his team’s record at 7-5.
Staley had drawn praise to that extent for several reasons. In that game against the Bengals, he kept star defensive end Joey Bosa from getting back on the field even though he was cleared to return by the medical staff after his be evaluated for a possible concussion, citing Bosa’s history of brain injuries as the reason he erred on the safe side. He also expressed sympathy for the people who may be suffering from Jon Gruden’s now infamous email cache rather than offering pithy words about what was shame And he had been giving more respect to the media, offering a detailed explanation of issues where some of his contemporaries would not offer anything.
But as he showed this season, Staley’s goodness seems to only come when his seat isn’t hot. On Sunday, he walked out on a reporter who asked if he would provide play-calling duties, a question he has already faced this season, with the Chargers looking like the best defense. worst in the league.
“You can stop that question, okay? I’m going to call the defense, okay? So we’re clear. So you don’t have to ask that again,” Staley said. .
Not exactly the epitome of grace under pressure expected of players.
This week, Staley’s Chargers lost for the fourth time in six games, this time to the Green Bay Packers after being up 20-16 with 5:24 to play. The defense gave up 24 yards on third-and-20 when Asante Samuel was called for defensive pass interference, then allowed rookie Dontayvion Wicks to make a 35-yarder when neither defender was within inches of him. when he made the catch only five. yards from the line of scrip to bring it down. Wicks maneuvered his way through the defense for his long gain.
The Packers’ game-winning touchdown came two plays later, a 24-yard pass from Jordan Love to Romeo Doubs. Love had a career-high 322 yards on 27 of 40 attempts (67.5 percent), not surprising since the Chargers are dead last in the league in yards allowed per game — more than 20 yards worse than the next closest team, Tampa Bay.
The 23-20 loss marked Los Angeles’ sixth of the season. Five of them have come by three points or less.
An NFL defensive coordinator for one full year before getting the chance to become a head coach – Staley was another beneficiary of “shared meeting room with Sean McVay” recruiting team owners, an advantage Raheem Morris somehow missed. despite creating a strong defensive plan against Cincinnati in Super Bowl LVI (think why that might be) – he has been the Chargers’ defensive playmaker, and is growing to very defensive when asked about the issues on that side of the ball.
“I know we are giving ourselves a chance to win every week with the game plans we have,” he said. “We’ve done it here. You guys are acting like we’ve never played good defense; that’s not the truth. That’s not the truth. You’re acting like we haven’t made any improvements ; today, in the run game, we played really well. We run the quarterback well.
“What we need to do a better job of is in the passing game, and that’s where our full attention is, and where it will continue to be. There were a lot of other things that We lost today. It wasn’t our defense”
Not only does Staley’s comments hint at self-preservation, but it seems it didn’t go over well in the locker room.
“It was how we played as a team. We didn’t play well enough in the red zone on offense, we dropped too many passes, we gave up some killer sacks. We did this as a team. Stop it make it about one unit, because that’s not what happened out there today. Our team lost, and I take full responsibility for it.”
There seems to be a lot of uncertainty for someone who is said to be taking responsibility.
There were some really bad passes, and Austin Ekeler went down at the Green Bay 2 early in the fourth quarter, and in response to another question Staley seemed to lay the loss at Ekeler’s feet. Again, pretty much what anyone does when they claim “full responsibility.”
Staley can make the defense shut down Green Bay if he wanted to, but Love & Co. converted half of their attempts on third down and gained 23 first downs, exactly the same to the 22.8 allowed by the Chargers per game.
A week earlier, Los Angeles lost to Detroit on a last second goal. In the 41-38 shootout the Lions saw 533 yards of offense, including 333 yards passing for Jared Goff and 116 yards rushing (including a 75-yard field goal ) from David Montgomery.
The Chargers defense has four games giving up 475 yards or more this season, against the Lions, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs. 2,027 total yards in four games. The Cleveland Browns have only given up 2,433 yards in 10 games.
And lest we forget, the Chargers had a huge slump last year in the wild card round against the Jacksonville Jaguars, when they were up 27-0 with 4:25 left in the first half and lost , 31-30, again on one. field goal as time expired. After holding the Jaguars to 108 yards on 0-for-7 on third down in the first half, Staley’s defense allowed 282 yards and three crucial third-and-fourth conversions in the second half. The worst part? Travis Etienne ran 25-yards on fourth-and-1 with just under 90 seconds to go to put the Jaguars in field goal range.
How you act when things get tough says a lot more about you than how you behave when things are going well. After looking like a breath of fresh air at this point in his first season as a head coach, Staley’s “don’t blame me” act now seems to be weeks away from losing his job is getting old fast.