The Los Angeles Chargers should be better than they are right now. I know we say that basically every year, but this time we really mean it. Normally the Chargers lose games they should win due to a combination of factors including, but not limited to, untimely injuries, horrible calls by the refs, self-inflicted wounds, and inexplicably perfect performances from opponents. This year, however, the Chargers are 2-3 (with all three losses coming in one-score games) for two primary reasons– sloppy football and a defense that can’t stop anyone.
The responsibility for all that falls solely on the shoulders of Brandon Staley, and we’re getting to the point where it’s fair to wonder how many more failures the Chargers will deal with before firing him.
When Staley was hired he was supposed to be a smart, young, defense-first coach who would complement the rocket arm of Justin Herbert by ensuring the team excelled in the other stages of the game. None of that has happened, and the most concerning aspect is the defense. The Chargers are certainly not lacking for talent in that arena yet Staley’s defense gets smoked when they go up against a decent unit and, even worse, they fold when the moment is biggest. It was Staley’s defense that blew a historic playoff lead in the postseason and proceeded to do the same several times in the opening weeks of this season. A defense featuring Derwin James, Joey Bosa, and Khalil Mack– three All-Pro talents– collapsing over and over again.
Staley’s late-game decision-making has been rightfully ripped apart, too. He is too conservative when he needs to be aggressive, and when he does get aggressive it fails. And then there’s the generally undisciplined nature of his Chargers teams that tend to earn penalties at the worst moment. Bosa losing his mind last January played a large role in the Jaguars’ huge comeback. Even just last night against the Dallas Cowboys the Chargers committed numerous penalties on their second-to-last drive of the game that put them even further behind the eight-ball than their defense did.
It’s just bad coaching everywhere you look, even when Los Angeles wins a game. Herbert’s Monstars-esque arm is the only reason Staley hasn’t gotten canned yet. We’re now at the point where the Chargers need to at least consider that as a course of action. Sure, whatever Staley has in place now is enough to win some games and remain respectable. But this team has the rarest thing in all of sports– a quarterback who is on the precipice of becoming elite. Just being good enough is not, in fact, good enough. Or it shouldn’t be, anyway.
Really, the Chargers don’t even need that much more. They don’t need a McVay at the helm to become a legitimate championship contender. They just need a coach who can ensure the defense does not historically collapse and the team stays disciplined. Not a particularly high bar.
These things were supposed to be Staley’s calling cards. Instead they’re his biggest flaws. The Chargers might win enough games to go to the playoffs this year but when you’ve got a defense-first coach who can’t coach defense and a sloppy team costing itself wins with bad penalties, you’re never going to win anything of note. If the Chargers don’t realize that soon, they will continue to waste the potential Herbert brings to the table for the franchise to win its biggest games since the LaDainian Tomlinson days.