Brandon Staley

AFC West Notes: Chargers, Hackett, Chiefs

After Justin Herbert finished the 2021 season in the unusual position of being the AFC’s Pro Bowl starter but out of the playoffs, Brandon Staley voiced concerns about the Chargers‘ roster to ownership. Staley conveyed to both ownership and the Bolts’ front office that defensive and special teams upgrades were necessary this offseason. More specifically, Staley wanted veteran pieces, ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry notes, adding that the second-year HC sought a defense capable of complementing a ready-now offense.

[I] felt really strongly that in order to build a complete football team that was ready to face what we’re going to have to face,” Staley said, “that we needed to make significant changes in those two phases of the game.”

DVOA placed the 2021 Chargers fourth in offense and 26th defensively, despite the fast-rising Staley becoming the team’s head coach based on his defensive credentials. Facing a time crunch created by Herbert’s extension eligibility, the Chargers added big-ticket defensive pieces in Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson. Auxiliary troops like Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Kyle Van Noy and Bryce Callahan signed as well. The Chargers also extended Derwin James, on a safety-record deal, this summer. The team, which ranked 28th in special teams DVOA last season, replaced its punter and long snapper as well. JK Scott and ex-Falcon Josh Harris are in those roles this year.

These additions raise the stakes for Staley, who will have fewer excuses given his 2022 personnel. Here is the latest from the AFC West, shifting first to a coach off to an unusual start:

  • It is uncertain if the Broncos will change Nathaniel Hackett‘s game-day roles, but after the rookie HC’s game-management struggles through two weeks, he said (via 9News’ Mike Klis, on Twitter) GM George Paton and assistant GM Darren Mougey have assisted him in these areas this week. Although the puzzling 64-yard field goal decision in Seattle and the Denver crowd counting down the play clock in Week 2 (after the team’s fourth delay-of-game penalty of the season) are the main takeaways from Hackett’s start, the Broncos are 0-for-6 in red zone touchdowns and have committed 25 penalties — including six false starts — through two games. The 25 infractions are a Broncos two-game record. Hackett said (via Klis, on Twitter) the team will have “good answers moving forward” in these areas.
  • Willie Gay‘s four-game suspension will take a starting linebacker off the field for the Chiefs. While the team used a third-round pick on Leo Chenal this year, Andy Reid said (via ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher, on Twitter) Darius Harris will be first in line to fill in for Gay. The Middle Tennessee State alum has been with the Chiefs since 2019, being part of the team’s UDFA class. Spending much of his career on Kansas City’s practice squad, Harris has played 13 games — including two starts, both in 2020 — with the team.
  • While Staley stressed the team will not rush Herbert back, the third-year Chargers quarterback practiced in a limited capacity Wednesday. Herbert’s rib cartilage fracture comes as the doctor leading his rehab effort — David S. Gazzaniga — is being sued by former Bolts QB Tyrod Taylor regarding a 2020 incident. “I think we have full alignment with Justin and his family, his agents, and then the medical professionals, and that’s what we’re going to try to do is have alignment that way and just kind of trust the process and hopefully get him well soon,” Staley said, via Thiry.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches

The NFL experienced a busy offseason on the coaching front. A whopping 10 teams changed coaches during the 2022 offseason, with the Buccaneers’ late-March switch pushing the number into double digits.

Fourteen of the league’s 32 head coaches were hired in the past two offseasons, illustrating the increased pressure the NFL’s sideline leaders face in today’s game. Two of the coaches replaced this year left on their own. Sean Payton vacated his spot in second on the longest-tenured HCs list by stepping down from his 16-year Saints post in February, while Bruce Arians has repeatedly insisted his Bucs exit was about giving his defensive coordinator a chance with a strong roster and not a Tom Brady post-retirement power play.

While Bill Belichick has been the league’s longest-tenured HC for many years, Payton’s exit moved Mike Tomlin up to No. 2. Mike Zimmer‘s firing after nine seasons moved Frank Reich into the top 10. Reich’s HC opportunity only came about because Josh McDaniels spurned the Colts in 2018, but Indianapolis’ backup plan has led the team to two playoff brackets and has signed an extension. Reich’s seat is hotter in 2022, however, after a January collapse. Linked to numerous HC jobs over the past several offseasons, McDaniels finally took another swing after his Broncos tenure ended quickly.

As 2022’s training camps approach, here are the NFL’s longest-tenured HCs:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007; extended through 2024
  3. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008; extended through 2025
  4. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010; extended through 2025
  5. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013; extended through 2025
  6. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017; extended through 2025
  7. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017; extended through 2023
  8. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017; extended through 2025
  9. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018; signed extension in February 2022
  10. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018; extended through 2026
  11. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019; extended through 2027
  12. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  13. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019; extended through 2026
  14. Ron Rivera (Washington Football Team): January 1, 2020
  15. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  16. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  17. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020
  18. Robert Saleh (New York Jets): January 15, 2021
  19. Arthur Smith (Atlanta Falcons): January 15, 2021
  20. Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers): January 17, 2021
  21. Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions): January 20, 2021
  22. Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles): January 21, 2021
  23. Nathaniel Hackett (Denver Broncos): January 27, 2022
  24. Matt Eberflus (Chicago Bears): January 27, 2022
  25. Brian Daboll (New York Giants): January 28, 2022
  26. Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  27. Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings): February 2, 2022
  28. Doug Pederson (Jacksonville Jaguars): February 3, 2022
  29. Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins): February 6, 2022
  30. Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints): February 7, 2022
  31. Lovie Smith (Houston Texans): February 7, 2022
  32. Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): March 30, 2022

Playoff-Clinching Tie

Coming into today, the Sunday Night matchup between the Chargers and Raiders in Las Vegas was being billed as a winner-takes-all game with the winner continuing their season past Week 18. While that is still technically a true statement, it’s not the only path for either team to make the playoffs.

With the Colts’ loss to the Jaguars this afternoon and the Steelers’ win in Baltimore, an amusing possibility has been presented to both squads preparing for tonight. If Sunday night’s game were to end in a tie, both the Chargers and the Raiders would make the playoffs. While there are seeding scenarios at play for the Raiders (a win could put them at the 5th or 6th Seed, potentially, and a tie would clinch the 7th seed), the Chargers have no motivation to play the game if the Raiders were to propose an intentional tie.

While Los Angeles head coach Brandon Staley said earlier this week, “We’re going to do everything we can to go win this game,” that was when the tying scenario was a long shot, as the Colts were heavy favorites to beat Jacksonville today. Staley’s tune might change now that he has a very real opportunity to give his team a week of rest before a grueling playoff schedule.

As far as the rulebook goes, there’s nothing that says two teams can’t intentionally play an entire game for a tie. I’m sure the NFL is doing everything they can to get themselves out of the corner they backed themselves into, but it was a truly strange decision for the NFL to schedule a game with this potential in the final regular season time slot. The NFL certainly likes for the regular season’s final game to hold the highest stakes, and we’ve seen some of the most entertaining games in that time slot. The 2019 regular season finale between the 49ers and Seahawks comes to mind, as San Francisco won with a fourth down stop on their own 1-yard line.

It’s certain the NFL was hoping for similar fireworks tonight, but an implosion by the Colts and the battling of the Steelers brings up what could be one of the most unique season finales in NFL history.

Coaching Rumors: 49ers, Chargers, Jaguars, Eagles

The 49ers‘ staff is starting to come together, as Matt Barrows of The Athletic writes. Chris Foerster has been bumped up to primary offensive line coach while Rich Scangarello will return as the quarterbacks coach. Scangarello served as SF’s QBs coach in 2017 and 2018 before the Broncos tapped him as their OC in 2019. After a rough time in Denver and one year in Philly, he’s headed back to the Bay Area.

Here’s a look at the latest coach and coordinator news:

  • The Chargers will interview Colts defensive backs coach Jonathan Gannon for their defensive coordinator job, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Gannon is also being considered by the Bears for their DC role.
  • Meanwhile, new Chargers coach Brandon Staley is bringing Rams assistant Joe Barry along for the ride as his defensive passing game coordinator and linebackers coach (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com).
  • The Jaguars have requested an interview with Colts quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady for their offensive coordinator job, as Pelissero tweets.
  • The Eagles are interested in interviewing Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel, according to Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Fassel, the son of ex-Giants head coach Jim Fassel, spent eight years as the Rams’ ST coordinator. He also served as the Rams’ interim head coach for the final three games of 2016.

Chargers Hire Brandon Staley As Head Coach

Surprising news out of Los Angeles, as the Chargers have hired Brandon Staley to be their new head coach, sources told Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll had previously been considered a heavy favorite to land the Chargers’ job, which is what makes this move so eyebrow raising. Staley, currently the Rams’ defensive coordinator, won’t have to travel far for his new gig. It’s a meteoric rise for the young defensive mind, as 2020 was Staley’s first season as an NFL coordinator. As recently as 2019, he was coaching outside linebackers in Denver.

Sean McVay then poached him away to be his DC, and he immediately earned a ton of praise for what he did with the Rams. Understandably so, as they led the NFL in total defense by a healthy margin. Having Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey certainly helped, but Staley was widely commended in league circles for his innovative schemes.

He’ll also have a lot of talent on defense to work with at his new job. Derwin James should be back at an All-Pro level after missing the whole 2020 season, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, and Linval Joseph along the defensive line, and Casey Hayward and Chris Harris Jr. in the secondary.

Of course, what made the Chargers job most attractive is the presence of Justin Herbert, who’s coming off a sensational rookie season. We’ve heard that Herbert “loves” his offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, and it’s possible that the Chargers preferred to hire a defensive coach so they could keep Steichen in the fold.

Staley, 38, is walking into a prime situation with a talented team that could be poised for a bounce-back. He got his start at small schools James Madison and John Carroll, then broke into the NFL when Vic Fangio brought him onto his Chicago staff back in 2017. Fangio then brought him with him to Denver.

With Staley’s hiring, the Texans and Eagles are the only two teams left looking for coaches. The Lions are believed to be hiring Dan Campbell, and that move will likely become official soon now that the Saints have been eliminated.

Brandon Staley Gets Second Interview With Chargers

Recent reports have indicated that the Chargers are favoring Bills OC Brian Daboll for their head coaching vacancy, but apparently the club was impressed by Rams DC Brandon Staley. According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, Staley will get a second interview with the Bolts today (Twitter link).

Today’s meeting will take place in person. The Rams’ season ended yesterday thanks to a 32-18 loss to the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs, but the Bills advanced to the AFC Championship Game after defeating the Ravens. That means that the Chargers could hire Staley right away, but they would need to wait at least another week before making a Daboll hire official.

And if the team decides it wants Staley, it might not be able to wait much longer. The 38-year-old is also scheduled to speak with the Texans about their HC job today, and the Eagles are hoping to fly him out tomorrow. But the Chargers might have a better roster than the Texans and Eagles, and quarterback Justin Herbert — who, unlike Houston QB Deshaun Watson, is not feeling any resentment towards his team at the moment — makes the LA job especially attractive.

Daboll’s candidacy for the Chargers’ gig is obvious given the development of Buffalo QB Josh Allen and Daboll’s personal ties with Los Angeles GM Tom Telesco, but Herbert is said to be high on incumbent OC Shane Steichen. Telesco could decide that Steichen is the best person to further Herbert’s development, which might make a defensive-minded head coach more appealing.

Staley certainly had some top-tier talent to work with this year, but there is no denying that he got the most out of that talent. The Rams were the best team in the league in terms of total defense in 2020, and Staley and his innovative schemes are widely credited for that performance. The fact that this was his first season as DC makes his work all the more impressive, and the league has certainly taken notice.

Eagles To Interview Rams DC Brandon Staley For HC Job

Brandon Staley has emerged as a candidate for the Eagles head-coaching job. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Eagles have requested permission to interview the Rams defensive coordinator.

As Schefter notes, Philadelphia has already received permission to speak with Staley “at the appropriate time” (i.e. whenever the Rams’ season comes to an end). Staley is also set to meet with the Texans about their vacancy, and he previously talked with the Chargers (along with the Jets, who have since hired a coach).

In only two years, Staley could find himself rising from Broncos outside linebackers coach to a head coaching role. The 38-year-old succeeded Wade Phillips in Los Angeles and has helped reestablish one of the top defenses in the entire NFL. The versatile Aaron Donald– and Jalen Ramsey-powered lineup ranks first in weighted DVOA. As Schefter notes, the Eagles “are drawn to Staley and the reputation he has built during his year as Sean McVay’s defensive coordinator in Los Angeles.”

The Eagles are searching for a new head coach after canning Doug Pederson earlier this week. Since that time, a number of candidates have emerged (via our 2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker):

2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-27-21 (7:05pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Texans Request Brandon Staley Interview

The Texans are hoping to speak with Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. Now led by GM Nick Caserio, the team sent the first-year DC an interview request, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

Staley has met with the Chargers and Jets about their HC position. He is not permitted to meet with teams in person until the Rams’ season concludes. The Rams face the Packers on Saturday afternoon.

Rising from Broncos outside linebackers coach to a head coaching role in a two-year span would represent a remarkable rise from Staley, 38, but Wade Phillips‘ successor has helped the Rams reassemble a dominant defense. The versatile Aaron Donald– and Jalen Ramsey-powered unit ranks first in weighted DVOA, after the group slowed Russell Wilson considerably in a one-sided divisional-round win.

The Texans have not hired a defensively oriented head coach since the first HC in franchise history, Dom Capers, who held the job from 2002-05. Thanks in part to previous HC Bill O’Brien‘s GM work, the Texans have a host of needs on defense after the unit ranked 31st in DVOA this season. Staley and Leslie Frazier represent the team’s defensive candidates to this point. Colts DC Matt Eberflus turned down a Houston interview.

Coaching Notes: Quinn, Staley, Chargers, Pollack, Bengals, Simmons, Whitt, Cowboys

Hope you’re all enjoying Sunday’s three-game wild card slate, here are a new batch of coaching updates to pass along:

  • Dan Quinn’s star faded fast after taking the Falcons to the Super Bowl just a few years ago, and he was fired after starting 0-5 this season. His national reputation took a hit, but he’s apparently still fairly highly regarded in league circles and might not be out of a job too long. Quinn’s name is popping up frequently as a potential defensive coordinator for coaches interviewing for head coaching gigs, Peter Schrager of NFL Network is told (Twitter link). Quinn, of course, rose to prominence as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator for a couple years during their dominant ‘Legion of Boom’ era, and won Super Bowl XLVIII with Seattle. His defenses were never anything special during his time in Atlanta though, and it was Kyle Shanahan’s offense carrying the team during the peak of their success.
  • Speaking of defensive minds, Rams DC Brandon Staley is turning into a hot name this cycle, and after his defense just dominated Russell Wilson it’s not hard to see why. The Chargers are one of the teams interested, and he’ll interview with them today, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. But interestingly, Breer writes that if Los Angeles doesn’t hire an offensive mind, the new coach will “have to have a very detailed plan for that side of the ball and the quarterback.” 49ers DC Robert Saleh is also in contention for this job, so that would obviously apply to him as well. Clearly, the Chargers want a bright offensive mind to pair with Justin Herbert. We’ve heard Herbert loves current offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, but Breer’s tweet certainly doesn’t make it sound like he’s all that likely to return.
  • Zac Taylor survived for another year, but the Bengals fired a few assistant coaches this week. Now, they’ve found one of the replacements. Cincy has hired Frank Pollack to be their new offensive line coach and run game coordinator, the team announced. Pollack spent the past two seasons as the Jets’ offensive line coach, and had the same role with the Bengals in 2018 under Marvin Lewis. Before that he was he Cowboys’ O-line coach, and obviously those units had a great deal of success. For what it’s worth, Bengals players are “thrilled” with the hire, Jay Morrison of The Athletic writes. “It’s exciting,” center Billy Price said. “I’m glad to have him back. I’m really, really, really, really glad to have him back.” Running back Joe Mixon also said he was “super excited” to have Pollack back in the fold.
  • The Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan earlier this week, and the search for his replacement is in full swing. Dallas interviewed Jason Simmons and Joe Whitt Jr. today for the position, a source told Calvin Watkins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Simmons is currently the passing game coordinator for the Panthers, while Whitt is the passing game coordinator for the Falcons. Both candidates have plenty of familiarity with Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. Whitt was on Green Bay’s defensive staff from 2008-18, rising the ranks from quality control coach, while Simmons started with the Packers in 2015 as an assistant special teams coach. Neither has been a DC before.