San Diego Chargers running back Brandon Staley talked about the team’s performance and future on Wednesday. He said that he felt like they’re heading in right direction, which is not something usually associated with his profession.
Brandon Staley is a Chargers player who said that they’re heading in the right direction.
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Tom Telesco, the general manager of the Los Angeles Chargers, talked to the media almost two weeks after his team’s last game. His club had been relegated to the sidelines after losing in overtime to the Las Vegas Raiders in the last game of the regular season, meaning no playoffs for the third year in a row and the seventh time in the past eight seasons.
And it irritated me to no end.
“It was one of the most terrible losses I’ve ever experienced professionally,” Telesco remarked on Thursday. “I thought we had enough to make the playoffs and demonstrate what we could accomplish, but it didn’t happen.”
Telesco said he still admires coach Brandon Staley and his game plan, which includes a lot of fourth-down conversions (they converted 22-of-34, excellent for seventh in the NFL) and sometimes even deep in their own territory. And, based on player feedback, Staley was correct in doing so, even as the outcry from the bleachers became louder that he should have played it safer.
To wit, the Chargers could have won in regulation instead of falling 34-28 in overtime in Week 15 against the Kansas City Chiefs if they had tried field goals instead of going for it on fourth down twice in scoring range. They may not have lost 35-32 in overtime if they hadn’t attempted and failed a fourth-and-1 at their own 18 in the last game against the Raiders.
“I know I can become better,” Staley remarked. “But I don’t think I’d make many changes in my first year as an NFL head coach. We’ll do all we can to make the best judgments that we believe will offer us the greatest chance of winning. And I don’t think that will change very soon.”
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Telesco, the Chargers’ general manager since January 2013, is cool with it.
He stated, “I adore the identities we play with.” “I really believe that. I wholeheartedly endorse him. I, like him, am a firm believer in relying on statistics to make judgments. That isn’t to say that context isn’t important.”
“Even though these judgments are made in real time, they are based on research conducted prior to the game…. Brandon isn’t a robot, but he does have to make rapid judgments in real time on the field. This year, I think he did an outstanding job with it. That is something for which I am rooting for him.”
Staley has three young boys, and he and his wife, Amy, relocated them from Los Angeles to Orange County last summer. It was difficult to relocate a family while also managing a new team during the epidemic. The Chargers chose lineman Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern in the first round and signed center Corey Linsley as a free agent, but Staley remained focused on finding assistance for quarterback Justin Herbert, particularly on the offensive line.
Linsley was the glue that kept the line together if Herbert was the attacking force. He, too, praised Staley’s boldness on fourth down, saying it “gives us a great boost of confidence.”
It wasn’t the offensive that was the issue. The Chargers finished fourth in the league in both scoring and projected points added (plus-116.4), behind only the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 13-4 Green Bay Packers, and the Chiefs. Defense, on the other hand, was a different matter.
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“We never give up,” Herbert said. “We were all in the huddle together for the offensive that went out there. We had faith in each other.”
Keenan Allen, the team’s leading receiver with 106 receptions for 1,138 yards, concurred with Herbert’s appraisal of Staley.
“I believe we’re on our way to become a winning company,” Allen added. “[Staley] is instilling a high level of trust in the culture and coaching staff. We just need to be prepared and do better next year.”
He wasn’t the only one who felt this way.
Joey Bosa, a defensive end, said, “With so much youthful potential, I envision a very bright future. I saw a group of students who were in their first year of schooling in a system. It’s a complicated system. It’ll take some time to get the hang of it. The fact that we had the year we had, which was, in my opinion, a really good year. I’m rather pleased with it.”
“We’ve got his back,” said safety Derwin James Jr., who made the Pro Bowl following a season in which he had 118 tackles. “I go for a run with my coach. That’s my coach over there. All of his decisions have our full backing.”
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