Brandon Staley is getting cooked. The old guard and the new school are picking sides, roasting him or defending him. It’s a lightning rod of discussion regarding the Los Angeles Chargers’ boy genius and wunderkind. But let me say this about the 39-year-old head coach: Dude went out the Spartan way, of “come back with your shield—or on it.”
The uber-aggressive Staley didn’t sway from his analytics and data that he’s relied upon through 2021. Staley is adamant that he’s not reckless and that going for it gives his Chargers the best chance of victory in every single game. Fair enough.
“The real football people understand that what I’m doing is playing to the strengths of our football team,” Staley proclaimed after the Chargers loss to the Chiefs during their Thursday night tilt back on Dec. 16. “What I’m doing is I’m trying to make the decisions that I think are going to win us the game. And I’m ready to live with all that smoke that comes with it. And I’ve been very transparent about that. What makes football and competition so great is that there aren’t going to be perfect decisions.”
(Let’s remember that last part for later on, okay?)
Making data-driven decisions got his Bolts within one win of a playoff berth, and Staley is a tiger that doesn’t change its stripes. But aggressiveness and analytics are great. Until they’re not.
The Bolts got zapped by their Doogie Howser, M.D. Sunday night’s 35-32 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders was filled with Staley-isms. No, I’m not talking about the fourth-down attempts and conversions during the wild, mad dash to the finish. Los Angeles had no choice in those instances. I’m talking about going for it when the Bolts did have another option.
Case in point: fourth down on his own 18-yard line. Dig it, the Chargers were presented with a 4th-and-1 from their own 18, and Staley couldn’t help himself. He just had to go show the football viewing world just how big the cojones in his pantalones truly are. Instead, Staley punched his own cojones. He basically shat on both the Raiders’ defense and offense, simultaneously, with the decision to keep his offense on the field.
With their backs to a raucous and very loud Allegiant Stadium crowd, Bolts quarterback Justin Herbert called for the snap, turned around, and handed bowling-ball running back Austin Ekeler the ball. Not a bad decision. All they needed was one yard, right?
Vegas defensive tackle Darius Philon burst through his gap and was eager to spear Ekeler. Meanwhile, safety Roderic Teamer bet his block on the outside and crashed hard inside, too. The former Bolts left Ekeler thunderstruck in the backfield, two yard loss.
Even the charlatan football people could see that was a bad gamble. Yeah, even I noted the fourth-down decision may be rendered moot since all the Raiders could must was a field goal. But guess what? How many points did Staley’s Chargers lose by?
That real football rhetoric certainly rubbed people the wrong way. Football people, even.
What lies beneath the aggression, however, is arrogance and defiance. Something that the OG coaches, like Rex Ryan and others, despise.
Rex Ryan went OFF on Chargers head coach Brandon Staley after the team's loss to the Raiders 😳
"We're being robbed as NFL fans that we don't get to see Justin Herbert in the playoffs. … It's hard not to make the playoffs with a franchise QB, but congratulations, you did it." pic.twitter.com/9IQDClo5n3
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) January 10, 2022
Let’s compare Staley to the head coach that was opposite him on the sideline Sunday night: Rich Bisaccia. The Raiders’ interim boss is the antithesis of Staley. Bisaccia is a contemplative, deliberate, and conservative feline, whereas Staley is an analytic, metrics-focused, and aggressive feline. Surely, I can’t ignore that Bisaccia has steered away from his pussyfoot ways as the Raiders punched their playoff ticket, but in a variety of aspects, Staley and Bisaccia are polar opposites.
But you can’t say Bisaccia isn’t a “real” football person. He’s a football lifer at age 61 and has cut his teeth as a special teams‘ boss. He works with offensive and defensive players alike for his special teams units.
And even then, the aged Bisaccia seemingly handed Staley an olive branch late in overtime. But of course, Staley had to fuck that up.
The supposed defensive guru and genius decided to call a timeout after a Josh Jacobs seven-yard run and stopped the clock with 38 seconds left. The passive Raiders were equally miffed because the Chargers didn’t call a timeout when Vegas ran the ball initially. But Staley just had to do it. He’s smarter and had to placate the ‘real’ football people.
“We needed to get in the right grouping,” Staley quipped in his post game press conference when asked about why he called for time. “We felt like they were going to run the ball, so we wanted to get our best 11 personnel run defense in, make that substitution so we could get a play where we would deepen the field goal.”
Before we get to what happened and the details, let’s start with a key question. NBC’s Michelle Tafoya asked Raiders quarterback Derek Carr after the game: Did the timeout change your mentality?
“It definitely did, obviously,” Carr told Tafoya during the postgame TV interview. “But we knew, no matter what, we didn’t want a tie. We wanted to win the football game.“
Staley didn’t blink in his response.
“I don’t think it changed their mindset because they were going to run the ball the play before and then they ran the ball the very next play,” Staley said. “So we wanted to make sure we got our run defense in there.”
Got it? Let’s move forward.
The best run defense, according to Staley, is when he removes hard-nosed inside linebacker Kenneth Murray from the field, leaving Kyzer White as the lone LB with five down linemen in front of him. One linebacker in the middle, with safety Nasir Adderley charged with becoming a box defender.
The Raiders were game for that. The blockers did their job; tight end Foster Moreau came around and stonewalled Bolts defensive end Joey Bosa, eliminating him from the play, and Jacobs galloped through for a 10-yard gain.
Let’s put it in Raider terms Raider Nation can understand: Staley became Paul Guenther.
After being balls-to-the-wall aggressive, Staley shows caution. And what awful timing, too. Staley slapped away the outstretched handshake of Bisaccia by taking a time out.
And, deservedly so, Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson kicked the Chargers’ ass out of the playoffs.
It’s one thing to be smart. It’s a whole other level to say you’re not only smart, but everyone should shut up about it.
Bisaccia’s Raiders got the final word. Not Staley’s Chargers.
And if you’re ever concerned that mathematical computations will fully take over the human element of things, remember this: Skynet lost.
People in the coaching community think Brandon Staley is arrogant. He proved it yesterday and it blew up in his face.
— Michael Lombardi (@mlombardiNFL) January 10, 2022
*Top Photo: Knowledia News