Issues in life are never as black and white as they seem and that extends to a game like football.
When it comes to underachieving teams, there can be a myriad reasons why they’re struggling, but that doesn’t change the fact that they're underachieving. One team that currently finds themselves in that scenario is the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers have struggled through a boatload of injuries that have put a cap on what they’ve been able to accomplish this season, but there’s still the very simple fact that this team is underachieving based on what they set out to do this year — and it’s kind of unclear if Brandon Staley should remain the head coach after this season.
In a vacuum, a 6-6 record in a league as tough as the NFL is not the worst thing in the world. But it stings a bit more when the team in question had Super Bowl aspirations going into the season. Justin Herbert is verifiably one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and has still played at a damn high level this season in the midst of injuries and a bareboned offensive scheme. For the most part, Herbert has done his fair share of the heavy lifting this year. Staley’s defense has not. At all.
Injuries to star players like Joey Bosa and J.C. Jackson have definitely hurt, but at some point the person who was hired to lead the defense needs to show why the Chargers were right to hire him as the head coach. Staley was known for being a transformative defensive play-caller for the Los Angeles Rams, building a defense that was unusually stout against the run despite not keeping many defenders in the box. Now, it seems like he was the beneficiary of having Aaron Donald and peak Jalen Ramsey in his lineup. It’s much easier to keep five in the box when one of those five is the greatest defensive tackle in the game's history. Right now, Staley isn’t providing much for the Chargers on the defensive side of the ball.
Staley’s defense needs players to win their one-on-one matchups up front in order for the entire unit to fall into the picture. That is not happening right now.
Josh Jacobs (who is playing elite football) ran for 144 yards and a touchdown on 26 attempts in Sunday's Las Vegas Raiders victory over the Chargers. According to Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, the Chargers rank just 27th in expected points allowed per play (0.062) this season. They’ve been getting pummeled on the ground, ranking 29th in expected points allowed per rushing play (0.026). The personnel issues definitely sting, but at some point Staley has to provide value for the Chargers.
Staley has added an edge at times with his fourth-down decisions since he became Chargers head coach. Approaching the game’s most volatile play with an attitude of aggression makes for better games and increased chances for scoring. But his defense needs to step up on the other end. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen this season and it may end up costing Staley his job.
Firing Staley after just two years on the job after how highly he was thought of with the Rams seems rash, but the NFL is about results. The Chargers face an uphill climb to make the playoffs, falling way short of the expectations that were set prior to the season. The aspect of the game where Staley really needed to provide an edge hasn’t been an edge at all — in fact, it might tank the Chargers’ season.