Because the Chargers’ 27-point benefit regularly vanished, the look on Brandon Staley’s face instructed the story of the sport.
Staley regarded confused.
He regarded shocked.
He regarded the identical approach Sean McVay did when Invoice Belichick embarrassed him within the Tremendous Bowl.
Doug Peterson has received a championship, Staley hasn’t, and that distinction was exhibited in the course of the soul-crushing second half of the Chargers’ 31-30 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars Saturday night time.
That’s the bottom Staley has to make up if the Chargers are to have any probability of reaching a Tremendous Bowl. That’s the space he has to cowl to justify the staff retaining him.
Staley is wise. He’s a great communicator. He’s fearless. He’s nonetheless 40. He was in his second 12 months as a head coach this season. Earlier than the Chargers employed him, he was a coordinator for just one season.
He simply wants time.
The issue: The Chargers don’t have any.
Subsequent season will likely be Justin Herbert’s closing 12 months on a rookie contract.
In different phrases, the Chargers solely have another 12 months throughout which their quarterback will likely be one of many league’s most underpaid gamers. They solely have another 12 months earlier than they’re anticipated to begin paying him as a lot as anybody has ever been paid to play soccer. They solely have another 12 months throughout which they are going to have the ability to encompass him with the caliber of expertise they did this season.
Dean or John Spanos or normal supervisor Tom Telesco must decide whether or not Staley can make them a Tremendous Bowl subsequent season.
That’s the query. That’s the one query.
Staley is among the recreation’s brightest defensive minds, however is he that coach?
He wasn’t on Saturday night time. He wasn’t even shut.
With the Jaguars erasing a 27-point lead, the Chargers had been the victims of the third-largest comeback in postseason historical past. Right here’s what was particularly gorgeous: The Chargers blew their edge with out committing a single turnover.
This wasn’t a case of a quarterback throwing an errant move or a operating again failing to carry onto the soccer. This was a case of a younger coach being outclassed by a extra seasoned opponent, the consequence a tidal wave the Chargers had no probability of turning again.
Peterson adjusted, Staley couldn’t alter in response and that was the sport.
Staley got here out with a defensive recreation plan that contributed to the Chargers intercepting 4 of Trevor Lawrence’s passes within the first half. Nevertheless, when Peterson elevated the tempo of his offense, the Chargers had no solutions for the Jaguars’ no-huddle performs. The shift in momentum was magnified by some backbreaking penalties. Abruptly, the Chargers couldn’t get a cease.
Offensively, the Chargers continued to be failed by their suspect floor recreation, the shortcoming to run the ball stopping them from controlling the clock. The Jaguars elevated their stress on Herbert and stored Keenan Allen below wraps, a process made simpler due to the absence of Mike Williams, who was injured in Week 18 when Staley performed his starters throughout a meaningless recreation towards the Denver Broncos.
This expertise ought to make Staley a greater coach.
He has already demonstrated a willingness to alter, his tempered aggression on fourth down a notable instance. The guess right here is that he received’t play his starters into the fourth quarter of a regular-season finale the subsequent time he already has a playoff seed secured.
The Chargers have paid for his errors in every of the final two seasons. They need to a minimum of think about whether or not they may gain advantage from what he’s discovered from these errors.
And if retaining Staley carries a component of danger, so does changing him, as a brand new coach subsequent season can be Herbert’s third in a 4 years.
The franchise’s determination makers may very properly decide that what Staley wants is veteran assist, like what Wade Phillips supplied McVay throughout his first three seasons with the Rams. Maybe the Chargers exchange Joe Lombardi with a extra skilled offensive coordinator.
Then once more, what occurred in Jacksonville can’t be neglected. Staley was dominated in a approach that needed to shake his gamers’ confidence in him. The Chargers’ Curse that Staley strove to eradicate resurfaced stronger than ever, his new-age method producing the identical outdated outcomes. In the end, taking up the historical past of a franchise may need been too nice a process for a coach who didn’t have a lot a historical past of his personal.
Now, the group has to determine whether or not to put one other wager on Staley. The time aspect will increase the problem of the analysis. Determining whether or not Staley can develop into a championship coach is just a part of the equation. Calculating how rapidly he could make that transformation is the opposite.