After Being Mr. Aggressive In ‘21, What Happened To Brandon Staley’s Coaching Philosophy In Week Two
Wow. After an all-aggressive approach from Chargers’ head coach Brandon Staley in 2021, LA seemed to throw away another golden opportunity to steal a game in a hostile environment due to questionable conservative decisions by Staley and co. in week 2.
Surprised By Staley?
The Los Angeles Chargers fell at the hands of the division favorites Kansas City Chiefs last night, 27-24, in a game in which LA had numerous opportunities to upset the home team. However, multiple dropped interceptions by Asante Samuel Jr and other potential turnovers that either were proved illegitimate or were simply not made certainly affected the final score of the game.
More than anything, I’m confused about the decisions second year head coach Brandon Staley made during the course of this Thursday Night AFC showdown. In certain third and fourth and short situations, Staley decided to essentially take the ball out of Justin Herbert’s hands and throw short passes or run the ball which the Chiefs sniffed out. The strong point of the Charger offense is to let Austin Ekeler run routes from out of the backfield, designed vertices and comeback hooks and let Herbert find his targets.
A trick play LAC ran late in the first proves my point perfectly. Herbert took the snap, threw a screen pass to his receiver, who subsequently tossed the football across the field to Ekeler who was easily stopped for a loss of a couple. On what play would a coach voluntarily want to take the football out of his QB’s hands and trust his receiver to make a throw instead? Herbert defied the odds and scored on that drive anyway, but it took some magic from Mike Williams, who made an unreal grab over a defender, drawing a DPI flag to boot.
A Charger Letdown
Many analysts and people of high knowledge would have said Staley’s decision making was the reason for the Chargers’ downfall from a season ago. With tons of talent on the roster, LA was still unable to capture its first playoff berth since 2018, and the organization only went out and acquired even more talent in the offseason. Names such as JC Jackson, Khalil Mack, Asante Samuel Jr. and a returning Derwin James headline the crop that joined or rejoined LAC this summer.
There were countless decisions Staley would make last season that had the fanbase scratching its head. Fourth and sevens, fourth and nines, the Charger offense was staying on the field ‘no matter what’ on some occasions, it seemed like. In last night’s game, it seemed like all of his confidence went out the window. Kicking field goals instead of going for scores, drawing up short pass patterns, you name it. While Herbert still looked great, it seemed like he was a bit limited. Perhaps the absence of Keenan Allen made an impact, but we’ve seen the Charger QB flourish without his top wideout before. Here’s what the head coach had to say about his decisions on Thursday night.
“Just wanted to give our defense a chance to compete. I loved the way we were playing. I felt like that was the formula — to flip the field there. I feel like we were aggressive when we needed to be tonight. We converted all four of our fourth downs. Just felt like, with who’s over there (Patrick Mahomes), and the way our defense was playing, I felt like the field position would be a big edge for our defense to be able to pin them back there. And I like the way our defense competed tonight.” https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/chargers-brandon-staley-explains-surprisingly-conservative-fourth-down-decisions-in-loss-to-chiefs/
Debating The Coach
I understand that coach, but at the same token you have to combat an elite offense with an elite offense of your own. The deciding factor in the game, a goal to go throw from the one-yard line that was picked off by rookie seventh round draft pick Jaylen Watson didn’t have to happen. Austin Ekeler must’ve felt like Marshawn Lynch in that moment.
Nevertheless, Justin Herbert still had a fantastic game, throwing for well over 300 yards and making just a few mistakes, but some could certainly be credited to the head coach Staley. I think being over-aggressive isn’t healthy but being too conservative is never a good strategy on offense. We’ll be looking next week to see if Los Angeles cleans up the mistakes.