By JOE REEDY
AP Sports Writer
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Brandon Staley remained steadfast he would remain head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers despite plenty of speculation about his future.
“I am aware of the speculation because I have to be briefed of it to be prepared for guys like you,” Staley said to reporters on Wednesday during his season-ending press conference. “I was not worried about that because I know what goes on here on a day-to-day basis and I know what we have in the locker room.”
Staley’s status was a source of debate among fans and commentators during the past two weeks. It began after the loss to Denver in the regular-season finale when he played his starters and wide receiver Mike Williams suffered a season-ending back injury. It ramped up to fever pitch after last Saturday’s 31-30 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in an AFC wild-card round game, when the Chargers blew the third-largest lead in postseason history.
The Bolts improved from 9-8 in Staley’s first campaign in 2021 to 10-7 and the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs since 2018 this season. Both years, though, have ended in disappointing fashion in which decisions by Staley backfired.
In last year’s regular-season finale against Las Vegas, Staley called a timeout on defense in the final minute when the Raiders were content to run out the clock and play for a tie, which would have put both teams in the playoffs. Instead, Las Vegas ended up driving into field goal range and knocked the Chargers out of a postseason spot on the final play.
In reviewing the Jacksonville loss, Staley didn’t point to one play but a series of plays, penalties or not converting in key situations.
“I’m proud that we were able to get a chance to compete. I thought that first half showed you what our team has inside of it and the second half showed where we need to improve,” he said.
Staley’s immediate task will be finding an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after Joe Lombardi and Shane Day were fired.
The Chargers were ranked ninth in total offense, but 20th in scrimmage yards per play, along with the league’s third-worst rushing attack.
Staley said one of the most important factors he is looking for in a coordinator is being able to do a better job of bringing balance to the offense. Los Angeles had the NFL’s second-biggest discrepancy between passing and running plays (65% pass to 35% run).
“The offenses that I think are the most challenging to defend, and the people who have been here with me, are the ones that put a lot of pressure on you every snap, in terms of marrying the run game to the pass game, putting a lot of pressure on you with personnel groupings, pace, motion, and being able to get the explosions consistently,” Staley said. “I want to have an offense that mirrors our defense because I think that those are the types of organizations, those are the type of football teams, who are consistent, game-in and game-out, season-in and season-out.”
Justin Herbert, who will have his third offensive coordinator in four NFL seasons, will have some input in the process.
Staley said there isn’t a set deadline on when he would like to name a new offensive coordinator, but added it would be fair to see that it is likely to be someone that has come from the coaching tree of 49ers boss Kyle Shanahan or Rams’ coach Sean McVay.
Staley also left open the possibility that other changes could occur on the coaching staff with evaluations continuing.
One thing that Staley closed the door on was having someone else call the plays on defense. He said that it will still be his responsibility.
The Chargers devoted plenty of their offseason resources last year to upgrading the defense, yet it was ranked 20th in the league and the fifth-worse at stopping the run.
“Our players, our coaches, you guys know the improvement that I made from my first year to my second year. You’re able to see it, visibly. I don’t need to tell you the improvements I made,” Staley said. “I’m excited to bounce back and to really attack this offseason and compete at a high level.”
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