Sometimes change is good. In the case of the Los Angeles Chargers, it has become a necessary tool to use for the future success of the franchise. The team went won 12 of 32 games over the course of the last two seasons.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco and the rest of team management really didn’t have a choice but to look out for better days for the organization. So after four years of the Anthony Lynn era, the Chargers ushered in the present and future with Brandon Staley as the head coach.
It was a bold move by the Chargers to pick someone to lead their franchise with only four years of coaching experience in the NFL under his belt. But in those four years, Staley has racked up an impressive resume, including being the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams.
The Rams, by the way, just happened to have had the No. 1 overall defense and the top-ranked passing defense in the league during the 2020 regular season. Along his journey to getting the top gig with the Chargers, Staley has coached some of the best in the game in Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, Denver Broncos edge rusher Von Miller and the most dominant force in the NFL in Aaron Donald.
Staley wants to bring that same type of moxie to the coaching staff he is building around him as the makeover purge for the Chargers continues. With Staley locked in as the head coach, the Chargers came to agreements with a couple of solid veteran NFL coaches to handle and improve three critical pieces for the team’s infrastructure: offense, defense, and special teams.
In his first press conference as head coach of the Chargers, Staley said bringing in the coaches that would be considered to be the right fit for the organization would require a collaborative effort between himself, Telesco, and team president of football operations John Spanos.
“We really believe in going through a process here,” Staley said. “I think that’s what the NFL is doing such a good job of in this cycle. We are going through a really thorough process to get the best coaches that we can for the Los Angeles Chargers. What makes the NFL so special is how competitive it is, especially for coaches. I think, in due time, you guys will see that this staff will be one of the elite staffs in the NFL. We’re excited to go through that process together, for them to meet me, meet our ownership, our leadership and really try to assemble a unique group.”
The changes made at these positions could elevate the Chargers from talented also-rans to perhaps true Super Bowl contenders. Only time will tell. Player personnel might have something to do will with it as well. That might have been the caveat that may have attracted Joe Lombardi, Renaldo Hill and Derius Swinton II to join Staley’s staff.
“Tom Telesco has really put together a lot of good pieces for this offense,” Lombardi said during his introductory press conference. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone just consistently get separation like [wide receiver] Keenan Allen. Then, having another receiver like Mike [Williams] on the other side of him. I know that [Austin] Ekeler has some of the skill set that I’m used to seeing in New Orleans with [former Saints running backs] Reggie [Bush] or Darren Sproles, or A.K. [Saints RB Alvin Kamara]. That’s exciting, to have someone with that skillset. It’s very exciting to come in knowing that those pieces are in place and that we have a good chance to hit the ground running.”
When you think about it, who wouldn’t want the opportunity to coach an offense built around quarterback Justin Herbert? After doing wonders for the New Orleans Saints offense and maximizing the passing gifts of Drew Brees in two stints, Lombardi now gets to be that guy to make Herbert an even better quarterback. This after Herbert went buck wild in his rookie season.
All Herbert did was throw for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns while completing 66 percent of his passes and smashing NFL rookie records (most passing yards, most touchdowns and most completions) all over the place. Lombardi marveled with excitement over the chance of working with Herbert and running the Chargers offense.
“He has a skill set that is elite,” Lombardi said. “It appears that there’s nothing that he can’t do. He has an incredibly strong arm, good accuracy and he is very athletic. It sounds like he is a really smart guy that is a good leader. He just checks all of the boxes. The sky’s the limit with a player like that.”
If there’s anyone who can check all the boxes when it comes to engineering a high potent offensive scheme, it is Lombardi. Not only did he provide a considerable boost to Brees’ career in the 10 years he worked with the well-accomplished quarterback, but Lombardi also turned the Saints’ offense into one of the scariest to face in the NFL.
In doing so, Lombardi was able to squeeze 44,278 yards and 338 touchdowns out of Brees. And let’s not forget about the 69.9 completion ratio and his 104.6 passer rating. As he navigates moving from a future Hall of Fame quarterback to a rising star in Herbert, Lombardi talked about the one big takeaway he has from working with Brees.
“Just the details that you learn when you’re with a guy like Drew for that long,” Lombardi said. “The details, the exactness, of footwork and timing. Preparation. How Drew communicated with his receivers and how they were on the same page as him, so that he is able to communicate exactly what he wants from them at the top of routes, or how to talk to him with their body language.
“Those are things that are coachable,” Lombardi added. “You say [Panthers and former Saints QB] Teddy [Bridgewater] take that on. You saw that when Taysom was playing. You saw that with [Saints QB] Jameis [Winston]. Even though he didn’t play a lot, there were times when he was preparing as the two because Taysom is playing tight end. You just see those guys take on that level of detail, and the ability to communicate with their teammates and get everyone on the same page. It’s going to be a fun next few years with him.”
Lombardi working with Herbert and a passing game was that was ranked No. 6 in the league last season should be a lot of fun. This is nothing new for Lombardi. He’s used to calling the shots for an explosive offense. In New Orleans, Lombardi was afforded the luxury of having wide receiver Michael Thomas and all-utility running back Alvin Kamara at his disposal.
During his time as offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions, the offensive play-caller was able to get bookend wideouts Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate each to produce 1,000 yards or more in a season. Lombardi achieved this feat while working with another talented signal-caller in Matthew Stafford, who will now make Los Angeles his home after reportedly being traded to the Rams.
With the Chargers, the sky is certainly the limit. All-purpose running back Austin Ekeler gives Lombardi plenty of ways to create open space problems for defenses. There there is the young but super-skilled wide receiving corps. Outside of the wily Keenan Allen, the Chargers are lined up with fleet home run hitters in Mike Williams, Tyron Johnson, Jalen Guyton, K.J. Hill Jr., and Donald Parham Jr.
In talking about the vision for the offense that he and Staley has, Lombardi wasn’t entirely specific in detail but did say that they wanted to speed things up.
“We haven’t talked about specific plays,” Lombardi said. “A lot of that will get detailed out when you get the whole staff together, hopefully in the next week or two, when we start sitting down and combining all of the ideas and molding those into a playbook that we can apply to each game during the season. I know that he [Staley] wants to be able to play with some tempo. I know that he wants to play to the strengths of the quarterback and the other players on the offense. Those are things that we’re all on board with.”
Featured image of Joe Lombardi appears courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers