Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley has a lot to prove in 2022. In particular, he will have to work to redeem himself after some of the calls he made last season. Below we look at Staley’s top three worst calls of 2022:
Brandon Staley’s Worst Calls
Playing Starters In The 2nd Half Of Week 18 Broncos Game
The Ravens lost their game shortly before the Chargers took the field in Week 18 against the Broncos, solidifying the Chargers fifth seed in the wildcard race. Given the short time between the end of the Ravens game and the start of the Chargers, there wasn’t a lot of notice to change up the game plan and have some starters that had already been slotted in, not play.
And it’s also true, as Brandon Staley pointed out in his post-game press conference, that they didn’t have as many players to field the team as they once did. Some players like Keenan Allen hadn’t played many reps that season, so it was important to get reps now. So yes, some starters did have to play. But the issue was the starters played for way too long.
Justin Herbert played three quarters, while others like Allen played into the fourth. Mike Williams played into the second, while Khalil Mack played 42 snaps. There were other players that could have picked up the slack like running back Larry Rountree and edge rusher Chris Rumph.
The Chargers had also been surviving for many games without Williams and Allen, so after a few reps, perhaps even a quarter’s worth, they could have been taken out.
The worst of it was Williams played into the second quarter until he went out with a back injury. That injury prohibited him from playing in the Wildcard game, a matchup where they needed his unique skillset to add an explosive element to the offense.
The starters didn’t need ALL of those reps. And it didn’t really matter if they won this game, as they were already in the playoffs. The trajectory of this team was put in jeopardy with Staley’s decision to play his starters for as long as he did, and it all culminated in a dumpster fire of a Wildcard matchup.
Playing Justin Herbert In Week 3 With A Rib Injury
The first Chargers and Chiefs matchup of the 2022 season was one for the ages, where despite sustaining a rib injury and struggling to throw or run, Herbert rallied, managing to throw a dart to Josh Palmer for a touchdown in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter to keep the team alive. Though the Chargers lost, the grit of their franchise quarterback was on full display, so much so that if he decided to sit out the next game, or was made to sit out, it felt like most everyone would have understood.
Herbert was cleared to play and Staley didn’t stop him. So there he was, still suffering from an injury, playing against the Jags in a game they ultimately lost. They had a perfectly capable, experienced backup in Chase Daniel. This wasn’t the playoffs, it was game three of a very long season, and despite Brandon Staley saying that they wanted to finish the game as a team, he should have made the call to stop Herbert from playing at all.
Daniel Popper of The Athletic said that he “had no issue that Hebert played, but the game was out of hand late in the fourth quarter…Yet Herbert, despite his serious rib injury, went back out there for the final Chargers possession. The Chargers were without starting center Corey Linsley…They were without starting left tackle Rashawn Slater… The protection was a mess…This was an inexcusable decision by Staley.”
Having Herbert play in that game at all was just lousy coaching. And though it worked out, it was an unnecessary risk that could have tanked the season way before the wild card game.
The Defensive Plan In The Last Few Minutes Of The Wild Card Game
This Wildcard game was a heartbreaker and was lost by one measly point. In the fourth quarter with a minute and 28 left, on a fourth and one, the Jags called a timeout right after the ball was snapped. And when play resumed, the Chargers should have been ready for something other than a quarterback sneak, as the timeout signaled that maybe that wasn’t the direction the Jags were going. But nothing changed.
All the Chargers were caught up in the middle, waiting for the sneak, and after the snap, Lawrence got the ball to running back Travis Etienne, who went out right into wide open space, up the sideline, out of the grasp of Asante Samuel Jr., and got the first down.
And just like that, the Jags were in field goal position.
By not changing their formation, it all fell on one player to stop the run, similar to some of the other explosive plays that the Chargers couldn’t stop this past season. Brandon Staley wasn’t the only reason they lost, but the snowball effect of not having players like Williams, and not making that last-second adjustment, all added up to a devastating loss.