Identifying 6 Los Angeles Chargers Coaching Candidates To Replace Brandon Staley, Including Bill Belichick

The Los Angeles Chargers coaching search in 2021 landed on Brandon Staley, an up-and-coming defensive mind who did brilliant work with the Los Angeles Rams defense. Three years later, it’s time to start evaluating a new batch of Chargers coaching candidates for 2024.

Only 38 years old at the time of his hiring, Staley was well-liked by the media and his willingness to take an analytics-based approach in critical situations made him an early favorite among football fans. However, the Chargers’ reputation for collapsing late in games never changed and the defense progressively worsened.

Related: Los Angeles Chargers general manager candidates

Los Angeles likely would’ve preferred to let Staley ride out the season, parting ways with him on Black Monday after Week 18. However, a historic loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday Night Football in Week 15 forced the organization’s hand. Staley has been fired and a Chargers coaching search is underway.

Let’s examine our top Chargers coaching candidates in 2024 to replace Staley as head coach.

Evaluating Los Angeles Chargers coaching candidates

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots coach

NFL: Frankfurt Games-New England Patriots Practice
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NFL season has been even worse for Bill Belichick than it has for Staley. Entering Week 13, the New England Patriots are off to their worst start in nearly 30 years. Belichick’s decision as a general manager has created one of the worst rosters in the NFL and the Patriots’ quarterback situation has made the offense a mess. Yet, Belichick feels like the perfect coach for Los Angeles.

Related: Los Angeles Chargers coaching search could go in surprising direction

Los Angeles is already fully committed to its defense financially and there are plenty of pieces for a great defensive-minded coach to work with. Belichick is that guy. In 2022, New England ranked second in the NFL in Pro Football Reference’s expected points contributed by the defense (55.35), with the Patriots defense allowing the fifth-lowest yards per play (5.0), ranking seventh in pressure rate (24.1 percent) and it allowed the 11th-fewest red-zone scoring attempts (50) with a 58 percent conversion rate.

Belichick’s defenses rely heavily upon a great safety and Derwin James would be the perfect weapon. Joey Bosa could be his version of Matthew Judon and the surrounding cast of Chargers’ defenders could be a top-12 unit in Belichick’s scheme. As for the offensive side of the ball, Josh McDaniels can get the most out of a great quarterback and it’ll be even easier than his final years in New England because of Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Quentin Johnston. As far as the new Chargers’ hierarchy, Belichick can draft defensive players while Tom Telesco focuses on offensive players.

Brian Flores, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

After being let down by their defense in 2022, the Minnesota Vikings wasted little time in hiring Brian Flores. He was one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL with the New England Patriots, learning from Bill Belichick for decades. Then, hired to be the head coach of a rebuilding Miami Dolphins team, he maximized the limited talent on the roster to create a good defense and went 19-14 in his final two seasons.

Related: Is Los Angeles Chargers’ Keenan Allen a top five receiver?

MIN Vikings defense (2022)25.4 (30th)391.1 (31st)5.9 (30th)-104 (26th)
MIN Vikings defense (2023)18.6 (5th)311.2 (10th)4.9 (8th)27.46 (6th)
NFL statistics as of Week 15

Flores clashed at times with some in Miami, including quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. However, he’d be walking into a much better situation with the Charges. Los Angeles could allow Flores to focus on the defense while finding a well-respected and player-friendly offensive coordinator to call plays and work one-on-one with Herbert.

The most important qualities that Flores brings to the table are his defensive mind, leadership and ability to make adjustments. He’s turned Minnesota into a top-12 defense, all while completely changing his scheme to account for talent deficiencies and inexperience at cornerback. All of those qualities would benefit the Chargers moving forward.

Related: Love the Los Angeles Chargers? Check out the Charger Unleashed podcast

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Wolverines head coach

Syndication: USA TODAY

Jim Harbaugh would be one of the best Chargers coaching candidates available in 2024, but it’s also important to recognize his drawbacks. Both at Michigan and in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, Harbaugh clashed with the brass. He brings one of the largest egos among all head coaches, but he also boasts a track record to back it up.

Before arriving in San Francisco, the 49ers had just one winning season from 2003-’10 and they went 6-10 in that final year. Harbaugh walked through the door and immediately made the 49ers a Super Bowl contender, reaching the NFC Championship Game in his first year then coming one play short of winning the Super Bowl a season later. Harbaugh’s work with Colin Kaepernick in the NFL and J.J. McCarthy at Michigan would just be a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to what he could accomplish with Herbert in Los Angeles.

  • Jim Harbaugh NFL coaching record: 44-19-1

Harbaugh represents the 2024 version of Sean Payton. The Chargers would’ve been perfect for Payton, but they wanted to give Staley another season. While that was a poor decision, Los Angeles can reverse it by hiring Harbaugh and it won’t cost any draft picks to land him. We’d just advise the Spanos family to let Harbaugh handle the football side of things, though, it might be wise to find a general manager he can get along with.

Related: NFL coaches fired

Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Experience is obviously something we’re prioritizing with Chargers coaching candidates. While Los Angeles could pursue one of the hot up-and-coming names like Ben Johnson (Detroit Lions) or Brian Johnson (Philadelphia Eagles), this team needs to win immediately. An experienced head coach is the best option.

Dan Quinn was fired as the Atlanta Falcons head coach, but he delivered two seasons with double-digit wins. It’s also important to remember that in those final years, the Falcons’ roster was hamstrung by salary-cap issues. Quinn had his faults as a head coach, trying to do too much, but he is beloved by just about everyone he’s worked with in the NFL.

Related: NFL defense rankings

Dallas Cowboys defensePPG Allowed3rd Down %EXPYards per Play Allowed
202029.6 (28th)46.89% (27th)-141.7 (22nd)5.9 (23rd)
202121.1 (7th)34.75% (2nd)21.8 (3rd)5.5 (21st)
202220.1 (5th)39.54% (18th)31.77 (3rd)5.1 (7th)
202317.9 (4th)37.35% (11th)47.83 (4th)4.9 (6th)
Statistics via Pro Football Reference and Football Outsiders

Quinn’s work with the Dallas Cowboys defense is unmatched. He turned around a bottom-five defense in a single year and has maintained a top-five defense for all three seasons he’s been with the Cowboys. He maximizes his players’ talents and creates a scheme tailored to the strengths of the roster, which would be very beneficial for Los Angeles.

Hiring Quinn as head coach could also mean that Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore returns in 2024. That means system continuity for Herbert and he’ll have a strong relationship with his play-caller heading into next season. Plus, if the Chargers’ defense improves, Moore’s reputation as an NFL coaching candidate will also rise.

Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Credit: Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

If money is no issue, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson needs to be atop the list of Chargers coaching candidates. Of course, he’s the most coveted coordinator in the NFL right now with the Las Vegas Raiders and Carolina Panthers also poised to make a run at him.

In his final two seasons under Sean McVay, quarterback Jared Goff posted an 88.1 QB rating, completing 65 percent of his passes, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt and posting a 3.6 percent touchdown rate. Over the last two seasons in Johnson’s system with Detroit, Goff has a 97.3 QB rating, completes 66 percent of his passes and has a 4.8 percent touchdown rate.

Johnson also emphasizes the ground game. Not only is he effective with the rushing attack he calls, but he’s coordinated top-10 offenses with two sets of different running backs. Los Angeles needs a head coach who can maximize his quarterback and scheme open big plays for the rest of the offense, Johnson is that guy.

Frank Smith, Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator

NFL: Frankfurt Games-Miami Dolphins Practice
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Familiarity might matter during the Chargers’ coaching search. Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith only spent a season in Los Angeles as the Chargers’ run game coordinator and offensive line coach, but his track record speaks for itself.

Related: NFL coaching candidates

Smith, who has coached offensive lines and tight ends since 2006, became the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator in 2022. While he’s not the play-caller, head coach Mike McDaniel credits Smith heavily with developing Dolphins’ players, maximizing this scheme and has raved about his game preparation.

“He has a thorough understanding of the game and is a great teacher, which is really what coaching is all about. He also has a unique ability to anticipate problems before they arise, be that on the field or in administrative-type things related to schedules, questions that will come up with players or coaches, etc. He operates on a daily basis with a passion, positivity and humility that is rare and sets him apart.”

Mike McDaniel on Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith via  Jeff Howe of The Athletic

The Chargers’ offensive line needs work and Smith can find a quality offensive line coach to improve this unit. From there, he creates a well-balanced offense that can mirror what’s done in Miami, with tweaks made to account for Herbert’s arm strength and ability to make pinpoint throws downfield on the move. If the Chargers can’t afford Johnson and want an offensive-minded coach, Smith’s a good alternative.