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: NFL coaching hot seat
- Brandon Staley coaching record: 23-21 as Los Angeles Chargers head coach
Staley survived his overtime timeout costing them a playoff spot in a season-ending loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. He even stuck around after Los Angeles blew a historic 27-0 lead in the AFC Wild Card Round a few months ago. However, he can’t survive the 2023 season.
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
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.
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
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.
|PPG||TOTAL YPG||Yards per Play||EXP|
|MIN Vikings defense (2022)||25.4 (30th)||391.1 (31st)||5.9 (30th)||-104 (26th)|
|MIN Vikings defense (2023)||20.9 (15th)||320.6 (13th)||5.0 (10th)||-0.29 (11th)|
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.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Wolverines head coach
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.
Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator
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 defense||PPG Allowed||3rd Down %||EXP||Yards per Play Allowed|
|2020||29.6 (28th)||46.89% (27th)||-141.7 (22nd)||5.9 (23rd)|
|2021||21.1 (7th)||34.75% (2nd)||21.8 (3rd)||5.5 (21st)|
|2022||20.1 (5th)||39.54% (18th)||31.77 (3rd)||5.1 (7th)|
|2023||17.5 (5th)||32.81% (2nd)||54.39 (3rd)||4.6 (3rd)|
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.