On Monday it was announced that Kellen Moore would be the new Chargers offensive coordinator. As of Friday, the Chargers had interviewed five other candidates for the position. Let’s look at the candidates that didn’t make the cut and how Moore compares.
Assessing the Chargers Offensive Coordinator Decision
Luke Steckel: Titans Tight End Coach
Luke Steckel was interviewed last Thursday for the position. He has been with the Titans organization for 10 years. This is his second season as a tight ends coach. Before that, he spent time as an offensive assistant coach (2018 to 2020 and 2014 to 2016), an assistant wide receivers coach (2017), and an offensive assistant doubling as a special assistant to the head coach (2013). Before joining the Titans, he was an assistant to the head coach of the Browns from 2009 to 2012. He also has playing experience having played linebacker at Princeton from 2005 to 2006.
During some of his press conferences, Steckel emphasized the importance of tight ends blocking in the run-and-pass game and had a particular focus on his players being as versatile as possible. Versatility is basically Brandon Staley’s middle name, so he would have fit right in with Chargers culture. Having someone who could help to develop the Chargers offensive versatility as Staley did for the defense, who could focus on run blocking and protection for Justin Herbert and others like Austin Ekeler, would have been ideal.
In terms of the Titans this year, tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo had the seventh highest pass blocking grade of the team according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) at 67.6 and there was only one quarterback pressure and sack under his watch out of the 194 pass blocking snaps he saw.
Okonkwo and tight end Austin Hooper also had the highest grade in terms of receiving for the team at 84.6 and 74.6%, respectively. Okonokwo had 449 receiving yards while Hooper tied with wide receiver Treylon Burks with 444. Wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine tied with Okonokwo for three receiving touchdowns. The ability to mold a rookie like Okonokwo into such highs in his first season is no easy feat, and it would have been interesting to see how Steckel could have helped rookies develop along with veterans like Gerald Everett and Donald Parham.
Thomas Brown: Rams Assistant Head Coach/Tight Ends Coach
Last Wednesday, it was confirmed that Brown interviewed for the Chargers offensive coordinator position. He’s been with the Rams’ organization since 2020. In 2021 he was the assistant head coach and doubled as a running backs coach; in 2020 he was just their running backs coach.
Before coming to the NFL, he was a running backs coach at the college level. He coached running backs in South Carolina in 2019, with the Miami Hurricanes doubling as the offensive coordinator from 2016 to 2018, in Georgia in 2015, and also worked as an assistant strength and conditioning coach in 2011, Wisconsin in 2014, at Marshall in 2013, and at UT Chattanooga in 2012. Brown was a running back in the NFL for the Falcons (2008) and the Browns (2009) and played at Georgia.
It would have been an asset to have someone like Brown on the coaching staff with so much experience in the running backs room, not only to help Ekeler and Joshua Kelley fine-tune their games but also to help Isaiah Spiller develop. During a press conference when he was still coaching the tight ends, he said that he’s a big-picture person and likes to look at all the personnel on the offense. Having that perspective is important for this type of position to make sure that everything is firing on all cylinders.
Tight ends were not particular standouts on the Rams offense this year, but the running backs were heavily involved in the 2021 season performance. Darrell Henderson had career highs last year in rushing yards (695) and touchdowns (five rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns). And considering Cam Akers was able to come back from an offseason Achilles injury to play in the playoffs and the Super Bowl is pretty remarkable.
To bring out the best in your players and help the development of someone who had such a serious early season injury, are both tall orders. So with his history and this specialty, along with this big-picture perspective, he would have been a good addition as the Chargers offensive coordinator.
Jerrod Johnson: Vikings Assistant QB Coach
Jerrod Johnson interviewed last Wednesday for the Charger offensive coordinator position. The 2022 season marked his first season with the Vikings. Previously he was with the Colts as the offensive quality control coach from 2020 to 2021. He’s participated in the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching fellowship program, working with the 49ers in 2017 and the Colts in 2019 through that. Johnson also spent time as a quarterback in the NFL and the UFL.
According to PFF Kirk Cousins’ offensive grade was 79.3 this year while his passing grade was 77.7. He had 4,821 passing yards, 600 more than his 2021 season. His run grade improved from 60 in 2021 to 73.6. Cousins has been a steady presence for the Vikings the past few years and it wouldn’t hurt to have a little bit of the better aspects of Cousins’ game imparted to Herbert.
Zac Robinson: Rams Quarterbacks Coach/Pass Game Coordinator
Last Monday, Robinson was interviewed for the Chargers offensive coordinator position. He’s been with the Rams’ organization for the past four seasons. He has spent time as an assistant quarterbacks coach (2019 and 2021) and a wide receivers coach (2020). Robinson also played quarterback in the NFL as well as at Oklahoma State.
Robinson would have been a good fit for this team given his skillset as a quarterbacks coach and wide receiver coach. And the fact that he is part of the McVay coaching tree is an added bonus. During a press conference a few months ago, Robinson talked about the idea of spreading the field and letting Matthew Stafford have time to see everything. That’s something that Herbert was developing this year, the ability to see where pressure was coming from and who could help with a block or where those open targets were. He could have used someone like Robinson to help him fine-tune those skills.
Greg Olson: Rams Senior Offensive Assistant
Last Tuesday, Olson was interviewed for the Chargers offensive coordinator position, and out of the candidates interviewed, has the most seasons coaching in the NFL with 21. He had two stints as the offensive coordinator for the Raiders (2018 to 2021 and 2013 to 2014), the Jaguars (2015 to 2016), the Buccaneers (2009 to 2011, he doubled as the quarterback’s coach), the Rams (from 2006 to 2007), and also at the collegiate level with Central Washington (1990 to 1993).
He’s worked as a quarterbacks coach for the Rams’ (2017), the Jags (where he doubled as the assistant head coach in 2012), the Detroit Lions (where he also doubled as an offensive coordinator in 2004 to 2005), the Bears (2003), the 49ers (2001), and at the collegiate level for Purdue (1997 to 2000) and Idaho (1994 to 1996). He worked in Washington State as a graduate assistant. He worked at Purdue as a tight ends coach and a recruiting coordinator in 2002. He also played quarterback at Spokane Falls Junior College and Central Washington.
There weren’t that many things to love about the Rams offensively this year, but the Raiders in 2021, having had all the issues they did with personnel and various other scandals made it to the playoffs. That is a big testament to that coaching staff.
The Raiders ended up ninth in the league in receiving at 78.7 last year, and that was without the pass-catching abilities of Davante Adams. Derek Carr had the most passing yards of his career last year at 5,114 while Hunter Renfrow had a breakout year with a career-high of 1,096 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns. If Olson was able to elevate the production out of that embattled Raiders team, it would have been interesting to see what he could have done with an offense like the Chargers.
Kellen Moore: Former Dallas Offensive Coordinator
Moore spent four seasons with the Dallas organization (2019 to 2022) as their offensive coordinator and was previously their quarterback’s coach. Moore also played quarterback, and spent time with the Lions and Dallas, before that played for Bosie State.
Despite that weird play in the playoff game against the 49ers when Ezekiel Elliott played center, Moore had a solid season with Dallas. Considering the lack of wide receiver weapons, the team was able to do a lot with a little. With the absence of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb had a career-high of 1,544 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns. Tony Pollard also had a career-high season with 1,106 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns, while having a fairly even split in terms of snap counts with Elliott.
Dak Prescott did take a step back this year and has fewer passing yards and touchdowns along with more interceptions. Some of that regression was due to the offensive scheme that required him to do too much with too little, while other parts of that can be chalked up to his decision-making. Herbert is in a similar boat of needing more pieces around him to take some pressure off. Hopefully, the Chargers will acquire those this offseason and will utilize Moore to retool their rushing attack and get more production out of the receivers, so a bit of the load is taken from Herbert’s shoulders.
Moore is a good choice given the success he’s had with the Dallas offense over the last few years. Having someone as an OC who specializes in a position unit like Brown or Steckel would have been interesting, and I do think the Chargers should consider learning more about a position specialist in the future if they have to fill this vacancy again, as strengthening some of these individual groupings may lead to that explosive production the Chargers have been seeking.