The Los Angeles Chargers will close out their 2020 season against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Earlier in the week, I wrote an article about some potential fits to replace Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley. Today, I will cover the opposite side of the ball in Chargers Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen.
The Athletic’s Daniel Popper has stated repeatedly that Steichen is regarded very highly within the Chargers building. This is technically his first season calling his own plays, but it has not gone well. Lynn has taken the brunt of the blame for the Chargers various clock management issues, and rightfully so, but Steichen deserves a larger portion of blame than he is getting. As the offensive coordinator, he is responsible for calling the plays and the Chargers execution in situational football has suffered because of his play-calling, specifically against the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons.
Steichen shows glimpses of being a very creative and smart play-caller, but when looking at this season as a whole he has been inconsistent at best. The Chargers offense we all watched against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints is completely different than the one we saw on Sunday against the Denver Broncos, or the one from a few weeks ago that couldn’t move the ball against the New England Patriots. There is some debate as to how much of the vanilla play calling is due to Lynn’s conservative philosophy, but it’s still Steichen’s responsibility to call a quality script.
If the Chargers do elect to move on from Steichen, they could have a quality list of coaches to choose from. I would think the chance to coach a quarterback who is having arguably the best rookie season of all time would be very tempting for offensive-minded coaches. They still might have a tough time hiring one in this scenario due to the uncertainty surrounding Lynn’s job security, though.
That being said, here are five coaches who could be reasonable targets.
Potential Coaches To Replace Chargers OC Shane Steichen
Pep Hamilton – Chargers Quarterbacks Coach
I started the last article with an in house candidate and will do so again here. Pep Hamilton deserves a promotion. He has a great relationship with Justin Herbert and has been working his tail off with the young quarterback to ensure that he is as prepared and comfortable as he needs to be every week. Any time Herbert has been asked about his growth in a certain area, he always mentions Hamilton’s name first. In his Monday press conference, Lynn said that Hamilton was always someone that he wanted to work with because of his reputation as a great teacher.
Hamilton now has over 20 years of coaching experience in the NFL and has been well regarded around the league for quite some time. The Chargers were only fortunate enough to hire Hamilton because the XFL shut down due to Covid. Before the league shut down he was putting together quite a special season as the head coach and General Manager of the DC Defenders. Before that, he has most notably worked with Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and Stanford, and as the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts during Andrew Luck‘s first few seasons.
The buzz around the league concerning Hamilton is beginning to brew because of his work with Herbert, and even Cardale Jones in the XFL. It seems unlikely that he stays with the Chargers much longer as their quarterback’s coach. They might be able to hold onto him in that capacity for the 2021 season, but they likely need to promote him if they want to hold onto him longer than that.
Shane Waldron – Rams Passing Game Coordinator
This potential hiring is all about fit for me. Lynn and Steichen have dabbled with the famed Shanahan offense this season. All the outside zone runs and bootlegs that you see are from Lynn’s days in Denver, playing for Mike Shanahan. I believe diving headfirst into that offense is the best possible coaching outcome for the Chargers and their young quarterback. It’s why Robert Saleh and Arthur Smith are two of my favorite head coaching candidates. And it’s also why I am bringing up Shane Waldron here.
Herbert has made some great plays with his legs this season, his touchdown to Keenan Allen in New Orleans for example. Arguably his best attribute as a passer coming out of college was how accurate he was on the run. The Chargers need to lean into that approach, which would make things easier for him as well as the offensive line. The Chargers still love to pound their heads against the wall by running the ball up the gut, but their best running approach has been the outside zone schemes – which is the focal point of the Shanahan system.
Waldron has only been coaching in the NFL for seven years, so I would understand the skepticism about him as a potential candidate. However, his coaching career started in 2002 and he is 41 years old, so it’s not like he’s the youngest coach in the world. And more importantly, the quality of his experience should outweigh those concerns. He’s been with the Rams all four seasons that they have been in Los Angeles, and he’s been the passing game coordinator for each of the last three seasons. He’s also had his hands in every position group on offense, which will only help him as a future offensive coordinator.
Similar to the defensive coordinator position, the Chargers could be challenged to find an upgrade should they move on from Steichen and elect not to promote Hamilton. If that’s the case they could reasonably target someone like Waldron, who might be a little off the radar right now but is definitely deserving of a promotion.
Jay Gruden – Jaguars Offensive Coordinator
This would be similar to the potential hiring of Rex Ryan, a veteran coach who could come in and provide some stability right away for Lynn. Jay Gruden is currently the offensive coordinator of a sinking ship in Jacksonville, but he had to know it wasn’t a long term job for him. And while he and the Jaguars coaching staff aren’t necessarily the reason the Jaguars are losing games, they are still likely to be let go next week.
It is possible, however, that the next Jaguars head coach chooses to keep him on staff – IE Kellen Moore in Dallas. But ultimately, I expect Gruden to be on the move and look for a more stable situation that could springboard him to his next head coaching gig. The chance to coach Herbert could be just that.
While he is not a Shanahan disciple, per se, he is a believer in the system and runs his own in a similar fashion. After all, Sean McVay was his offensive coordinator for the first three years of his tenure in Washington. It’s a system that James Robinson thrived in this season for the Jaguars, despite the revolving door at quarterback and the lack of talent up front.
There’s still a lot of respect in the league for Gruden and it stands to reason that he could be a head coach again soon. His system and his timetable would be good fits for Lynn and company.
Josh McCown – Houston Texans Quarterback
Yes, that Josh McCown. The one who’s played for basically every team in the league. The Philadelphia Eagles made some noise when they signed him to be their virtual practice squad quarterback earlier in the season, but looking back on that move it really was rather smart. We can all look at what happened to the Denver Broncos earlier in this season as proof of that. The Eagles love him, and he had a big impact on Carson Wentz’s development after they let Nick Foles leave for Jacksonville.
Now, he’s helping serve as a mentor to Deshaun Watson in Houston. He is signed with the Texans for next season as well, but many people around the league believe that he’ll be a head coach sooner rather than later. When he signed with the Eagles this year, he was basically working as a quality control coach, and it was rumored that he would take over for Press Taylor if he were to leave anywhere.
No one really knows what kind of system McCown would run, but it stands to reason that he would be running some kind of a blend of the Andy Reid system, which he’s been learning in Philadelphia. And Herbert would fit nicely in that one as well. This hiring would be the kind of wildcard choice that I’m not sure Lynn would be able to pull off, but similarly to Jerod Mayo, I believe it is worth mentioning.
Joe Lombardi – Saints Quarterbacks Coach
Earlier this season, Lynn reminded all of us of his time coaching for the Dallas Cowboys. That’s where he got his start, under Bill Parcels. Also on that staff was Sean Payton. Lynn spoke about how close they are – still to this day. It would stand to reason that Payton could throw Lynn a bone, of sorts, if Lynn is allowed to keep his job for another season. The bone, in this case, being his own quarterback’s coach: Joe Lombardi.
Lombardi has an outstanding reputation for his work with the quarterback position. Drew Brees loves him and has spoken out about him several times. He also spent time as the Offensive Coordinator for the Detroit Lions in 2014 and 2015. He has a ton of experience working with top-tier quarterbacks in this league and that should carry a lot of weight in his future as a coach.
I wrote this one in last because it feels like the most reasonable potential hiring outside of a promotion for Hamilton. So many hirings in this league are based solely on relationships, especially hirings for someone in Lynn’s place.
I do believe Steichen will be given another chance to work with Herbert if Lynn is given that same chance. But if Lynn is feeling the heat to bring in a new staff, Hamilton’s promotion seems like the most logical move, followed by Lombardi.
Other names to keep an eye (both if Lynn is not involved and if he is): Tony Elliot – Clemson Offensive Coordinator, Steve Sarkisian – Alabama Offensive Coordinator, Jake Peetz – Panthers Quarterbacks Coach, Phil Longo – North Carolina Offensive Coordinator.
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