COSTA MESA – The dust has settled on the Chargers' 2022 season in which they posted a record of 10-7 to earn a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2018. However, the team's postseason run was short-lived, ultimately ending their campaign following a 27-point blown lead in the Wild Card Round to the Jaguars.
On Wednesday, at the Chargers' team headquarters, coach Brandon Staley addressed the media for his end-of-season press conference, touching on a wide variety of topics that include the completion of the 2022 season and the outlook for what's ahead entering the offseason.
Here are the main takeaways from Staley's final media availability of the season:
What the Chargers are looking for in the team's next offensive coordinator
The Chargers fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi on Tuesday after spending two seasons with the team. The offense, even with notable injuries to the offensive line and skill group that limited the team for much of the season, was an underwhelming unit in its totality. Despite getting back key players down the final stretch, including Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the offense still wasn't fully capable to maximize its full potential.
"The vision for the way that I have of us playing on that side of the football, I think that there is a different gear that we can get to as a football team," Staley said of the offense. "It was definitely not an easy decision. ... I think that we can make improvements on that side of the football, and that’s where we are going to have our focus moving forward.”
Ultimately, the Chargers have turned the page, beginning the process of observing the market to bring in a new play-caller for the offense. Staley said the biggest thing they're looking for in the next offensive coordinator will be based around leadership.
"I think you're looking for leadership, number one," Staley said of the offensive coordinator position. "You're looking for someone that can really connect that group and get them to play a certain type of way."
"The offenses that are the most challenging to defend are the ones that put a lot of pressure on you every snap in terms of marrying the run game to the pass game. Putting a lot of pressure on your personnel groupings with pace, motion and being able to get the explosions."
Staley, multiple times speaking at the podium, emphasized the importance of being able to rip off explosive plays on a more consistent basis, something the Chargers struggled to do for stretches at a time this season.
The Chargers' vacancy at offensive coordinator is likely to be the most coveted play-calling job available during this year's hiring cycle based around the idea of getting to team up with quarterback Justin Herbert.
"I think we have one of the top jobs in the league," Staley said of the team's offensive coordinator position. "We're going to be thorough with our process. There's not a rush to do anything. You want to make sure that you hire the best coach."
Staley, when asked if he's leaning towards targeting possible candidates that come from the Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan coaching tree, indicated that's a likely proposition.
“Of the experiences that I have, that’s a fair assessment of the style of play, because that’s the offense that I believe in," Staley said of candidates from the McVay and Shanahan school of coaching. "When I came here, that’s kind of how we got this off the ground.
In terms of the passing game, that’s what we’ve been able to do at a high level for the last two years, throw the football. But, to be more explosive, you have to be able to run the football more consistently to put more pressure on people. What we want to do is cast a net to where we find the best person to lead our offense and to, ultimately, be a part of our team, and connect all phases to one another."
Chargers still working through other possible coaching changes
Lombardi held the biggest position that has endured change to the coaching staff thus far, but quarterbacks coach Shane Day was also let go on Tuesday. Staley was hesitant to say what other staff changes could come about, but he certainly left the door open that more moves could be on the way."
“I think that the nature of coaching is that things are always fluid," Staley said. "Even after the Super Bowl, there are a lot of things that go on. That’s just kind of the nature of coaching.
"There are going to be a lot of people who are after our coaches, just like last year, with so many head coach openings. There’s going to be a lot of transition, that’s the nature of it. I would expect more changes, but the nature of those changes, I’m not positive.”
The Chargers held end-of-year meetings this week with coaches, just as they do players. Up to this point, the team has announced just two coaching changes, both to the offense. But for a defense that has been up-and-down for much of the season, staff members on that side of the ball could be the next domino to fall.
"The nature of coaching, there’s a lot of transition right now," Staley said. "There are a lot of jobs that are taking shape. Our staff is probably not going to be the same as it was at the beginning of the season."
Staley stands by decision to play Mike Williams and other starters in Week 18 game
Staley opted to play his starters the final week of the regular season in which wide receiver Mike Williams suffered a fracture to his back that caused him to miss the team's only playoff game.
The Week 18 contest against the Broncos had no implications that pertained to the Chargers' playoff seeding. Despite that, Staley choose to run out the key members of his team in an attempt to maintain momentum entering the postseason.
When asked Wednesday to reflect on that decision, Staley stood firm with the idea of playing his starters.
"I know that there’s no one that felt worse about Mike Williams not being able to compete in the game than me," Staley said. "Going into that game, I think there were a couple of things from a thought process, that I want everyone to know. You really have to establish the standard for your team in how you’re going to compete. I think the way that I believe is that it’s very hard to decide who’s more valuable than the others."
Since the incident, Staley has used the size of the roster on game day as a reason behind playing his starters. He reiterated that at his final press conference, stating that they don't have 90 players available as they do during the preseason.
"It wouldn’t have mattered if it were Mike or anybody else," Staley said. "I don’t want to lose anybody on my team. I think it’s really hard for people to understand because if it would have been anyone else, I would have felt the same way. ... I think that’s the hard part of being an NFL coach, is that you have to make decisions like that. It was tough to lose Mike in that game. I think, doing it over again, I’m proud of our process.”
Addressing the collapse vs. Jacksonville
The collapse last Saturday night at TIAA Bank Field to the Jaguars, sent the Chargers' packing despite at one point leading 27-0, and finishing the game +5 in the turnover margin.
It was the third-largest comeback in playoff history by the Jaguars. It was also the first time in Chargers' franchise history they've lost a game with a +5 turnover margin, previously being 17-0 all-time.
Certainly, you don't blow a 27-point lead by just one thing. A lot has to go wrong, and it did. Staley said in addressing the team following the loss, he took full ownership for letting the game unravel the way it did.
"You don’t want to be in denial of what happened," Staley said of the Chargers' playoff loss. "You don’t want to look away and say, ‘Hey, we’re moving on and we’re not looking back.’ We have to take full responsibility for that. In all three phases of coaching and playing, it wasn’t good enough, starting with me. That’s what I did in front of the team. I said, ‘I didn’t do well enough in the game for our team.’"
While the season ended on a sour note, Staley still voiced his confidence of what the Chargers can achieve next season with many of the key pieces still under contract. Staley went as far to say he believed this year's team was capable of winning a championship and that the culture will only get stronger when they pick back up in 2023.
"The people that have been here for two years know the caliber of this locker room," Staley said. "The caliber of this team moving forward, is in a much better place than it was a year ago. That is the most important thing that you have to take away, that this group is good enough."
Several Chargers players echoed similar thoughts on Sunday, stating they feel strongly that the team isn't far away from reaching the vision they started the year with.
"Real close," safety Derwin James said on how close the team is to getting over the hump. "And I ain't just saying that. Real close."