The Chargers had specific traits they were looking for in a new head coach. They have a talented team, and we're looking for the right man to lead their team. They interviewed several candidates and did a full evaluation of them.
Chargers brass wanted a coach who could reach their whole team.
"There were some things that were really important to us, along those lines of authenticity, honesty, ability to communicate, and probably most importantly, a genuine ability to really connect with the players, and really, with everybody in the building," said President of Football Operations John Spanos.
They also wanted a leader who would oversee the whole operation.
"We want someone who really had a clear vision for all three phases of the game, someone who could implement a true vertical alignment in all three phases of the game," said Spanos.
They felt like that man was Brandon Staley, the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams. On Thursday, he had his first press conference as the head coach of the Chargers.
"It's a special day for me and my family," said Staley. "It's a dream come true."
Staley recalled growing up in Perry, Ohio. As a first-grader, he came downstairs, poured himself some coffee, and sat down to read the newspaper. As a first grader. He wanted to be like his father.
He is all about family. He comes from a strong family who has been through a lot of adversity. Especially when it comes to cancer, his mother, Linda, passed away after a battle with breast cancer in 2004, while his father, Bruce, just finished a battle with prostate cancer in the fall.
Brandon has also been through it. At the age of 24, Staley was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma after his first season at Northern Illinois as a graduate assistant.
"When I went through my own cancer journey through chemotherapy, six months radiation, six weeks I looked at as a chance to compete," explained Staley. "I thought it was a chance that could really bring out all the best in me."
What was the head coach's biggest take away after his fight?
"I think when you get to the other side of it," explained Staley. "There's an energy, there's a strength. There's a feeling that you can do anything that you dream of, and that's what I've been trying to do."
Staley went through a couple of college programs on his way up and got to John Carroll University, the alma mater of Chargers general manager Tom Telesco. He felt like he had two jobs there. One was as defensive coordinator, and the other was to get himself ready for his ultimate goal coaching in the NFL.
"We were competing in college to win every single game," said Staley. "But in my heart, and after I was done preparing for a college game, I was studying the NFL and trying to become as, as good as I could be to compete in this league because that was always a dream of mine."
He quickly made his way into the NFL in 2017 as an outside linebackers coach under then defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. He jumped over to the Denver Broncos in the same position when Fangio became the head coach. In three seasons, Staley was around Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Von Miller, and Bradley Chubb.
A year later, he was hired by the Rams and head coach Sean McVay as their defensive coordinator. He quickly grew a relationship with superstar's defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. He thanked all of his former players of helping him get to this point.
The Rams finished with the best defense and made it to the divisional round of the playoffs and were eliminated by the Green Bay Packers.
Ramsey is a player who is not afraid to speak his mind, so his words carry value. He said last week that Staley was the best defensive coordinator he has ever had in the NFL. Ramsey mentioned how Staley puts players in the best position to succeed.
So how did he get the Chargers job? Well, he had all the characteristics that John Spanos mentioned, but there is more.
Telesco said they divide their search into three parts.
1. How the players competed for the coach?
The Rams the best defense, and Ramsey gave glowing remarks about the defensive coordinator.
2. What's your plan, and how you're going to implement that plan?
Here is the most interesting question, and it will be answered a little bit later.
3. The vetting process, trying to get some objective information from people who have been around that coach.
Telesco mentioned that this is hard because they try to find fair and balanced opinions. Staley had some of the best vouching for him, like Ramsey, McVay, and Fangio.
The Chargers thought he fit the criteria.
Now, what is his vision for the team as a whole?
"The foundation for our team will start with relationships," explained Staley. "That will be number one. The second thing will be competition. Players, coaches, staff, and fans together, we can create something truly special. Each and every day, the Chargers need to be on a mission, a mission to create something challenging, competitive, impactful, where people within our team can become their best."
Relationships are a big part of why so many of his ex-players respect and admire Staley. He tried to build a relationship separate from the game. He knows that coaches are there to coach the players, but sometimes he stops talking and listens to see what his players are seeing on the field.
"I think there's a big difference between receiving something and transmitting it, and so we try to do is when we teach, we're connecting right with our guys, and then we're listening. A lot where there's this back and forth is this collaboration to create something really unique," explained Staley.
Staley is a former quarterback at Dayton. He has been around the offensive side of the football and can break it down. That is what he feels makes him a unique candidate.
"I think that that's what I was so excited about to convey, you know, in this process was my offensive vision," said Staley. "Because I do consider myself an offensive coach, and I think what's helped me so much on the defensive side of the ball is my offensive background."
He knows he has a young star quarterback in Justin Herbert. He also has numerous playmakers on offense, and he wants to put them in the best position to succeed.
"I think that the players are going to be at the center of everything that we do in this building, and the relationship with those players are everything, and they will be the most important factor in our success," explained Staley.
On the defensive side of the football, the idea as of right now is Staley is calling the plays. There have been rumors the Chargers are looking for a defensive coordinator and that they have asked to interview Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell, which Staley kind of sidestepped.
"We're going through a really thorough process to get the best coaches that we can for the Los Angeles Chargers, and I think what makes the NFL so special is how competitive it is, especially for coaches," said Staley.
He did point out defensive end Joey Bosa calling him an "elite pass rusher" while saying safety Derwin James is "a little different than the rest" and linebacker Kenneth Murray has "the traits to be a complete linebacker."
Staley also has a vision for his defense.
"We want to uniquely shape it around our guys, and I think that's probably the hallmark of the way we play is that agility that we have to feature, you know, our premium players," said Staley. "I think that the flexibility, we have to match up with the specific offenses."
The Chargers have struggled in all three phases of the game for the last two seasons. It has cost them games and that is something Telesco pointed out before the process hiring someone who could help improve in those areas.
"We want to play with different tempos to put people in a real bind," explained Staley. "People talk about complementary football that's how you do it is you have offense, defense, and the kicking game, right, as mirror images of one another, and that is how I believe you can take it a really long way in this league."
The newest Chargers head coach has a vision, and that vision has a lot of people excited in the building. It even has players excited. Staley wants to build a relationship with current and past players as well as getting closer to the fans. He feels like relationships can take this organization a long way.
"When we put that product on the field, that they're very proud of the people that are wearing Chargers colors, and that's what we got to get to work on right away so that those fans of ours are proud of us because we need to earn their respect and earn their trust," said Staley.