Ram DC Brandon Staley fulfills life-long dream scheming against Tom Brady
Eric D. Williams
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Asked how long he’s thought about facing one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley didn’t hesitate.
The son of a coach and former quarterback who grew up playing the position in the Midwest, starting two seasons and serving as captain at the University of Dayton, Staley was familiar with Brady’s ascension up the depth chart at the University of Michigan and in the NFL.
“Every day of my life I’ve been thinking about an opportunity like that,” Staley said. “I followed this guy for a long time because I was a quarterback myself and I was a big fan of what he went through at Michigan. I think when you’re a quarterback, you kind of empathize with guys that have gone through something difficult and overcame it. I thought what he went through at Michigan, to rise to the captain, the guy that beat out a highly recruited player and to be kind of what he became at Michigan -- I was always a fan of him, even back in college, when I was playing in high school, and stuff like that.
“Then certainly when he became the quarterback of New England and they started that run, then you’re learning even more about him. Just the ultimate competitor, the ultimate leader, certainly the greatest quarterback, of my lifetime that I’ve seen playing. I just have a lot of respect for him.”
As outside linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears, Staley got an up-close look at how surgical Brady can execute when he’s on. Brady threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-31 win over the Bears during the 2018 season.
However, now as the defensive coordinator for the Rams, Staley will be the person at the controls calling the defense. He brings in a group giving up just 18.7 points per game, and is top five in most defensive statistical categories, including sacks (31) and yards allowed (296.4).
Through 10 games, Brady has completed 66 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,739 passing yards, with 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s been sacked just 14 times this season.
“He’s the guy that doesn’t get sacked a lot,” Staley said about Brady. “That’s just kind of the history of his career. He can get the ball out and he can keep himself protected. There’s not going to be any look that you can give him that he hasn’t seen in some shape or form.
“He’s extremely accurate. This guy is one of the most accurate throwers inside the numbers that’s ever lived. That’s great energy to the offense, because of that command, because of that productivity is a guy that really elevates the people around him.”
One coach intimately familiar with Brady is Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, who spent his first two seasons in the NFL as a backup quarterback with the Patriots.
Sharing a quarterback room with Brady proved a great learning experience for O’Connell.
“There's so many little things,” O’Connell said, when asked to talk about what he learned from Brady. “It could be something as little as just nuances of coverages, how he can tell one coverage versus the other, that maybe opens up your eyes to a whole different avenue of viewing coverage and trying to decipher what the defense is trying to do.
“Maybe it is a footwork thing trying to make sure some of the aspects of playing with proper balance and pocket presence and being able to play from a quieted lower half in the pocket. I think he’s one of the best ever do it. Although he might not be a super mobile guy, he’d probably be the first one to tell you that he probably is as elite as anybody within the pocket in his understanding of moving within the pocket to still maintain a progression, full-field progressions and being able to play quarterback at such a high level.”