The Los Angeles Chargers made major changes in leadership on Friday, firing head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco after an embarrassing 63-21 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday night.
Staley’s Tenure Ends After Devastating Primetime Defeat
In just his second season as head coach, Brandon Staley was unable to lead the Chargers to the success expected of a team led by star quarterback Justin Herbert. The final straw was Thursday night’s brutal loss, the worst defeat by a Chargers team since joining the NFL.
The Raiders dominated the game from the opening kickoff, jumping out to a 24-0 first quarter lead and never looking back. At halftime, the Chargers trailed 52-9 in what ESPN called “the biggest halftime deficit by a home team in NFL history.”
Staley had already been facing criticism for late-game collapses earlier in the season, blowing three 17-point leads. But after this historically bad loss on national television, Chargers ownership felt they had no choice but to make a change.
As one unnamed Chargers player told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
“It was an impossible situation. You can’t lose a game like that and think everything will be OK.”
Telesco Fired After 10 Seasons As GM
After a decade leading the Chargers front office, GM Tom Telesco was also relieved of his duties. Telesco was hired in 2013 and helped oversee the transition from Philip Rivers to Justin Herbert at quarterback.
But despite having an elite QB in Herbert and other top talent like Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and Joey Bosa, the Chargers have perpetually underachieved under Telesco’s leadership. They’ve made just two playoff appearances during his tenure and have yet to record a playoff victory.
In a statement, Chargers owner Dean Spanos made it clear that change was necessary:
“This morning, I informed Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco that we will be moving in a different direction at head coach and general manager. This is a results-driven business and we have not met the standard that I expected to set for this team. In the coming days and weeks, we will begin an exhaustive and comprehensive search for the next general manager and head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.”
What’s Next For the Chargers
For the remaining three games, the Chargers have named assistant head coach Giff Smith as interim head coach and executive JoJo Wooden as interim GM.
But NFL insiders have already begun speculating about a potential full-time replacement, with former Saints head coach Sean Payton emerging as an early frontrunner. Payton has ties to the west coast, having worked previously in San Diego, and could be an intriguing candidate to pair with Justin Herbert.
Another name to watch is Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who had a successful NFL stint with the 49ers. Harbaugh was linked to other NFL openings last season before ultimately returning to Michigan.
Below are the current betting odds for the next Chargers head coach, per sportsbetting.ag:
But while head coach and GM will get much of the attention, Los Angeles Times columnist Sam Farmer points out that problems run deeper in the Chargers organization:
“The Spanos family has made its share of mistakes while running this franchise, and it’s time — past time — that it owns up to that.”
So no matter who replaces Staley and Telesco, team ownership may need to reconsider its own role if the Chargers hope to build a sustainably successful organization.
For Chargers fans, the long-term outlook remains murky. But the clean break from Staley and Telesco offers at least a chance at writing a new chapter.
More Fallout Across the NFL
The Chargers were not the only team making changes after embarrassing losses in Week 15. Just hours after Los Angeles cleaned house, the Indianapolis Colts fired head coach Jeff Saturday following a historic collapse against the Vikings.
After building a 33-point second half lead, the Colts allowed the Vikings to score touchdowns on all five of their possessions in the final 17 minutes of the game, culminating in a shocking 39-36 loss in overtime.
The defeat dropped Saturday to 1-7 since being shockingly hired to replace the fired Frank Reich earlier this season. Saturday had no NFL coaching experience prior to taking over the Colts.
Another head coach facing scrutiny is Denver’s Nathaniel Hackett after the 4-win Broncos were blown out by the 3-win Rams. Hackett was hired this past offseason but has often appeared overmatched in his first stint as an NFL head coach.
While their fate may not be sealed yet, the embarrassing defeats in 2022 raise serious doubts about whether Hackett, Saturday, or other struggling new coaches will still have their jobs in 2023.
So as bad as Thursday night was for Staley and the Chargers, they were far from the only ones suffering painful defeats – and unlikely to be the last franchise plugging major holes in leadership this offseason. The coming months promise to bring even more dramatic change across the NFL coaching landscape.
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