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Why the Chargers fired coach Brandon Staley and GM Tom Telesco

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Chargers put out a statement Friday about why they fired coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco. But based on the team’s performance Thursday night, not much explanation was needed.

The Chargers lost 63-21 to the Las Vegas Raiders on “Thursday Night Football,” as a national audience watched the culmination of a season’s worth of mistakes, frustration and speculation about what finally transpired Friday.

It was assumed Staley would be out, but firing the general manager seemed to punctuate how disappointed ownership is with a team that started the season with Super Bowl aspirations and is finishing as perhaps the most disappointing in the NFL.

Thursday’s loss featured the most points the Chargers had ever given up and the most the Raiders had ever scored. Staley said afterward he was confident his players still believed in him, but that point appeared moot as the Chargers fell to 5-9 after the third-worst defeat in franchise history.

The Chargers named outside linebackers coach Giff Smith the interim head coach and JoJo Wooden the interim general manager. Here are the key questions and answers on what just happened and what’s next.

Why make the move to fire Staley and Telesco now?

The Chargers were embarrassed. Historically embarrassed. The Raiders, who were led by an interim coach in Antonio Pierce, hadn’t scored a touchdown since Week 12, were playing without All-Pro running back Josh Jacobs and started rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell, scored a franchise-record 63 points on the Chargers on “Thursday Night Football.”

Before this loss, Staley seemed likely to make it to the end of the season before getting dismissed by owner Dean Spanos and president John Spanos, but the Chargers have lost five of their past six games and suffered a 42-point loss to a team that already fired its own head coach.

While Staley was on the hot seat, Telesco’s job seemed safer. What led to the decision to fire the general manager?

On paper, it appeared the Chargers had one of the best rosters in the NFL. But the team was often let down by Staley’s defense, which ranked near the bottom of the league each of his three seasons. Telesco secured top players such as OLB Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson, as well as other talented players Staley had coached previously, including defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Morgan Fox. But it never materialized.

Ultimately, Telesco’s firing appears to have come down to his body of work. He was general manager for 11 seasons, hired three head coaches and had two playoff wins. Telesco had a decade to make the Chargers a winner and failed. His time had simply run out.

Who takes over in the interim?

The Chargers named outside linebackers coach Giff Smith interim head coach and JoJo Wooden interim general manager.

Smith is in his second season as the Chargers outside linebackers coach and has been with the organization since 2016. He coached the defensive line until last season. He does not have any head-coaching experience.

He got his start in the NFL in 2010 as a defensive line coach with the Buffalo Bills and had the same role with the Tennessee Titans for two seasons before joining the Chargers.

The Chargers’ decision to elevate Smith is somewhat of a surprise, but the linebacker-to-interim coach route has worked for other teams. And the Chargers don’t have to look far for proof: Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce was the team’s linebackers coach before he was elevated. Pierce’s team handed the Chargers one of their most embarrassing losses in franchise history less than 24 hours ago.

Wooden joined the Chargers in 2013 as director of player personnel. Before joining the Chargers, he spent 16 seasons (1997-2012) in the personnel department for the New York Jets.

What is the pulse of the locker room, and how does this move affect it?

Player frustration has reached a peak. Running back Austin Ekeler, who typically holds court with reporters after games and was even smiling and laughing after Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos, told reporters he wouldn’t talk after Thursday’s game. Eventually, Ekeler did, saying: “I got nothing for you. We got our ass kicked. … Plain and simple. That’s my answer to all your questions.”

Linebacker Eric Kendricks, who also typically talks, similarly declined. Mack and safety Derwin James Jr. both expressed their frustrations when talking to reporters. Mack called it one of the most embarrassing losses of his career.

If nothing else, this loss will bring a new voice at head coach. Someone new could give this team a spark to build on for the future.

What does it mean for quarterback Justin Herbert?

Herbert will now have his third coach heading into his fifth season. During the offseason he signed a five-year, $262.5 million extension, but he hasn’t had any divisional or playoff success to show for it. Meanwhile, his draftmates Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts have already played in Super Bowls.



Pat McAfee ponders if Bill Belichick could fit with Chargers

“The Pat McAfee Show” crew discusses a potential fit with Bill Belichick and the Chargers.

Who are the potential candidates for the job long term?

Detroit Lions OC Ben Johnson: Look at the Chargers’ Week 10 loss to the Lions as the case for Johnson, whose offense ran for 177 yards in the first half and ended the game with 533 yards and five touchdowns. With an offense that hasn’t been able to run the ball under Staley, no matter the coordinator, Johnson could help this team’s balance.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh: Harbaugh was 44-19 in three years as the coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011 to 2014. He took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 but has been at the University of Michigan since 2015. Harbaugh would be one of the most sought-after coaches if he decided to flirt with an NFL job again.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick: Belichick told reporters he was focused on Kansas City when asked about his job status this week, but if the Patriots and Belichick are indeed headed toward a split, the Chargers make a lot of sense. The hurdle with this option could be how much input Dean and John Spanos will let Belichick have on roster building.

Former Cowboys coach Jason Garrett: Currently an analyst on NBC Sports, he interviewed for the Chargers job in 2021. Garrett won three NFC East titles in Dallas from 2010 to 2019. This hire would be a surprise, but Garrett would bring experience and some winning. Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was on Garrett’s staff for two seasons in Dallas. Garrett promoted Moore from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator in 2019.


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