Chargers announce the hiring of three Coordinators
February 4, 2021
The coaching staff of new head coach Brandon Staley is coming together very quickly. The Los Angeles Chargers announced the hiring of three coaches to serve as coordinators: Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator, Renaldo Hill as defensive coordinator and Derius Swinton II as special teams coordinator. The three have a combined 29 seasons of NFL coaching experience.
Familiarity is important to Staley, as all three have worked with Staley in the past. Lombardi coached Staley for one season at Mercyhurst University in 2005. Lombardi was the offensive coordinator and the quarterback coach. Staley was playing at Mercyhurst as a graduate transfer after three seasons at Dayton University. He wanted the opportunity to play with his twin brother.
Lombardi said of Staley, “He was smart, he was athletic and a lot of fun to be with.” That was Lombardi’s last season at Mercyhurst. In 2006, he took a job with the Atlanta Falcons as a defensive assistant and never left the NFL after that. He has spent the past 15 seasons as an NFL assistant coach, with 12 of the 15 seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
Lombardi has spent the last five seasons as the quarterback coach in New Orleans. Lombardi spent two seasons with the Lions (2014-2015) as their Offensive Coordinator, before returning to New Orleans. Prior to his stint with the Lions, Lombardi had been the quarterback coach with the New Orleans Saints from 2009 through 2013. In those ten seasons as Saints quarterback coach, he coached future Hall of Famer Drew Brees in all ten seasons.
Charger fans are obviously familiar with Brees, who was drafted by the Chargers in 2001 in the second round with the 32nd pick overall. Brees led the Chargers to a 12-4 season in 2004, winning the AFC West division title and being selected to the pro bowl. The Chargers lost in the playoffs to the Jets that season, 20-17 in overtime. In the 2009 season with the Saints, Brees led the Saints to a Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts and was named the Super Bowl MVP. Lombardi was his quarterback coach.
In an interview in 2014, shortly after Lombardi took the job with the Lions, Brees stated: “I knew it was only a matter of time. He is a guy that is extremely intelligent, very innovative. He was a huge part of our game planning throughout the week and on game day.” In a 2015 interview with the Detroit News, Brees added that, “First of all, he's a great person. You miss the person. I thought he had a lot of really great ideas, and I felt like that definitely added something to our offense."
Lombardi’s experience with Brees, along with his experience with quarterback Matthew Stafford of the Lions, who made the pro bowl in 2014 working with Lombardi, should come in handy with his new quarterback, Justin Herbert. Lombardi was able to watch Hebert live when the Chargers played the Saints in New Orleans, a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Saints. Lombardi was impressed with Herbert, who threw for 264 yards in the game and added four touchdown passes.
“He’s got a skillset that is elite,” Lombardi said of Herbert in his Tuesday press conference. “It appears there’s nothing he can’t do. He’s got an incredibly strong arm, good accuracy, he’s very athletic, and it sounds like he’s a real smart guy that is a good leader. So, he checks all the boxes, and the sky is the limit with a player like that.”
Lombardi is from Seattle, Washington, so he will be returning to the west coast. He is the son of Vince Lombardi Jr., who served as an assistant to the Seahawks’ general manager in the early days of the Seahawks franchise, and the grandson of Vince Lombardi, the Hall of Fame football coach and namesake of the Super Bowl trophy. Lombardi replaces Shane Steichen at the offensive coordinator position. Steichen is taking the same job with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Hill worked with Staley in 2019 with the Denver Broncos. Hill was the defensive backs coach for the past two seasons with the Broncos. Hill spent ten seasons in the NFL playing cornerback, free safety, and strong safety. Hill, who played his college ball at Michigan State, was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the seventh round (202nd overall) in the 2001 NFL Draft. He played for the Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and Broncos.
Hill started 114 games in his playing career, with 19 interceptions and one touchdown. He replaces Gus Bradley, who was the defensive coordinator for the past four seasons for the Chargers. Bradley was hired as the new defensive coordinator of the Las Vegas Raiders and he brought linebackers coach Richard Smith and secondary coach Ron Milus with him to the Raiders from the Chargers.
Swinton and Staley were on the Chicago Bears coaching staff together in the 2017 season. Swinton was the assistant special teams’ coach with the Bears in 2017. He was the special team’s coordinator in 2016 with the San Francisco 49ers. The head coach with the 49ers that season was Chip Kelly, the current head coach at UCLA.
Swinton is 35 years of age but has been an NFL coach since 2009. He has spent every season in the NFL coaching special teams, with the exception of the 2018 season, where he was offensive assistant under head coach Matt Patricia. He played his college football at Hampton University, where he played safety, finishing his career with eight interceptions.
More than any other coordinator, Swinton has a big job ahead of himself. The special teams, more than any other unit on the Chargers, failed to perform in 2020 and cost the Chargers games. As former NFL kicker Jay Feely said of the Chargers special teams last season, “They’ve been the worst special teams’ unit – and I’m not speaking in hyperbole here – maybe of all time in NFL history this year.”
Staley has his three coordinators and now he can start getting to work, with the immediate goal of returning the Chargers to the playoffs in 2021. That should be the standard for a team with good talent, with a franchise quarterback and that plays their home games in a state-of-the-art stadium. The fickle fans of Southern California will accept no less.