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By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Chargers fire Staley and Telesco after a blowout loss to the Raiders

 

December 21, 2023

George Laase

Chargers Kahlil Mack, right, hopes to be able to put pressure on Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen on Saturday at SoFi Stadium.

The Los Angeles Chargers made the decision to fire head coach Brandon Staley and General Manager Tom Telesco after an embarrassing 63-21 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, in a Thursday Night game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas last week. At one point in the game the Raiders led 49-0. The Raiders were coming off a 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Allegiant Stadium.

On Friday morning, the Chargers announced the changes in leadership. "I want to thank Tom and Brandon for their hard work, dedication and professionalism, and wish both them and their great families nothing but the best," said Owner and Chairman of the Board Dean Spanos. "These decisions are never easy, nor are they something I take lightly, especially when you consider the number of people they impact. We are clearly not where we expect to be, however, and we need new vision. Doing nothing in the name of continuity was not a risk I was willing to take. Our fans have stood strong through so many ups and downs and close games. They deserve more. Frankly, they've earned more. Building and maintaining a championship-caliber program remains our ultimate goal. And reimagining how we achieve that goal begins today."

Shortly after the announcement of the firings, the Chargers announced that linebacker coach Giff Smith, a 32-year coaching veteran, would become the interim head coach for the final three Chargers regular season games. Smith has been with the Chargers since 2016. JoJo Wooden was named the interim General Manager for the remainder of the season. Wooden is the current Director of Player Personnel.

The game between the Raiders and Chargers is not worth spending a lot of time analyzing and discussing. Four days after being shutout, the Raiders set a franchise record with 63 points in a game, with eight different Raider players scoring touchdowns. The Raiders led 63-7 with 14:31 remaining in the game.

The Raiders could have easily set the all-time record of 73 points in an NFL game set in 1940 but they let up and in garbage time, the Chargers scored two meaningless touchdowns to close the gap to 42 points. It was easy to see which team wanted to win and which team was mailing it in. Why the Chargers put a half-hearted effort into this game is a mystery?

The larger question is, who will the Chargers hire to replace Staley and Telesco? Staley was 24-25 as a head coach, so his firing should come as no surprise, especially coming off a 42-point loss. A combination of coaching mistakes, personnel decisions, and injuries kept the Chargers from achieving more under Staley. The $82 million-dollar free agent acquisition of cornerback J.C. Jackson was a complete disaster.

JoJo Wooden could replace Telesco. He has previously interviewed with the Chicago Bears, Washington Commanders, and Pittsburgh Steelers for General Manager positions in the past and he would be a good choice for the job. As for the head coach, the Chargers should talk to Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh to see if there is any interest, but in the end someone like Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith or Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson might make more sense.

The Chargers need an offensive coach to get the most out of franchise quarterback Justin Herbert. Smith coached with the Chargers in 2021 as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator. The Chargers offense ranked 4th in the NFL in 2021 and left tackle Rashawn Slater, center Corey Linsley and quarterback Justin Herbert were all named starters on the AFC Pro Bowl team that season. Smith left the Chargers after the 2021 season to become the offensive coordinator with the Dolphins.

Johnson has done an outstanding job with the Lions, especially with quarterback Jared Goff. The Lions are in the top five in the NFL in both rushing offense and passing offense. With both Smith and Johnson coaching styles the quarterbacks get rid of the ball quickly. The Chargers will need to make personnel changes on the offensive side to support any new offensive coordinator's system.

The Chargers will return home to play the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday Night, December 23rd. The game will begin at 5:00 pm locally and will be available on Peacock, a streaming service owned and operated by NBC Universal.

The Bills have a record of 8-6 and are coming off a 31-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The Bills have made the playoffs the past four seasons and will likely make that five consecutive seasons. The Chargers will be without Herbert and will start backup Easton Stick at quarterback.

 

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