There is nothing electric about the 2023 Chargers.
Brandon Staley’s team put up a near lifeless effort on Thursday night, as the Chargers were trounced 63-21 by the Raiders in Las Vegas. It marked Los Angeles’ third loss in a row and their sixth loss in the last seven games.
With star quarterback Justin Herbert and wide receiver Keenan Allen out, it was going to be an uphill battle for Easton Stick in his first NFL start at QB. However, the Chargers were facing a Raiders team coming off a shutout loss in Week 14.
Las Vegas brought out its frustration onto the field. The Raiders scored 42 points in the first half thanks to three turnovers forced by the defense and four passing touchdowns by rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell. Stick and the Chargers’ offense could not generate anything, failing to put up any points in the first half.
“In that first half, it’s the worst you could play,” Staley said after the game. “It was in all three phases. I take full responsibility.”
Staley was already on the hot seat entering Week 14, but with no Herbert for the rest of the year and just four weeks remaining, a coaching change this late in the season didn’t make a ton of sense on the surface.
But when your team gives up over 60 points on prime time against a division rival, it might be the final straw.
MORE: 8 replacement for Brandon Staley if Chargers decide to fire head coach
The Chargers have a longer break before heading to Buffalo to face the Bills on the Saturday before Christmas, so the Los Angeles front office has time to make a call before the holidays.
Will the Chargers fire Brandon Staley?
Staley’s seat could not be hotter. With just three weeks left in the season, if the Chargers don’t fire the 41-year-old now, then it won’t happen until after the regular season concludes.
After the blowout loss to the Raiders, Staley was asked flat out if he expected to be the coach of the Chargers on Friday.
“I don’t know that,” Staley answered.
When followed up with a question about if he should be the coach, he gave a one-word definitive answer.
When asked why he felt he should remain as the Chargers coach, Staley was quick to defend himself, stating his belief in the team and himself.
Brandon Staley when asked if he expects to be the Chargers coach tomorrow “I don’t know that” but believes he should be pic.twitter.com/ohEFc73EBL
— TC ⛵️ (@TCDOE_) December 15, 2023
“I know that what I’ve done for three years and I know what I’ve put into this. I know where we’re capable of going. I know the kind of coach I am. I believe in myself.
“But this isn’t about me. This is about a group that’s hurting in there. We’ve got to get some rest and get ready for Buffalo.”
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The head coach also admitted that he will be having a meeting with the team’s ownership group, however that is nothing different than any other week. According to Staley, he gets together with the front office after every contest.
“I always have conversations 24 hours after games with an owner,” Staley said. “This will be nothing new tomorrow. We’ll unpack the game and talk about what we need to do moving forward.”
Brandon Staley replacements
It certainly feels like the Chargers may just ride the rest of 2023 with Staley and make the coaching change in the offseason. With just three games remaining and the stock pile of injuries building up, it’s an improbable road for the Chargers to stay alive in the playoff hunt.
If Staley is eventually let go, there will be plenty of quality options for the Chargers to explore, including veteran legends looking for a new project and up-and-coming coordinators
The Sporting News’ Jacob Camenker gives a few potential candidates for the Los Angeles job if Staley is fired.
Kellen Moore, Chargers offensive coordinator
One of the reasons that many believed Staley could be fired in-season if the Chargers struggled in 2023 was that the team had Moore on the staff. The former Cowboys offensive coordinator is considered an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks and the 34-year-old should soon land a head coaching gig.
Moore’s offenses have always been effective during his five-year stint as an offensive coordinator. He led the Cowboys to three top-six scoring offenses during his time there and twice had the team lead the league in total yardage generated.
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Moore’s results with the Chargers haven’t been quite as encouraging, as the team ranks middle-of-the-pack in both scoring and yards per game. However, they were better in each category early in the season before Herbert dealt with nagging finger injuries, so perhaps the team will give him a pass and still look to interview him for the job.
Bill Belichick, Patriots head coach
Here’s another big swing option for the Chargers. If the Patriots move on from Belichick — or look to trade him — after a disastrous season, Los Angeles could be an appealing landing spot for the veteran head coach. The Chargers have an established quarterback and offense; their biggest issue is consistency on the defensive side of the ball.
Belichick could help iron out those issues. He has long been one of the best defensive minds in the NFL and should be able to get more of a defense that features talented players like Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack and Derwin James than Staley has to date. After all, the Patriots rank ninth in yards allowed in 2023 despite being both undermanned and consistently put behind the 8-ball by their hapless offense. That is thanks, in part, to Belichick’s tutelage.
MORE: Jerod Mayo leads potential candidates to replace Bill Belichick if fired by Patriots
Of course, any Belichick hiring would have to come with assurances that he brings a strong offensive coordinator into the fold to work with Herbert. Could Josh McDaniels or Bill O’Brien be enough to inspire confidence? That would be the big question to answer.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
If Moore represents a familiar face with modest upside for the Chargers, Harbaugh represents a home-run swing. The former 49ers coach helped mold San Francisco into a Super Bowl contender with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, so it’s exciting to dream of what he could do with a talent like Herbert.
Harbaugh’s offenses were rarely better than above-average during his time with the 49ers, but he always got the most out of the pieces he had. He also was always paired with a good defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, and has shown a knack for building excellent coaching staffs during his time at Michigan.
While Harbaugh could be a boom pick for the Chargers, he also has high bust potential. For one, he hasn’t coached in the NFL since 2014. While he has plenty of experience there, it may take him some time to adjust after spending nearly a decade at his alma mater.