Below are three takeaways from Brandon Staley's end of season press conference as he reflected on his first year as head coach of the Chargers.
Building a 'complete team'
With a few days to study the film and take in the Chargers' season finale in Las Vegas, head coach Brandon Staley addressed the media to reflect on his first year as the head coach of the Bolts after leading the team to nine wins in the expanded 18-week season.
One of the main goals Staley discussed was developing a 'complete team' as he continues to build and grow his system as a member of the Bolts.
"There's a difference between being a talented team and a championship team," Staley said. "The goal is to become a complete team, and that's where we're headed as an organization and where we have full alignment with Dean [Spanos], John [Spanos], Tom [Telesco], myself, our coaching staff, just becoming a complete team. There's a process to get there. This was our first year together and I think that we got a lot closer to becoming a complete team in one offseason together. Now, we have got to take advantage of this coming offseason because that's the challenge in the NFL and in all of sports, to be a complete team. We're working towards that. I'm excited to get going this 2022 season."
Staley also gave his perspective on how he will approach the offseason and how he can improve heading into year two as a head coach in the NFL. While Staley recognized the Bolts' season ended in a tough way, he sees the end of the 2021 season as a way to begin the next stage of what he's building in Los Angeles.
"I think that you have an idea of where you need to go when you become a head coach, but now you have a really strong picture of where you need to go with your game," he said. "I'm really proud of how we competed this year. For my first year, I know that I couldn't have tried any harder. I know that I gave everything I had to this team and to this role and responsibility, but I also know how much I can improve. That's where that fierce competitor in you is excited to get going. When you say that endings are beginnings, this is the beginning of me getting a lot better as a head coach."
Balancing responsibilities as head coach and play-caller
Heading into his first year as a head coach in the NFL, Staley took on the tough task of being both the leader of the team and calling the plays on defense with defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill up in the booth on gamedays.
Staley assessed how he felt he performed as both a head coach and play-caller and how he was still able to coordinate the defense at the level he is used to.
"Any time you're the head coach and the play-caller, there's going to be more that's required of you," Staley said. "But I also think that brings out the best in you. I feel like if you asked our players, me being able to be in front of the team, me being able to create a blueprint every week, a schedule every week, communicate effectively to the full team, be connected to our game plan in all three phases and being able to talk to our offense in-depth about every part of the plan, the kicking game — I was able to do that. I feel like and to coordinate the defense at a high level the way that I'm used to coordinating it."
Staley also talked about the balance of calling defensive plays while leading the squad and how the experiences he gained in 2021 will help him moving forward.
"I certainly think that I improved as the season went on," Staley said. "I feel like that's a strength of mine, being able to coordinate and call the defense. I didn't feel like it took away from my ability to be the head coach at all. I felt really connected each and every week to our offensive plan, our special teams plan. I felt like being able to go into each week and attack that week and play that game the way it needed to be played; I feel like I improved a lot as the season went on. I know that next year — so much this year happened, things were happening for the first time all the time. Now, I have that library of experiences to really draw from. I know how much I'm going to improve next year, for sure."
Guiding players to career seasons
This season, a number of Chargers players were able to take their game to the next level and hit career milestones under the new coaching staff. On defense, OLB Joey Bosa led the league in strip sacks by recording a career-high seven, and players like Uchenna Nwosu and Justin Jones flourished in Staley's defensive scheme. Linebacker Kyzir White recorded a career-high 144 combined tackles this season, 67 tackles more than his previous career-high.
On the offensive side of the ball, wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams put up record numbers as well, each notching over 1,000 receiving yards. Allen also hauled in a franchise and career-high 106 receptions this season. In addtion, quarterback Justin Herbert threw for a franchise record 38 touchdown passes and running back Austin Ekeler tied the league lead in touchdowns with 20 total scores this season.
With achievements like those, Staley talked about how the Bolts coaching staff was able to 'maximize' players' talents this season.
"We have a lot of really big-time players," Staley said. "We have two of the feature receivers in the league. They both had career years. [WR] Keenan [Allen] had 106 catches. [WR] Mike [Williams] had 76 catches, nine touchdowns. Those guys had career seasons, 15 touchdowns between them. You had Josh [WR Joshua Palmer] and [WR] Jalen [Guyton] play really good complementary roles. You maximized three tight ends to get you a lot of production. Then, your running back had 20 touchdowns, eight receiving. So, I feel like [Offensive Coordinator] Joe [Lombardi] and our offensive staff did a fantastic job maximizing this group. I'm so proud of our staff. I really feel like Justin's play was just — it's obviously at the lead of it all, but his improvement, I think, is what I'm most pleased with because his improvement really allowed him to feature all of those other guys."
Staley also expanded on the career season Williams had. This year's coaching staff unlocked a side of Williams' game that wasn't utilized as much earlier in his NFL career which allowed him to make plays all over the field, not just on deep passes.
In 2020, Williams was targeted 85 times in 15 games. Fast forward to 2021, and he was targeted 129 times in Lombardi's offense and recorded a career-high 1,045 receiving yards.
Staley reflected on how Williams 'proved himself' this season and how he gave it his all until the clock hit zero.
"I think what he showed was that he's a tough cover in a lot of different places," he said. "What I also think he showed was the durability that's also important. I feel like being available for [QB] Justin [Herbert] and being able to grow with Justin — I think that chemistry really was on display this season because of that. That's also an important factor in being a pro player. Seeing Mike Williams in our locker room after that game, guys, that's the thing that you're not going to forget is the way that look on his face — he didn't have anything left. The way he played, it's a performance I'm not going to forget. He was hurting. He went back in that game and he brought us back. I'm really proud of the season that he had."
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