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5 Takeaways: Giff Smith Reveals His 1st Message to Bolts in Team Meeting


Chargers Interim Head Coach Giff Smith spoke at the podium Tuesday for the first time since taking over that role.

Here are five takeaways from Smith's press conference at Hoag Performance Center:

1. His message to the team

Smith is five days into his new role with the Chargers and has taken on head-coaching responsibilities for the final three regular-season games.

That included leading his first team meeting Monday as the Bolts began preparing for Week 15.

Smith on Tuesday revealed his message to players and coaches and noted that it seemed to carry over to the practice field.

"What I told [the coaching staff] and the players, we're all invested in these three weeks," Smith said. "We have to feel that energy from each other. We're coming together.

"It was a great day [Tuesday]. The energy was great," Smith added. "The coaches are doing unbelievable. I just happen to be the guy that is in charge of it."

Smith also said that he delivered a stern message to the Chargers leadership group and implored Chargers captains to help lead the way.

"I think that has kind of been my personality through the years," Smith said. "It's a team game and it's a player-driven league.

"The teams that have been successful, that I've been a part of, you have great leaders, and in times of adversity, those are the guys that have to lead," Smith added. "Even if it's out of your nature to step up and be aggressive, this is what this team needs for these three weeks. We have a three-week season and we're going to play to win."

Smith did note that the past few days, beginning with Thursday night's loss in Las Vegas, have been a range of emotions.

"Obviously, disappointment with the way that Thursday went down and the failure of not being able to help [former Head Coach] Brandon [Staley] be successful here," Smith said. "So, disappointment initially.

"But, this is the greatest game there is — professional football — so you bow your back and go to work," Smith added. "The whole focus is on Buffalo, moving forward."

2. A collective effort

Smith has been with the Chargers since 2016 and has earned a tremendous amount of respect both in the building and the locker room.

He said he's felt that support in recent days as he transitions to his new role.

"I think the time that you get, and the people in this organization that help you, is what makes this place special," Smith said. "It's unbelievable how many people are there to help you through this process, where you can just coach.

"I'm very grateful for that," Smith said.

He added that he is leaning on the entire coaching staff "tremendously" as he gets ready for his first game as an NFL head coach.

The help for Smith has also extended outside of the team facility as he said he's gotten numerous text massages with people willing to offer advice.

"I've had multiple former head coaches, people reach out," Smith said. "You talk about just being grateful, it's a beautiful thing that people would give up their time to help you in a situation that doesn't benefit them."

The best piece of advice? That came from former NFL head coach Chan Gailey, who spent five seasons in charge of the Cowboys and Bills.

"I thought that Chan Gailey had a great one," Smith said. "He said, 'All of those suggestions and thoughts that you had are now decisions. Good luck.'"

3. Strong leadership qualities

What vibe will Smith bring to the Bolts?

The veteran NFL coach dove into detail about his personality on Tuesday.

"I'm an honest person. I'm going to tell the truth," Smith said. "I'm very direct. I believe in clarity. There's not gray.

"And, I believe in giving. I've always believed in that, that's my faith," Smith added. "I guess that's how I would describe it."

Would he qualify as an old-school persona?

"Yeah, I guess you could say that," Smith said. "I believe in it from my playing days, to all the coaches I've been involved in.

"It's still a tough man's game. It's a physical game," Smith added. "You have to have your brother's back when you go out there. If that makes me old school, then I'm definitely old school."

Smith was a star at Georgia Southern from 1987 to 1990 and was a three-time All-American for the Eagles.

Smith previously coached with the Bills and Titans before joining the Chargers.

The Los Angeles Chargers today named Giff Smith Interim Head Coach and JoJo Wooden Interim General Manager for the remainder of the 2023 season.

4. A sense of humor

Smith showed something that many inside the team facility have known for years — that the coach has a self-deprecating send of humor.

Smith was asked about the whirlwind of going from a position coach to Interim Head Coach.

"Well, I wish that I would've lost some weight a few weeks back," Smith said. "That would have been a positive. I wasn't expecting this."

Smith's old-school approach was then brought up.

"Well, that's probably because I'm 55," Smith said with a smile.

Smith's press conference ended when he was asked if his name is short for 'Gifford' and whether or not there was a story behind the name.

"Gifford, yes," Smith said. "I created a story to kind of make it cool, that my mom was in labor and Monday Night Football was on and they saw Frank Gifford [on TV].

"But I'm just making that up," Smith said as he left the podium to loud laughter.

5. A chance for young coaches

There were multiple changes to the Chargers coaching staff of late.

In addition to the departure of Brandon Staley, Jay Rodgers was also let go as the Defensive Run Game Coordinator and defensive line coach.

Chargers Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley will now take over defensive play-calling duties beginning Saturday against the Bills.

Smith said Tuesday that a pair of young coaches on staff will take on more prominent roles as position coaches.

Assistant defensive line coach John Timu is now fully in charge of the defensive line.

"He's a really, really good young coach," Smith said of Timu. "We're excited, the organization's excited to see him and what he can do."

Smith also noted that while he'll still be working with the outside linebackers, defensive quality control coach Robert Muschamp will take on a larger role.

"I'll kind of bounce back between the two right there, moving forward," Smith said. "We're excited to see these two young coaches. Y'all will be hearing their names for a lot of years in this league."

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