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After blowout loss to Raiders, Chargers fire coach, GM

Updated December 15, 2023 - 1:12 pm

Dean Spanos has decided he isn’t “All In” anymore on Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco leading the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Chargers owner fired Staley as coach and Telesco as general manager Friday morning after one of the worst losses in franchise history.

Los Angeles made the playoffs last season but is one of this year’s biggest disappointments at 5-9, with losses in five of their last six games. The Bolts dropped into last place in the AFC West after Thursday night’s 63-21 loss at Las Vegas.

It was the most points allowed in franchise history and the 42-point margin was the third-worst.

Spanos thanked Staley and Telesco in a statement for their hard work, dedication and professionalism, but he did not mince words on in why the move was made with three games remaining in the regular season.

“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,” he said.

Giff Smith will serve as the interim head coach and JoJo Wooden as interim general manager. Los Angeles’ next game is against Buffalo on Dec. 23.

Smith, the outside linebackers coach, has been with the organization for eight seasons and was the only position coach retained by Staley when he was hired in 2021. Wooden was one of Telesco’s first front office hires in 2013 and is the director of player personnel.

Run game coordinator/defensive line coach Jay Rodgers was also fired.

Staley — who had an overall record of 24-25 — is the third NFL coach to be fired this season, joining Josh McDaniels of the Raiders and Carolina’s Frank Reich.

It is the first time since 1998 that the Chargers have made an in-season coaching move.

Telesco had been the general manager since 2013. The team only made three playoff appearances under his tenure and were 86-95 overall.

When the Chargers fell behind 42-0 late in the second quarter, some thought the move should have happened at halftime.

“Brandon Staley. I hate to say this because you don’t ever want to call for somebody’s job, but they should fire him. They should make history. They should fire him at halftime,” Amazon Prime Video analyst Richard Sherman said. “We’ve got an Uber X carpool outside and we’ll send you on your way because right now, I’ve never seen a team come out this uninspired.”

While Staley had been confident about his job security in the past, Thursday night’s titanic defeat had him questioning his future. He said “I don’t know” when asked if he would still be leading the Chargers on Friday.

However, Staley wasn’t lacking in confidence and said he should remain in charge.

“I know what I’ve done here for three years, and I know what I’ve put into this. I know what we’re capable of. I know the type of coach that I am, and I believe in myself,” he said.

Staley’s questionable late-game decisions and aggressive go for it approach on fourth downs drew many critics. The Chargers were 6-12 in games decided by three points or less, including 0-5 this season.

The defining game of Staley’s tenure will be the 2022 AFC Wild-Card round game at Jacksonville, when the Chargers had a 27-0 lead late in the second quarter only to see the Jaguars rally for a 31-30 victory.

Staley was hired in January 2021 after one season as the Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator. The Rams were the league’s top-ranked defense during his tenure, but the Chargers never came close to matching that under Staley’s leadership.

The Chargers are on pace to finish 20th or lower in total defense three straight seasons for the first time since 1986. They are currently ranked 29th after finishing 20th last year and 23rd in 2021.

Staley brought in Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator during the offseason, but the unit regressed during the season. The offensive line struggled after center Corey Linsley’s year ended after three games because of a heart issue and the running game remained inconsistent.

Quarterback Justin Herbert, who signed a $252 million, five-year contract extension during the offseason, suffered a pair of finger injuries. His season ended during the second quarter of last Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos when he broke the index finger on his right hand and had surgery two days later.

All three of Telesco’s hires were first-time head coaches. They all followed a similar pattern of success the first two years followed by massive regression after that.

Mike McCoy led the Bolts to the playoffs in 2013 and had 9-7 records in each of his first two years, only to be followed by 5-11 in 2015 and 4-12 one season later.

Anthony Lynn was 9-7 in his first year before tying for the AFC’s best record at 12-4 in 2018. The Chargers were 5-11 in 2019 and 7-9 in 2020.

Staley was the defensive coordinator at John Carroll, a Division III school in Cleveland, before being hired as linebackers coach in Chicago in 2017. He spent two seasons with the Bears before going to Denver in 2019 when Vic Fangio was hired as coach.

Telesco hit on most of his first-round picks, including Herbert (2020), edge rusher Joey Bosa (2016), wide receiver Mike Williams (2017) and safety Derwin James (2018). But he re-signed only four of his original draft picks from the second through seventh rounds.

Telesco also struggled throughout his tenure to build roster depth, especially on a team frequently beset by injuries.

The Chargers started a YouTube documentary series called “All In” when Staley was hired. Friday started the process of them going “All Out” to find a new duo to chart their future.

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