By Cameron Buford, Whatsgoodinsports.com

A season in the National Football League isn’t complete until the players and coaches complete their exit interviews. The Chargers players and coaches would conduct their exit interviews over the few days immediately after their loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, at their facilities, in Costa Mesa, CA. As part of his relationship-building process, Staley would meet with each player to discuss their season and off-season expectations for said player.

With this new strand of COVID-19 floating around, the NFL has limited the number of visitors to each teams’ facilities. Therefore, Staley would respond to a group of nearly 30 reporters on Zoom, who all wanted to hear from him and get his thoughts on his initial season as a head coach in the league. 

When asked about the timeline for mastering his defensive schemes, Chargers Brandon Staley pointed out that “all timelines are different.” When discussing the progress that this team made in one season. Staley added, “I think we laid a good foundation in terms of how we want to play. Now, it’s just updating our personnel.” Staley added, “I’m excited to have a full offseason with the guys who are coming back because I know that those guys that we’re going to build this defense with, that we’re certainly going to be able to play at a high level, at a championship level.”

Staley expounded on this process by stating, “in building a defense, you certainly have an idea of what you want it to look like; I think that that takes time.” COVID-19 made the National Football League’s health and safety protocols were arduous to deal with this past season. Staley added, “I think the challenge for us this year was that there was a lot of inconsistency in who was out there, upfront at the point of attack, and then in the secondary. I thought that we gave ourselves a chance in these games, but certainly, to play the level of defense that I expect to play, we’re going to have to continue to improve.”

“After the bye, we played a lot more the way we needed to play. I felt like we made a lot of improvements. When that happened, then with our coverage players, we went through a lot of attrition in the secondary, which affected how we covered on third down in known-pass [situations]. We just never had that cohesiveness of both units, the front and the coverage playing together.” Staley would say about their defense’s issues getting off the field on third downs.

Staley admitted to learning a lot in his first season as a “pro head football coach.” He adds about going into his second year of coaching at this level, “I’m just a lot more certain of where I need to go with my game. I think that you have an idea of where you need to go when you become a head coach, but now you have a strong picture of where you need to go with your game.”  

“What we’re trying to do is give our team the best chance to win. I think that we’ve been transparent about our process and owning the mistakes.” Staley’s mentioned this when asked about receiving public scrutiny of his in-game decisions. Staley supported his logic by stating, “I feel like we have an identity that we believe in. I feel like a lot of the decisions that are being second-guessed are some of those same decisions, which gave us a huge opportunity to be in the hunt.” 

“I think you know that you’re doing things the right way because your players are going to tell you the truth, and you’re going to learn the most from them.” Staley points out when asked about the relationships he’s built with his team and coaches. When asked about the benefits of effective relationships, Staley mentioned, “Those relationships, I think they allow you to stand the test of time, and I think it allows you to work through a lot of the challenges that the NFL season has, and there’s a ton of them. We went through something tough the other night, and I think that we were able to overcome all of those obstacles throughout the season because of how close we were.” 

“I think, this year, the tough part for us was that we never — we didn’t play together very much. Then, inside up front, those guys didn’t play together very much. It was just a different cast all the time. It’s hard to play team defense when you’re brand new all the time. That’s just the facts!” Staley explained when asked about the differences he experienced as he moved from location to location as the Defensive Coordinator. Staley went on to say, “I think we’re going to get a lot better as we go. We’re going to improve technique, scheme. I’m going to improve a lot as a coach. We’re going to onboard new guys and we’re going to get a lot better as we move forward.”

“You normally foul because of technique or ability. Most of it is technique because most of the guys that are in the NFL can play, but you have to play with good fundamentals. I think that, to me, that’s where the focus always has to be — on technique first and have full command of your position.” This was Staley’s response to my question about averaging nearly nine penalties per game this past season. Staley added, “You want the penalties that do occur in the game to be aggressive penalties — the flow of the game type of penalties. Not penalties that you could have controlled. Certainly, that’s going to be a point of emphasis for us, really every year that I’m here.”

Although the Los Angeles Chargers didn’t reach their goal of playing at SoFi Stadium for the Super Bowl this season, they appear to have laid a sturdy foundation to build upon. It has yet to be determined which, if any, coaches will be leaving the staff, though with Brandon at the helm safe to say these guys are certainly on the right track. He essentially said as much himself, “I’m very proud of the way that we did things this year, and I look forward to growing, improving, and building on it as we move forward.”

This week we will hear from the Los Angeles Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco and see if he echoes the same thoughts as Brandon Staley? Let me know your thoughts on the Chargers season by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or email or voiceofthefans@outlook.com. I’d love to hear any suggestions you may have or what you see as key factors facing these Los Angeles Chargers. Let me know so I can dig into these topics. 

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