Column: Chargers coach Brandon Staley motivated to get better

Five months after declaring the most infamous hiatus in franchise history, Brandon Staley was just as confused as anyone.

He just didn’t ask the same question.

“I’m not sure why that is [got] increased,” Staley said.

The Chargers opened minicamp on Tuesday, by which time Staley had plenty of time to reflect on the Week 18 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders that kept his team from making the playoffs.

He remained content with his decisions. He was also still concerned that they weren’t working.

“I’m not over it yet,” Staley said.

The failure prompted him to reconsider and offer his ideas on how the Chargers could rebuild their defense.

“I’ve never put more into a season than this one in my life,” Staley said. “I have not thrown myself into anything but my marriage, [more] as the. So you can imagine how I felt. Since then, I’ve been working every day to make things different.”

The Chargers traded for edge rusher Khalil Mack. They signed free-agent cornerback JC Jackson, defensemen Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Jackson, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

They also no longer had a rookie coach. Staley is now in his second year in office.

“I think in your freshman year there’s this rush to kind of explain and define everything you’re trying to do,” Staley said. “You’re trying to give people the vision of why you’re doing everything, and that takes a lot of energy. Well, that’s not the case. I think now I’m just able to get into the deeper chapters of how we work.”

Enough had changed with the team for Staley to say the past was the past, that his focus was all on the season ahead.

But Staley didn’t, instead explaining how he was motivated in part by the end of last season.

In the game in question, all the Chargers needed was a tie.

A tie against the Raiders in Week 18 and the Chargers would have made the playoffs. The Raiders just needed a draw, too.

And they tied at the end of the regulation, after which they exchanged a pair of field goals. As the Raiders pushed into Chargers territory with 38 seconds remaining, Staley called a timeout.

On the next play, on the third and fourth, Josh Jacobs rushed for 10 yards. The Raiders called a timeout and set up a 47-yard field goal from Daniel Carlson.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley greets offensive tackles Rashawn Slater (70) and Storm Norton during practice.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley greets offensive tackles Rashawn Slater (70) and Storm Norton during practice.

(Alex Gallardo/Associated Press)

The Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the playoffs.

The Chargers were out.

“When something that difficult happens, when you lose in the most dramatic way, you start with yourself,” Staley said.

So he reviewed his decisions.

He questioned his decision not to jab to fourth and one from the Chargers’ 18-yard line in the third quarter. Austin Ekeler’s run was short, and the Raiders kicked a field goal soon after to extend their lead to six points.

“I wanted to create a mindset on our team, and it really started with… what I felt I needed… a fearlessness,” Staley said. “I think the cumulative effect of that will help over time. I know it helped us last season and in that game I wanted to make sure our boys knew we weren’t going there hoping to win. We wanted to go there to try and win the game on our terms.

“I don’t regret this decision per se. But of course I regret that we cannot take part in the tournament. I’ve had to live with that since I walked this field.”

But the time-out in extra time?

Staley wondered why the play was garnering so much attention.

Critics said the Raiders were content with time being up, making the case that Staley’s time-out caused them to change their mindset.

Staley said the fact that Carlson was fielded to kick the winning field goal was evidence that the Raiders intended to win the game. He pointed out that distance was a more important factor than time and that he specifically ordered a time-out to prevent that from happening, using personnel better suited to defend against the run.

On Staley’s point, Jacobs had gained seven yards in the previous game.

If Staley hadn’t called a timeout and Jacobs had gained 10 yards, what would have happened? The Raiders could very well have done what they did — take a time out and score a field goal.

Staley said he didn’t mind the criticism, knowing it was part of the job. But he also indicated that the discussion about the time-out bothered him.

“This team will not define itself by that,” he said.

The Chargers have the quarterback. You have the offense. You now have what looks like an impressive defense.

Now, in the next seven-plus months, they have a chance to redefine themselves – and their coach. Column: Chargers coach Brandon Staley motivated to get better

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