Chargers hire Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as head coach

Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley works with players during a team practice session.
Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley works with players during a team practice session. Staley has reached an agreement with the Chargers to become their head coach.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers hired Brandon Staley away from the Rams on Sunday night to be their next coach.

Staley, who just finished his first season as the Rams’ defensive coordinator, agreed to terms after meeting with the Chargers for a second time.

The Chargers announced he will be introduced in a videoconference call Thursday.

His hiring completes a stunning career climb, coming not even four years after Staley received his first NFL job.


“While this is certainly a dream come true, it’s also a dream that’s just beginning,” he said in a statement. “… And by the time everyone is reading this quote in a press release, we’ll already be hard at work developing a program Chargers fans everywhere can be proud of.”

Staley, 38, takes over for Anthony Lynn, who was fired Jan. 4 after four seasons, one playoff appearance and a 33-31 record in the regular season.

“It’s not just that Brandon possesses a tremendous football mind that makes him the ideal head coach to lead our team forward,” general manager Tom Telesco said in the team’s news release. “It’s that he excels in the ability to effectively tailor, apply and communicate his concepts to players.

“It’s clear that Brandon will not be outworked. He’s the football equivalent of a gym rat, and that has earned him the universal respect of the players he has coached throughout his journey.”

Staley’s hiring comes after a search in which most of the speculation centered on the Chargers turning to an offensive-based coach to help develop quarterback Justin Herbert.

Early on, however, Telesco said the team was open to exploring candidates from both sides of the line of scrimmage.

“Whoever the head coach is and no matter what his background is,” Telesco said, “he’s going to have to have a system together that will really work for Justin.”


Herbert, the No. 6 overall pick in last year’s NFL draft, just completed a season in which he emerged as the favorite to win the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award.

Throughout the season, he praised offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton for aiding in his progress. It remains uncertain whether Staley will retain either assistant.

Though his coaching experience is on defense, Staley was a quarterback in college, first at Dayton and then at Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania.

With Brandon Staley leaving to become coach of the Chargers, Sean McVay and the Rams are once again looking for a defensive coordinator.

Jan. 18, 2021

He emerged quickly this season after joining the Rams a year ago in a move that was considered a bit of a surprise given his limited NFL experience.

Before receiving his first coordinator position in the league, Staley spent the previous three seasons — two with Chicago and one with Denver — coaching outside linebackers.


Previously, he worked for 11 years as a college assistant. His stops included Northern Illinois, Division III St. Thomas, Hutchinson Community College, Tennessee, John Carroll and James Madison.

Telesco played at John Carroll, which is located in Ohio, in the 1990s. Staley spent three seasons there as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve known Brandon for five minutes or five years, what quickly becomes apparent is the amount of energy and passion he approaches each and every moment with,” Chargers president of football operations John Spanos said. “The consistency of that enthusiasm is unique and, most importantly, it drives his ability to connect with people. His coaching journey to this particular moment is inspiring.”

This season, Staley oversaw the NFL’s top-ranked defense, the Rams finishing No. 1 in fewest points and fewest yards given up.

Rams new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley works with players as the team conducts practice.
Brandon Staley works with Rams players during a training camp practice in Thousand Oaks on Aug. 18.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

They permitted only one opponent to score more than 28 points in a game during the regular season.


The Chargers struggled at times defensively in 2020, particularly during a six-week stretch starting in early October when their season unraveled.

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has since departed to take the same job with Las Vegas.

With the Rams’ impressive defensive performances throughout the season, Staley’s profile only increased. He also was a candidate for the coaching jobs that remain open in Houston and Philadelphia.

“My confidence level that he’ll be back is like 5%, maybe, if that,” Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey said Sunday, before the news of Staley’s hiring became official. “Just because of who he is as a man, as a coach. ...

“I just really think that he’s great at what he does. He’s a genius. He’s smart. He knows how to use his players.”

With the Rams, Staley ran a hybrid 3-4 that up front featured Aaron Donald, widely considered to be the NFL’s top defensive player. The Chargers ran a 4-3 under Bradley with Joey Bosa as the main anchor from his end position.


The Chargers picked Staley over a group of candidates that included Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who has a history with Telesco and was considered a favorite throughout the process.

A year after his unceremonious departure from New England, Tom Brady is one win away from yet another Super Bowl heading into championship Sunday.

Jan. 17, 2021

The Chargers also were planning to interview Robert Saleh a second time before he agreed Friday to become the New York Jets’ coach. Saleh had been the defensive coordinator for San Francisco.

Staley first interviewed for the Chargers’ job Jan. 10, following the Rams’ wild-card playoff win at Seattle. The Rams’ season ended Saturday with a 32-18 divisional-round loss at Green Bay.

“He knows how to get the best out of people,” Ramsey said. “I just think he’s great.

“... Realistically, he’s earned the right to be a head coach somewhere, and he can change a whole organization and franchise around, and I think that he will do that.”

Staley will indeed get that chance, still in L.A. but now as a Charger.

Staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.