Rookie coach Brandon Staley comes off as take Chargers kind of guy

Coach Brandon Staley greets linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga and other Chargers during rookies minicamp.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Robert Saleh, the rookie head coach of the New York Jets, admitted last week that he briefly forgot he was no longer just an assistant when the time came to deliver a brief speech at the conclusion of his first practice.

Chargers rookie head coach Brandon Staley had no such issues, stepping into the center as his players and fellow staffers encircled him Friday.

“Being able to be in the middle of the huddle, that’s something … you compete your whole life for, the opportunity to have that opportunity,” he explained later. “It’s one thing to create that opportunity, it’s another to make the most of the opportunity. That’s where my full focus is.”


Staley, 38, spent 2020 as the Rams’ defensive coordinator after coaching outside linebackers for three NFL seasons — two with Chicago and one with Denver. Before that, his first 11 years in coaching came as a college assistant.

He said he wasn’t nervous before his first practice as a head coach because he felt prepared and buoyed by the support staff around him.

After being hired in January, Staley assembled a diverse group of assistants, pulling from the NFL and college ranks. His three coordinators are Joe Lombardi (offense), Renaldo Hill (defense) and Derius Swinton II (special teams).

New Chargers coach Brandon Staley credits much of his success to the examples set by his father and mother, even as she eventually passed away from cancer.

Feb. 5, 2021

“You don’t do this alone,” Staley said. “You surround yourself with really, really special people, a coaching staff that really complements you, a sports performance staff, a personnel staff.

“We really have a great team here with the Chargers, and I think that that’s what probably gave me the most confidence today. I can look right, left, in front of me and behind me and know that that’s what it should look like, that’s the way a football team should look.”


The more you know

Along with the Xs and O’s, this camp is about rookies learning everything from the practice routine to how stretching should be done to how meetings are conducted.

It’s more of an orientation, a first step in the evolution of a college prospect becoming an NFL player. Along the way, the rookies can start building relationships with new teammates and coaches.

“This is a teaching camp,” Staley said. “It’s a teaching, learning few days. We’re going to get this thing off the ground the right way.”

Takeaways from the Chargers’ 2021 schedule unveiling on Wednesday.

May 13, 2021

It remains to be seen how Staley will fare in terms of wins and losses, but the early evidence suggests the Chargers will not be out-prepared or caught with their details down.

In discussing how smoothly he thought Friday went, Staley said he liked the way the transition of going from offense and defense to the kicking game “sounded.” How’s that for minding the fine print?

Chargers lineman Brenden Jaimes (64) and tackle Rashawn Slater work out during rookies minicamp.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Looking out for No. 1

First-round pick Rashawn Slater took his first NFL reps at left tackle, where the rookie is expected to start along an otherwise veteran front.

“I wasn’t trying to make a super big deal out of it in my head,” Slater said of his first pro practice, “just have an understanding that I worked to get here and I’m going to continue to work.”

Asked about Slater, Staley referenced his broad shoulders, wide chest and “good-looking legs.”

Slater played for three seasons at Northwestern before sitting out 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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May 3, 2021

“Just an impressive person,” Staley said. “He’s got the right look in his eye about trying to improve. I think he’s a really eager guy, a really good listener, intentional student of the game.”

Slater hasn’t signed his rookie contract yet but should in the near future. Spotrac projections have him receiving a $16.6-million deal with a signing bonus of nearly $9.5 million.

“Obviously, I’ve thought about it a little bit,” Slater said. “Around this time last year, I was working on putting together a great team around me, as far as choosing agents, financial advisors, preparing with my family. It’s not at the front of my mind right now. My main focus is football and being able to earn my spot and contribute to the team this fall.”

Slater did acknowledge he has made one specific purchase since being drafted. He bought his mom a watch for Mother’s Day.

Cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. works out with Chargers rookies during minicamp Friday.
Cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. works out with Chargers rookies during minicamp Friday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A familiar, friendly face

After practice Friday, cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. and wide receiver Josh Palmer spent time working against one other — just as they did as teammates at St. Thomas Aquinas High in South Florida.

“This is what we’ve been doing [since] high school, so why stop now?” Samuel said. “We might as well keep it going. This is what got us here.”

The NFL revealed the complete 2021 regular-season schedule on Wednesday. Here’s the 18-week schedule, including start times and TV streaming options.

May 13, 2021

Coming out of Florida State, Samuel will be joining a secondary that includes Derwin James, another former Seminole. The two spoke recently and communicated again Friday morning.

“As soon as I got drafted, he was kind of telling me the plays and, like, what’s going to be going on,” Samuel said. “So I appreciate him for that.”