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With Brandon Staley leaving, Rams once again searching for a defensive coordinator

Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley looks on during training camp.
Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley agreed to become the new head coach of the Chargers on Sunday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

In mid-December, when Brandon Staley’s name was among those circulating in the buzz for the next round of NFL coaching hires, Rams coach Sean McVay lamented what might be a short partnership.

“I hope to at least have more than a year with him,” McVay said, “but if not, I’d be ecstatic for him and his family. ... He’s done such a great job. I couldn’t be more grateful to work with Brandon, and if that’s what happens for him, that’s great for him.”

It happened.

Staley, 38, is the new coach of the Chargers. Staley is the third former McVay assistant to become an NFL head coach, the first from the defensive side. Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur and Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor were hired by their teams before the 2019 season.

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Now, for the second time in as many years, McVay is in search of a defensive coordinator.

When the Rams hired him in 2017, McVay, who was 30 at the time, hired veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, an NFL coach since 1976.

Brandon Staley, coming off his first season as the Rams’ defensive coordinator, has agreed to become the new head coach of the Chargers.

The McVay-Phillips combination helped the Rams finish 11-5, win the NFC West and make the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 season. The next season, the Rams finished 13-3, repeated as division champions and advanced to the Super Bowl.

But after finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs last season, McVay decided not to renew the contract of the 72-year-old Phillips. He went outside the staff and hired Staley, an outside linebackers coach for three seasons with the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos under Vic Fangio.

With tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey as centerpieces, Staley molded a defense that developed into one of the NFL’s best. The Rams gave up the fewest yards and fewest points during the season and finished 10-6. They were No. 1 in pass defense and second in sacks.

How McVay fills the role this time remains to be seen.

Assistant head coach Joe Barry, who coaches inside linebackers, was defensive coordinator in the NFL for Detroit and Washington.

Twice in recent weeks, Staley cited the NFL’s diversity issues in coaching and said Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant, safeties coach Ejiro Evero and defensive line coach Eric Henderson — all of whom are Black — were more than ready for larger roles.

Rams coach Sean McVay was noncommittal about starting quarterback Jared Goff’s future with the team following Saturday’s playoff loss to the Packers.

“Those guys are all just teachers, leaders,” Staley said.

Staley said the three assistants are “are as good as you’re going to find anywhere” and deserved much credit for the defense’s success.

“You can look no further than those guys,” Staley said.

Ramsey, an All-Pro, said this week that Pleasant has the skill set to be considered by teams as a defensive coordinator.

“This is the best body of work that I have put out in the NFL — a lot of that is thanks to him,” Ramsey said, adding: “I love being coached extremely hard, and he does that. ... He’s able to really get the best out of me and help me grow as a man and a player, so he’s very valuable and I think he would do well in any type of elevated role that he may be getting in the future.”

Etc.

The Rams signed 14 players to futures contracts: quarterback Bryce Perkins; wide receiver J.J. Koski; tight end Kendall Blanton; offensive lineman Jamil Demby; defensive linemen Eric Banks, Marquise Copeland, Michael Hoecht and Jonah Williams; linebacker Christian Rozeboom; defensive backs Donte Deayon and Tyrique McGhee; kicker Austin MacGinnis; punter Brandon Wright and long snapper Colin Holba.


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