Brandon Staley’s aggressive approach to fourth down won’t change

Los Angeles Chargers v Cincinnati Bengals
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Chargers coach Brandon Staley made waves in his first year on the job for his willingness to be aggressive on fourth down, repeatedly going for it. He visited PFT Live on Thursday from the Scouting Combine, and we asked him to explain how a former defensive coordinator has become the face of the go-for-it movement.

“I think that from a mindset standpoint that was something that was important to me being a former quarterback, being a defensive coordinator, know the amount of pressure that it puts on you,” Staley said. “I think that I wanted to establish that mindset and really just going back to my background. . . . My father used to tell me like, ‘Know your personnel,’ and I think that when you have an offense like ours, you’re going to try and maximize their opportunities to be successful. I think that when you have a quarterback like ours, you’re going to try and maximize his opportunities to be successful. That’s how you win in this league by scoring the football. . . . .

“I think when we feel like we’re in one of those situations that we’re going to be aggressive because if it doesn’t go down, we have a lot of confidence in our whole operation to make it go afterwards. I feel like we were really open with our players about that, and I think it did create an advantage in how we played and, hey, going from just first, second, third down into fourth down, that’s going to change how we play. It’s going to change how people defend us. Ultimately, it’s going to give us more opportunities to score. I think as we go, I don’t think that that’s going to change. I think this year, specifically, we were just playing to the strength of our team which was our offense and I thought that definitely allowed us to have the season that we had this year.”

Staley recognizes that, despite his propensity to go for it on fourth down, he realizes the value of being unpredictable.

“I think in the Denver game, the second Denver game, was a good example of that,” Staley said. “They were playing with a backup quarterback and we knew it was going to be kind of a possession game, and we kicked two field goals in there tight on fourth downs that earlier in the season that we had gone for. I think that what I told people is that we’re going to treat each of these decisions like they have a life of their own. We’re not going to bank on, ‘Hey, we made this, so it’s given us house money to go for something else,’ or, ‘Hey, we didn’t get it. Hey, that’s going to turn us into some conservative operation.’ We’re just going to treat each of these decisions like they have a life of their own. That’s what I’ve told our team.

“I do think that there is that chess match that you’re always trying to play. I think that there’s examples within the season both ways where we punted it or kicked it and I think that’s always what we’re going to try and do is play that chess match and look through the other side. There’s that game within the game and you’re taking in all those factors as a head coach, and I think that’s really important and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

It all means that the Chargers will continue to be a fascinating team to watch and follow, especially with Justin Herbert playing quarterback for the team.

16 responses to “Brandon Staley’s aggressive approach to fourth down won’t change

  1. The coach has to coach, and the media has to ask questions. Both did their job. Had he not gone for it on 4th down they’d be asking why not. As long as they’re intelligent questions and answers, it’s all good.

  2. He’s 100% correct. I hope he sticks with it and doesn’t succumb to pressure from the Monday morning quarterbacks.

  3. That’s a shame. He will stunt Herbert’s growth and he will not be a head coach in another year. Not a fan of someone who doesn’t use common sense in certain situations.

  4. Kick the field goal and take the points. They can’t take them off the board and you would have won at least 2 more games last year with that mindset.

  5. It should. There is a time and place for everything, and frequently he chose the wrong time to be overly aggressive and it cost them multiple times.

  6. I was at The Death Star in the final game. I saw in person dude going for it on fourth, from his own 18. And of course he failed. You don’t think a lot of the players were shaking their heads? That didn’t turn into a TD, but it did turn into 3. Chargers lost by 3. Kicked out the playoffs. Staley is the worst coach in the NFL.

  7. Quote from Staley Jan 15th 2023 “Would you like fries with that”?

    Its fine to be aggressive, not ok to be reckless.

  8. “Aggressive” is euphemism for scared S*%#less when what the coach is really thinking is “omg omg omg, that’s Pat Mahomes on the opposing sideline and if we don’t score a TON of points, we’re losing tonight!!!”

    As an Eagles fan, I can tell you, Pederson trotted out the word “aggressive” all the time, even to describe desperation. Coaches should be able to tell the difference between when your offense is clicking and the opposing D is thinking “no…PLEASE don’t go for it, we stopped you on 3rd down and we were relieved to get off the field,” and when your offense is not clicking, and the opposing D is thinking, “you want to go for it on 4th down? Okay! Bring it!”

    Doug couldn’t tell the difference, and neither can Staley. Know why? Because you have to look up from your laminated play chart, stop listening to your analytics guys in your head set, and actually *watch the game* in order to get a feel for that nuance.

  9. Staley needs time to reflect on his adamant approach to going for it on fourth down. I suspect he’ll get that time in a year or two once his immature and reckless decision making gets him fired. Too bad, as otherwise he seems like a decent coach.

  10. There’s a real argument that Staley was one of the worst coaches in the league last season. He definitely cost his team a playoff spot.

  11. Brandon Staley’s approach to NFL coaching is similar to an 11-year old playing Madden. Hey Brandon, “real football people” know that your team would have made the playoffs if you utilized your special teams once in a while

  12. Staley thinks going for it on fourth down makes him less predictable. Announcing your tendencies makes the Chargers more predictable. The element of surprise by breaking tendencies when the time is right makes you unpredictable, saying you are going to be unpredictable regarding a tendency to go for it has the opposite effect. Some of the calls he made to go for it looked like he was play checkers while the opponent was playing chess.

  13. So, his goal setting remains capped at finishing 3 in the afc west. With a 7 team playoff setup that should mean he might get in the playoffs once every 5 years. Great plan, if you’re trying to get fired.

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