Chargers head coach Brandon Staley has taken some significant criticism this week over the playing time he gave starters and key players in Los Angeles’ loss to Denver in the regular-season finale.
With Cincinnati up big on Baltimore at halftime and the Ravens playing rookie quarterback Anthony Brown, it was pretty clear the Chargers were going to be locked into the AFC’s No. 5 seed when inactives were due. But certainly by the 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff, Los Angeles knew its playoff seed would be the same irrespective of the Week 18 outcome.
And that happened despite receiver Mike Williams exiting the game with a back injury after making a catch with 2:43 left in the second quarter.
While Staley said Monday that Williams was likely to practice during the week, the key receiver did not get on the practice field and is questionable for Saturday’s playoff matchup against the Chargers. On Friday, Staley noted that Williams’ rest was more important than the practice reps this week. And he expressed no regrets about his playing-time decisions from the loss to the Broncos.
“I stand behind what we did in that football game,” Staley said, via Jeff Miller of the L.A. Times. “All my players are really important to me. There were a lot of players that were playing in that game that were in harm’s way. That’s just the nature of football.
“It’s very difficult to decide who plays and who doesn’t and who’s more valuable than the rest. What you’re trying to do is set a standard for your program about how you do things. That’s what I believe in. I didn’t want anybody to get hurt in that game, regardless of their status, because everybody’s important.”
Given that Staley said after the game that Williams “possibly” could have returned, he was asked to clarify that comment since Williams never practiced this week.
“The nature of it was I didn’t know how serious it was,” Staley said. “I wasn’t given the indication that anything was significantly wrong with him. That’s what was told to me. What I was intimating is that there wasn’t anything serious in terms of a fracture or some type of X-ray that was positive. That’s all I was inferring at that moment.”
Williams missed four games due to injury this season and played only six snaps in another game. One of Los Angeles’ top two receivers, Williams caught 63 passes for 895 yards with four touchdowns in 2022.