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