It is not often we are in this spot, writing about replacements for a young and often-praised head coach who just made his first playoff appearance alongside his young, extraordinarily talented quarterback. Yet that is where we find ourselves with Brandon Staley, less than a day after one of the greatest collapses we've ever seen in the postseason.
Staley's Los Angeles Chargers blew a 27-0 lead last night to the Jacksonville Jaguars, in case you did not hear. Most of the blame is falling on the shoulders of Staley, whose vaunted defense rolled over for Jacksonville in the second half and whose offensive decision-makers chose to call only nine run plays in the second half. Justin Herbert was without Mike Williams because Staley chose to play his starters in a meaningless Week 18 game. The head coach was once a vaunted face of the analytical movement yet chose to kick a field goal with eight minutes left on fourth-and-three after the Jaguars dared them to go for it by decling a holding penalty-- and the kicker missed. No matter which way you slice it, the loss was embarrassing and mostly Staley's fault.
There were already rumblings about Staley's job in the second half of the season due to the perception that the Chargers are underachieving relative to their talent level. The fact that they made the playoffs anyway was supposed to quiet those rumblings or at least kick the can down the road. Going out like this... well, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Spanos family decided to fire Staley and try to capitalize on the window they have with Herbert still on a rookie deal.
Here are a few potential options to replace Staley should they go down that path.
The most popular name out there and by far the most popular name for the Chargers job by people with no stake in the matter, Payton would be perfect for Herbert and the rest of this talented offense. Los Angeles has everything Payton is looking for-- a good young QB ready to be molded, a loaded skill position room, and a defense ready to win with the right mind behind it. If the current Fox analyst wants this job it will be his and the rest of the league should be very nervous about that.
Our king of the yearly rumor mill, Harbaugh appears to be looking for a job in the NFL again this year. But he is choosy if last year's dalliance is any indication and the Panthers have reportedly already told him thanks but no thanks. Harbaugh's skills as a QB coach would be awesome for Herbert and overall there probably will not be a better opportunity for Harbaugh at the NFL level in terms of how complete the team is. The issue may come in the form of how much control Harbaugh wants. The Spanos family seems to like Tom Telesco quite a bit and he has earned himself a lot of leeway by being the guy who picked Herbert. If Harbaugh is demanding full control then there will be a problem. If he's willing to play with others, though, don't rule him out.
Reich got screwed so badly by the Colts it wouldn't be a surprise if he wanted to take a break from coaching or wait until he gets a job offer from a more functional franchise. But his talents would be well-suited for Los Angeles. Reich made a lot of magic happen with a rotating cast of quarterbacks in Indy. What could he do with Herbert? Great things, is the guess here. Whatever the Chargers do next they have to cater to their franchise QB and they could do much worse than Reich if the above home run swings don't pan out.