Chargers are wise to stick with Brandon Staley, but he needs help to unlock QB Justin Herbert's full potential

The Chargers need to nail their offensive coordinator hire. Otherwise they'll risk wasting more years of Herbert's prime.

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The Los Angeles Chargers made a big move on their coaching staff this week, when they let go of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Shane Day in an effort to get back on track following one of the worst blown leads in NFL history.

The Chargers had to make some tough decisions after giving up a 27-point lead in a playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and since head coach Brandon Staley was safe, Lombardi and Day ended up getting axed. It’s understandable that the Chargers want a clean break from a staff that was involved in a meltdown of that order, but L.A. got it right by retaining Staley and cleaning house on the rest of the offensive staff — for now, at least.

Staley is going to be on thin ice heading into the 2023 season, but he deserves some credit for getting the Chargers defense headed back in the right direction after that group struggled to start the season. Prior to the disastrous second half in Jacksonville, the Chargers defense had allowed more than 17 points in just one of L.A.'s previous five games (Week 18 against the Denver Broncos). Considering the amount of injuries the Chargers had to fight through on defense, things should be promising for next season when they, hopefully, have everyone back at full strength.

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley (left) need to find a good offensive coordinator to unlock the full potential of star quarterback Justin Herbert. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley (left) needs to find a good offensive coordinator to unlock the full potential of star quarterback Justin Herbert. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The offense, on the other hand, has been underachieving with injuries on that side of the ball. But the Chargers still have Justin Herbert, who is undoubtedly one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Even with injuries to guys such as tackle Rashawn Slater and receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, this is an offense that shouldn’t be afraid to lean on its QB's talent. Instead, the Chargers ran a passing game that was fairly conservative and tried to cover their lack of receiver talent instead of allowing Herbert’s golden arm to lead the way. It’s unclear how much of a role Day had in terms of offensive game prep and gameday responsibilities, but it’s not unusual for the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach to be attached at the hip when it comes to job security.

According to Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, Herbert ranked 31st in average depth of target, at 6.4 yards on the season. That is indefensible to anyone who has seen Herbert play. He has the arm strength and accuracy to fit passes into just about any window the defense presents; injuries at wide receiver shouldn’t have prevented the Chargers from being far more aggressive than they were in their passing game. Who gets a Lamborghini and then drives it the speed limit? What kind of world was Lombardi living in that he wasn’t willing to take risks with Justin Herbert of all quarterbacks? The Chargers need more speed at wide receiver, but the plan they had for Herbert was way too conservative.

Lombardi and Day did some good to help develop Herbert into the player he has become, but they ended up becoming hindrances by the time it was all said and done. Staley doesn’t have time to waste if he wants to save his job, and quite frankly, the Chargers shouldn’t want to waste a single one of Herbert’s prime years with a coordinator who won’t use him to the fullest extent. Time will show what happens to the Chargers' play-calling situation, but this move to keep Staley while resetting on offense is the right one for the team, based on everything that happened this season.