Los Angeles Chargers: Meet Brandon Staley

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

COSTA MESA, Calif.—Just after 7 a.m. last Monday, Brandon Staley, the 38-year-old head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, walked through the hallway of the team’s training facility when he passed and fist-bumped veteran cornerback Chris Harris. Walking away, Staley said, “He’s such a G.”

G. Gangster. [I will attempt to explain: A “G” is someone great at his job, usually spoken by people under 40. It’s a respectful term.]

“We got Coach talking the lingo!” safety Derwin James said.

Meeting his players on their terms is part of Staley’s deal. His rise to be a head coach is one of the most amazing stories in the league right now. Five years ago today, he was preparing to coach the 2016 John Carroll Blue Streaks. But not as head coach—as defensive coordinator of the Division III school in the Cleveland ‘burbs. He was not a normal Division III assistant coach. He used his connections, for instance, to wrangle a week to learn inside New Orleans Saints camp in 2009. A football-nerdy notebook with drawn plays from that week sits on his desk in Orange County today. “God bless my wife,” Staley said. “I spent every last dime we had to make that trip. I soaked in everything.”

Joe Staley next to hand-drawn notes

In 2017, he interviewed for a job coaching linebackers coach with the Bears under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and got the gig. He followed Fangio to Denver in 2019, won the defensive coordinator job with the Rams in 2020 (by force of personality and verve), and got the Chargers’ gig 24 hours after the Rams’ season ended last January.

“My path doesn’t make a lot of sense to people,” he told me, sitting in his office. “I was just hoping to make it to the NFL within five years. But this? No.

“Something I vividly remember from my interview here: I told them, ‘I don’t know it all, guys. But I promise there won’t be anyone who will figure it out and learn it faster. That’s who I am—teacher, leader, competitor.’ I didn’t want to come across as a know-it-all, savant, wizard-type.”

Staley didn’t come across that way, GM Tom Telesco said. He came across as a communicator who knew all three phases of football well. “The business has changed a lot,” Telesco told me. “Gosh, he was coaching Division III five years ago, but we thought if you can connect with players, and you really know football, does it matter how old you are?”

The Chargers hope Staley is the defensive Sean McVay. Both are young, extremely exuberant, bursting with ideas, and incredibly self-assured. Both took over Los Angeles football franchises with no head-coaching experience. McVay head-coached in a Super Bowl at 33, though. There’s the difference. Staley’s got a lot to prove, and a league-full of eyes will be on him.

It’s not like the Chargers made a David Culley pick, though—picking a coach out of left field. Lots of teams loved Staley after his lone year as defensive coordinator with the Rams, when they finished first in the league in yards and points allowed. “He’s the best defensive coordinator I’ve had in the NFL for sure,” said all-pro Rams corner Jalen Ramsey, who spent just one season with Staley. The man who hired him to coach linebackers in Chicago out of John Carroll in 2017, Broncos coach Vic Fangio, told me: “Some players, some coaches, see the game through a straw. They see how the game affects them, or their group. They’ve got tunnel vision. Brandon sees how it affects all 11, all 22.”

Staley fit the Mike Tomlin/McVay profile. I remember asking Dan Rooney about hiring Tomlin at 34 when he was a first-year coordinator for the Vikings. “If we didn’t hire him now, we’d never have had the chance,” Rooney told me. NFL teams like to pluck the next hot coach, and Staley was going to get a job soon. The Eagles might have picked him to succeed Doug Pederson; Staley was due to spend a full day with Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie and GM Howie Roseman before the Chargers cut them off by hiring him the day before that scheduled meeting.

I think the 2021 Chargers are the most fascinating team in football, the only team with a prayer to seriously challenge Kansas City in the AFC West. They have:

  1. Justin Herbert, the rising-star quarterback who looks like a franchise player at 23, piloting a very young team.
  2. Staley, the kid head coach.
  3. Derwin James, the quarterback of the defense who’s had two straight years wrecked with injuries (broken foot, torn meniscus, COVID) after being a first-team all-pro safety as a 2018 rookie. He’s healthy and motivated to show he’s not injury-prone.
  4. A skeptical league staring at them. The Chargers, who didn’t have a strong Los Angeles fan base when they left San Diego, surprised locals last week by saying they’d exceeded 45,000 season tickets in their first year with fans at new SoFi Stadium. The big question: Will those fans be Chargers’ partisans, or will they be lovers of the teams on an attractive home slate—New England, the Giants, Dallas, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City—who buy from brokers and make this a stadium with road-team advantage. “I think SoFi will be StubHub on steroids,” said one L.A. sports market expert I know. The Chargers took steps to not sell a load of tickets to brokers. Now we’ll see if their attempts to make SoFi a place with a majority of Charger partisans can work.
  5. A potential Defensive Player of the Year in Joey Bosa, another cornerstone player who’s been hurt more than his share too, with six missed starts last year. His pass-rush ability for 17 games is vital.

The biggest question, I think, is Staley’s ability to hit the ground running with a playoff contender—and with such a thin NFL resume. When I shadowed him for a morning last week, I saw a confident coach with a meticulous plan. But will he have his players’ ears in a three-game losing streak in November, when times get tough? Everyone can be optimistic now, and everyone in this franchise is. But in August…everyone’s optimistic.

At 7:28 a.m. last Monday, Staley walked into a staff meeting at the Chargers’ facility in Costa Mesa. There were 27 coaches/coaching interns in the team meeting room. The average age looked to be about 36 or 38. As he got going, Staley didn’t have any surprises—just verities he wanted his coaches to reinforce on the practice field that morning.

“Make it a great day today, guys,” Staley said at one point. “Physical. Fierce. I want the quarterback to feel the consequences of something bad happening. Show ‘em how we practice. Keep reinforcing it with your players. Talk to them. Talk about competition all the time. Talk about playing the game the right way.”

We went to his office before practice. On the desk was a book called, “When Breath Becomes Air,” by a Stanford neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi, written while he was dying of lung cancer at age 37. It’s educational and inspirational and tragic, all at once. Staley, a survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was moved by the book, by the surgeon’s search for meaning and importance, all the way to the end.

“Why ‘When Breath Becomes Air?’ I asked.

Staley opened the book, which was rife with Staley’s hand-written notes and underlined passages. “This book spoke to me,” he said. He found a passage written by Kalanithi and read it aloud: “I was compelled by neurosurgery with its unforgiving call to perfection … Neurosurgery seemed to present the most challenging and direct confrontation with meaning, identity and death.”

“I think this job, being the head coach of a football team, requires that type of skill set,” Staley said. While emphasizing that Kalanithi was trained to save lives and that’s real-worldly far different than being trained to coach football games, using all aspects of your brain and your drive felt similar to Staley.

He said: “The depth and the breadth—you’ve got to have command over a lot of things. You have to be able to deal with tough news. You have to be able to have important relationships in your job and your life. Relationships with patients, relationships with doctors, relationships with your family. A lot’s being asked of you all the time. There’s really high expectations, there’s high pressure on the outside. There’s a standard of performance that is real. That’s why I love it so much—because I think it really brings out the best in you. It requires a lot of you.”

The Chargers practice a few miles from their facility. In the 10-minute ride to practice, I asked Staley about being in charge of a team so early in his life. “I don’t care what your age is,” he said. “Whether you’re 38 or 58, it’s important to know who you’re coaching. I am going through some of the things my players—Corey Linsley, Bryan Bulaga, Derwin James, all with young kids—are going through. We’re raising three kids under 6. What I enjoy the most is staying out here, coaching and teaching and building relationships with the players. Relationships are big for us here. Relationships and competition. I feel like in order for you to push it, you gotta know these guys. A lot of people will say ‘players’ coach.’ I’m like, no, I’m just their coach. I would hope that I’m a players’ coach. I would hope that I would say that I have that type of relationship because then we can push it harder. I can ask more of them.”

On the field, Staley’s defense has a good day. Two picks of Herbert frustrate the young passer (“This defense does a great job of disguising,” Herbert said afterward), and overall, the defense won the day. Brandon Staley’s team seems happy, forward-looking, optimistic—which, of course, it should be in training camp.

“He challenges us every day,” James said after practice. “He’s a great leader too. My mom always taught me you can lead at any age. It blows me away that he was a college coordinator five years ago, but that shows me the kind of person and coach he is. It’s his time.”

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here.

Super Bowl squares 2023: Explanation, how to play, rules and printable template


Star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts are set to go head-to-head today, Super Bowl Sunday, when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.

Even if you’re home watching on the couch, you can still get in on the action by filling out your squares, which has become a Super Bowl tradition.

What are Super Bowl squares and what is the format?

A board features 10 rows and 10 columns, adding up to 100 squares total. One of the teams is assigned the rows, while the other team is assigned the columns.

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Each person in the pool then chooses one (or multiple) squares, depending on your pool’s rules. In some pools, squares are randomly assigned, while you may choose your own square in other pools.

After all the squares have been filled, numbers between zero and nine are randomly chosen for each row and column.

How do Super Bowl squares work? How do I win?

Each square has a corresponding row and column number. At the end of each quarter, the player whose two numbers match the end digits of each team’s point total will win.

RELATED: Why does the Super Bowl use Roman numerals for naming?

For example, if the score at the end of the first quarter is Chiefs 13, Eagles 7, the player whose box corresponds with “3” for Kansas City and “7” for Philadelphia would win.

Most pools pay out for the final score at the end of each quarter, for a total of four winners (1st quarter, halftime, 3rd quarter, final score). Some pools pay out for every score throughout the game.

Where can I find a template for Super Bowl squares?

NBC Sports has provided a template below, complete with a 10 by 10 grid. Fans can click here to print this template out to use for their Super Bowl squares.

How can I watch and live stream Super Bowl 2023?

  • When: Sunday, February 12, 2023
  • Where: State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
  • TV Channel: FOX
  • Follow along with ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports for NFL news, updates, scores, injuries, and more

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season and Playoffs, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

Marry Your Passion With Your Curiosity: Panelists Discuss Building Your Brand in Leadup to Super Bowl LVII


Fans in every color jersey of the rainbow internationally will tune into Super Bowl LVIII this Sunday. Ahead of the game, NBCU Academy partnered with PNE Showcase and Arizona State University to bring students and professionals an inside look at the people who color outside the lines for the National Football league.

The three powerhouses co-hosted the Building and Being Your Brand seminar in hopes of helping students and other national professionals identify their brand and the best ways to communicate the pillars of their brand to the masses.

There are just under 4,000 people employed by the NFL, which makes for hundreds of job paths within the league. As the panel began, NFL international marketing and player relations manager Emily Wirtz spoke about how her roots in Germany translated into the role she has now.

The first door opened for Wirtz in the NFL was as a digital video editor and producer. Wirtz transparently admitted she did not feel qualified for the job but with an extra push from her father, she decided to still go after the interview.

“My dad told me that even if I do not land the job, it will at least be good interview practice,” Wirtz said.

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Wirtz still thanks her father to this day. Her video supervisor learned she spoke German and instantly recommended her for a role within the NFL’s global expansion. She would go on to execute the first NFL game in Germany. Germany’s first official exposure to American football at the highest level sold out of millions of tickets in three minutes.

“When we are on the way to these international games in London, Germany and Mexico City, the NFL staff, we’re usually on a big bus or van,” Wirtz said. “In the van it’s about 40 of us and we’re literally trying to find a fan in one of the jerseys of all 32 teams. When we see someone we are like Chargers, Rams or whatever the team is! Every international game I’ve been to, all 5, we’ve been able to spot someone in each jersey.”

By showing up as her authentic self, Wirtz was able to leverage her job. All five of the panelists promoted a “helmet-off” approach to the game. This idea promotes getting to know the stories of the players to help advance the game.

Director of NFL college and club social marketing Sana Merchant-Rupani discussed taking on tasks that require you to grow. Before joining the league, Merchant-Rupani worked in digital marketing at Empire State Realty Trust. In the position, she was tasked with creating an Instagram presence for the company.

Merchant-Rupani had no experience with Instagram when taking on this task but it directly led her into her current role.

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“You have to marry your passion with your curiosity,” Merchant-Rupani said.

Senior manager of NFL game operations Karley Berry further emphasized Merchant-Rupani’s message by presenting the contrast. Berry posited that if a job is presented to someone and they check off all the job requirements, then the job is not for them.

The entire audience was initially confused by the statement but as Berry went on, she explained you must take a job that will offer you something new and will leave you with an extra skill you did not have going into the position.

Prior to stepping into the game operations realm, Berry took her first step into the football world when she was a recruiting assistant at Penn State University.

Growing up around Nittany Lion football her entire life, she knew the brand of the university’s football team. While in State College, PA, she challenged the recruitment staff to go after men with outstanding character.

“When we would go on home visits, I would make sure to pay attention,” Berry said. Berry wanted to be intentional with her tactics and believed the best players were those that were good people on and off the field.

Merchant-Rupani, Berry and Wirtz all used elements of their personal brand to succeed in their current spaces to get to their dream work destination. This message was passed on to the audience through painting their journey through experiences.

“We all know about Patrick Mahomes. There are other stories,” senior manager of NFL social marketing Jordan Dolbin said.

RELATED: Chiefs Super Bowl history

Dolbin called on storytellers to push their limits. She wanted to ensure she was challenging audience members to go beneath the surface of the performers with the best stat numbers.

She brought up a story she came across during her Super Bowl preparation that was a “where are they now’ approach to telling the stories of all the players that caught interceptions against Maholmes in high school.

“Now, that is the story I will remember when this is all over,” Dolbin said.

Cincinnati Bengals special teamer Trayveon Williams added his experience to the panel, emphasizing exploring his other interests outside of football. He also commended today’s players for the tenacity in their approach to leaving a legacy outside of football.

The panel agreed collectively their main reason for taking time away from all the Super Bowl work obligations and festivities was to provide the representation they did not see while carving out their career paths.

NBCU Academy will be virtually hosting the Next Level Summit on March 22, 2023.

Author’s Note: Alexis Davis is currently in her last semesters in Walter Cronkite’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She received her bachelor’s from North Carolina A&T State University in multimedia journalism in May 2022. Davis is a featured writer for the MEAC conference. Davis also switches between play-by-play announcer, analyst and sideline reporter for the PAC-12 conference’s app. She also hosts a podcast focusing on international basketball players and their fashion experiences called What’s in Your Bag?