Brandon Staley's bold coaching style put the NFL on notice last year.
The Chargers Head Coach is now being noticed for his ability to connect with players on and off the field, and for his potential to be one of the best in the business at his job.
Lindsay Jones recently compiled The Athletic's third annual NFL 40 under 40 list, with Staley making the cut on the prominent list.
Staley made headlines in his first season as Chargers coach for his aggressive third- and fourth-down play-calling. And even though the Chargers missed the playoffs last season, don't expect Staley to change his approach.
"I'm a big fan of trusting our quarterback, of putting the ball in his hands and putting pressure on the defense. I believe in that," Staley told The Athletic's Daniel Popper late last year. "From a strategic standpoint, there are a lot of reasons why. Fear is definitely not going to be a motivator for us, one that we make decisions by. We're going to be able to live with our results because we trust our process and we trust our players. ... Sometimes you're going to have to live with the criticism. That's part of the job."
Expectations are massive both for Staley and the Chargers as a whole in 2022 thanks to quarterback Justin Herbert and a retooled defensive roster that now includes pass rusher Khalil Mack (via trade with Chicago), cornerback J.C. Jackson (in free agency) and rookie safety JT Woods.
The 39-year-old Staley went 9-7 in his first season with the Bolts, narrowing missing out on the playoffs as a rookie head coach.
In May, Staley spoke about the difference between the first and second years as a head coach.
"I'm just in a lot better rhythm. Last year, you're having to explain everything to everybody for the first time, all of the time," Staley said. "That's happening every single day. Now, that's not the case. Things aren't happening to me for the first time anymore. I think that I'm just in a lot better rhythm.
"I think that I'm able to communicate even more clearly. Communication is your number one role as a leader, and being able to express that to everybody in the organization, not just the players and coaches, it's everybody in the organization," Staley continued. "Just how we orchestrated practice today, it was so much smoother than it was a year ago. I think that that's a winning edge.
"There are a lot of parts in my game that I needed to improve on from last year, and it would be a long press conference to go through all of it, but I think that that's where you have to start when you're talking about improving your football team - you need to start with yourself, and it started from that the end of that last game to now and it's always ongoing until the first game. That's part of being a competitor, there's always more. I'm certainly going through that right now," Staley added.
Staley was among five head coaches who were mentioned, along with Sean McVay (Rams), Mike McDaniel (Dolphins), Kevin O'Connell (Vikings) and Zac Taylor (Bengals).
If it seems those coaches have a California flavor, you're not wrong.
McVay and Staley, of course, coach the league's pair of Los Angeles teams. McDaniel was most-recently the 49ers offensive coordinator before headed to Miami, and O'Connell is now in Minnesota after serving as the Rams OC for the past two seasons.
Taylor also worked for the Rams before heading to the Bengals, a team he led to Super Bowl LVI but fell short against McVay's squad.
Jones' full list on the NFL 40 under 40 can be found here.
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