Game Day: Chargers and Brandon Staley can win the blame game

Editor’s note: This is the Wednesday, January 18, edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning. Brandon Staley is scheduled to speak with reporters today for the first time since the minutes after the Chargers’ horrible playoff loss and the firsttime since it became clear his job is safe for now. There’s one thing it would be good to hear him say.

First, headlines:

Even with Paul George back on the court, the Clippers were no match for Joel Embiid and the 76ers.
The Ducks have lost five in a row after falling in Philadelphia.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal is out of the Australian Open after a second-round loss to UCLA’s Mackenzie McDonald.
Tony Finau is one of the hottest golfers on the PGA Tour as the California portion of the schedule begins tomorrow in La Quinta, writes Jim Alexander.
And it’s another sign of age for the Lakers’ LeBron James: He keeps running into opponents whose fathers he played against.

Now, back to the Chargers, who have found one way to get L.A.’s attention for a few days.

Yesterday, the team fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and passing-game coordinator/quarterback coach Shane Day, and scheduled Staley’s end-of-season press conference for this morning.

The implication that Staley isn’t going anywhere just yet is disappointing for those loud fans and analysts who thought Staley should take the fall for the Chargers blowing a 27-0 leadand losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-30 in a first-round playoff game Saturday.

One of the questions today should be: What kind of blame does Staley think he deserves?

Columnist Jim Alexander pointed out that Staley, the former Rams defensive coordinator, didn’t point any fingers at himself right after the game.

“Staley didn’t learn from his former boss,” Alexander wrote. “Sean McVay is famous for taking responsibility after the Rams’ losses, sometimes comically so. Staley made a lot of references about failures in ‘all three phases’ during his postgame remarks Saturday night, but as far as I can tell not once did he say, ‘it’s on me.’

“Maybe some humility is warranted.”

If I heard it once, I heard it 100 times when I covered the Rams’ 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons. Almost anything that went wrong, large or small, McVay would say it was his fault. Quarterback committed a bonehead interception? The coach didn’t put his players in “the best position to succeed.”

Sometimes it was a way to avoid directly criticizing players. Often it was a way of setting an example, encouraging others to shoulder their own share of responsibility for team failures. Usually, McVay took the blame when he knew he wasn’t really to blame and that he wasn’t undermining his job security.

One problem, as Alexander likes to say, is that if you say it’s your fault too often, your bosses might start to believe you.

So it would be understandable that Staley didn’t say it at his most vulnerable moment.

But now he can.

In hoping he talks about what he did wrong, the point isn’t to allow Staley’s critics to enjoy watching his self-flagellation. It’s to hear how he plans to learn from it and what he hopes to do differently in his third season in charge of the Chargers.

Replacing Lombardi and the quarterback coach will offer one chance to change things, and Staley and GM Tom Telesco should be able to choose good ones, so attractive is the opportunity to try to bring out the best in quarterback Justin Herbert.

It made sense to replace Lombardi after a season in which the offense took big steps backward.

But it might have been rash to try to upgrade from Staley after the team’s second straight improved record – from 7-9 to 9-8 to 10-7 – especially since the Chargers knew they were getting a less than fully seasoned coach when they hired him at age 38.

Chargers players didn’t seem hesitant, the day after their playoff loss, in endorsing Staley’s leadership for the future. One element of leadership is creating the expectation that good things will happen under your command. That expectation is in jeopardy after a second straight season ended disastrously.

Saving it begins with showing that there’s a plan for improvement.

And that begins with the coach admitting he’s one piece that has to improve.


Clippers open a trip with their last meeting of the season with Utah, which won two of the first three (6 p.m., BSSC).
Lakers host Sacramento in the first of four straight games against teams ahead of them in theconference (7:30 p.m., SPSN).


The newsletter asked: Are you rooting for Tom Brady to keep playing next season at age 46?

Reader Nancy Clarke said no: “Because I am sick and tired hearing Tom Brady, Tom Brady for years, no matter from where. I am into sports big-time, mostly football and baseball, and every sports show, all they know to say is Tom Brady, Tom Brady.”


As the Southern California sports spotlight turns to basketball and hockey, what or who are you enjoying watching the most? Share your thoughts by email ( or on Twitter (@KevinModesti).


“All that excitement over PG’s return ends in a 120-110 loss to Philly.” – Clippers beat writer Janis Carr ((at)JanisCarr) after Paul George had 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists and five turnovers in his first game since Jan. 5.

1,000 WORDS

Broken tackle: Kaiden Bailey of Crean Lutheran High (Irvine) dribbles past Jonas Hanson of Cypress in Crean Lutheran’s 76-70 victory in an Empire League game last night. Photo is by Leonard Ortiz of the Orange County Register and SCNG.


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