COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP)Justin Herbert, Joey Bosa and the rest of the Los Angeles Chargers were still stinging Sunday from the disappointment of seeing their season end in Jacksonville less than 24 hours earlier.
Yet after they suffered the third-largest collapse in postseason history and fell to the Jaguars 31-30 on Saturday night, players reiterated their support for embattled coach Brandon Staley.
”Everyone would be lucky to have a coach like Staley. He’s been an incredible leader and has the respect of everyone on our team,” Herbert said. ”He’s genuine, he’s himself and has been the same person for the past two years.”
Staley has a 19-16 record, including playoffs, in his two seasons. He led the Chargers to their first playoff appearance since 2018, but his decisions that contributed to his team blowing a 27-0 lead have prompted intense scrutiny.
If owner Dean Spanos decides to move on from Staley or general manager Tom Telesco, Bosa would end up playing for his fourth head coach in eight seasons. Telesco’s 10 seasons as GM include three playoff appearances and no division titles.
While Bosa, the Chargers’ standout pass rusher, is used to change, he said he supports Staley and is comfortable with the staff in place.
”I really do trust these coaches. He’s a fresh head coach in this league. To expect he’s going to know everything right away is kind of silly,” Bosa said. ”I think we need to just keep building. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Last season, Los Angeles dropped three of its final four games, including 35-32 in overtime in the finale at Las Vegas. Staley called a late timeout when the Raiders were content to play for a tie, which would have put the Chargers in the playoffs.
This season, the Chargers were 6-6 before winning four straight to reach the playoffs. But Staley’s decision to give significant playing time to starters in last week’s meaningless regular-season finale at Denver backfired when receiver Mike Williams suffered a season-ending back injury late in the first half of a 31-28 loss.
Then came Saturday’s second-half collapse against the Jaguars, when many of the Chargers’ shortcomings resurfaced.
The coaching staff struggled to match Jacksonville’s halftime adjustments, and the run defense faltered at the worst possible time.
Los Angeles was outscored 103-52 in the third quarter this season, including the playoffs. Travis Etienne’s 25-yard run late in the fourth quarter to set up Riley Patterson’s game-winning, 36-yard field goal was similar to James Robinson’s 50-yard touchdown in the Jaguars’ 38-10 win on Sept. 25.
Bosa, who said he was disappointed that some teammates were waving goodbye to fans when it was 27-0 during the first half, thinks the one hurdle the Chargers haven’t overcome is finding a way not to let things snowball out of control.
Bosa let his frustration get to him during the fourth quarter when he slammed his helmet to the turf, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after Christian Kirk caught a 9-yard TD pass. That led to the Jaguars converting a 2-point conversion to get within 30-28 and set themselves up to win in regulation.
”It seems like when things are going too well, and one bad play happens, you kind of get that collective sense, like, `Oh gosh, what’s happening?’ I think I have it ingrained in my head a little bit because it’s happened a million times,” Bosa said.
If Staley returns, it will be because he led the team to the playoffs despite injuries to key starters. Offensive tackle Rashawn Slater (biceps) played in only three games, Bosa missed 12 with a groin injury, and receiver Keenan Allen played in only two of the first nine games because of a nagging hamstring injury.
”I feel like what we built here and what we’ve continued to build every day, it’s something special. And that first half definitely showed that,” safety Derwin James said.
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