Russini: What I’m hearing in Week 15 of the NFL about the league’s coaching and more
Brandon Staley was pulled into the Los Angeles Chargers’ practice facility Friday morning with little, if any, sleep. He knew what was coming. Heck, we’ve all done it. If you watched some of the highlights, or maybe watched the box goal, or even watched the game on Thursday night, you probably made the same face my 2-year-old made when he tried his first lemon last summer.
The whole thing was sour.
The Raiders destroyed the Las Vegas Chargers in a game that could be seen in every Amazon Prime bed, and Staley’s seat was no longer hot, it was on fire.
At about 8 a.m. Friday, he walked into owner Dean Spanos’ office and, after a brief conversation, was fired. Chargers general manager Tom Telesco was also let go. It has been a stunning downfall for Staley, who climbed the NFL coaching ladder with extraordinary ambition. The 41-year-old has had one of the fastest rises in NFL history. After four years as an NCAA Division III defensive coordinator, he transformed the Los Angeles Rams’ defense remotely via Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic and coached it into the No. 1 defense in the NFL. After just one season as the Rams’ defensive coordinator and play-caller, teams like the Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles were vying to hire him. All the owners wanted a “defensive Sean McVay.”
The Chargers won it. They thought they were going to have a supernova, the football world.
Maybe it was too much, too fast.
Three years ago, there were a lot of coaches around the football world wondering how a guy who coaches small college football got the coveted job of guiding quarterback Justin Herbert and the Chargers after just one season as an NFL coordinator? There has been a belief around the league that Staley has underperformed since day one because Herbert is thought to be so good, how could the Chargers not be able to win big in their division? How can they not be in the playoffs every year?
Inside Chargers’ Brandon Staley’s demise: ‘Too smart for his own good’
Despite this rise that defied conventional wisdom, Staley was never known for great humility. From some of his answers in press conferences to some in the league who thought his whole point was a bit arrogant, Staley’s vision was never realized. In fairness to Staley, he’s not the only arrogant coach to have crumbled under the circumstances. I’ve had many conversations with general managers over the years who tell me they want their coaches to be confident, and dozens of top coaches ask their agents to reach out to the Spanos to pitch them that they can be the right coach. To draw out Herbert’s talents.
Dean Spanos said in his official statement following the announcement of the dismissals that the Chargers “need a new vision.” A short time later, the coach who wanted the job texted me and said, “Give me Justin Herbert, and I’ll show them this vision.”
If Herbert is truly a superior player, now is the time to show it. This will be the challenge for whoever is chosen. If the next coach also fails, we’ll likely look at the quarterback in a completely different way. Search is ongoing.
Fire the next coach?
There are no surprises coming to Washington at the end of the regular season. At this point, the understanding around the building based on several people I’ve talked to is that Ron Rivera and some members of the front office will be fired. Since taking over the team, new owner Josh Harris has had a vision of keeping Rivera around for the rest of the season, and then moving on. It’s really not a secret anymore.
A similar picture is shaping up in New England, where most people believe that at the end of this season there will be a mutual parting of the ways. The athleteJeff Howe went into more depth here:
With tension running rampant in the Patriots’ ranks, can a winning streak save Bill Belichick’s job?
(Oh, the Patriots wouldn’t trade Vrabel if they and Belichick parted ways. Nothing changes there.)
Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Antonio Pierce is doing everything he can to get the head coaching job permanently. His interim experience has taken over the Raiders’ locker room, and with three games remaining, he’s given one final push to show he’s the right person for the job.
Over the past few weeks, his former Giants coach Tom Coughlin, along with Adam Gaze and Marvin Lewis, have been offering him advice. It’s as if Pierce was preparing for a test and hired a school of teachers who had seen it all to give him some answers. Raiders owner Mark Davis will still have to conduct a coaching search at the end of the year, even if he decides to hire Pierce. This is still a wait-and-see mode depending on how the next few weeks go.
Take her out of the game
On Monday night, Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill injured his hip while NFL owners were gathering in Dallas to begin discussions on some pivotal matters in the NFL. The hip drop was the headline as commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear the league wanted to take it out of the game. That Goodell clearly expressed this opinion during league ownership meetings tells you where this is headed. The league will likely ban him before next season. Expect more movement on this matter, such as a quick push and a kickoff matchup when the NFL Competition Committee meets in February and at the spring meetings in March.
C.J. Stroud suffered a concussion in last Sunday’s game, and the rookie quarterback is in concussion protocol. Stroud still needs to pass some additional tests, and a team source said he will not play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans and has not been in the facility much in the past week.
The opportunity is there for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday night, and they know it. There is still a chance they can lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC and their game against the Baltimore Ravens could be the thing that ultimately decides that. If the Jaguars win, they will compete for a match with Baltimore in the standings.
It won’t be easy. Jacksonville is coming off two losses, and QB Trevor Lawrence is playing with a painful sprained ankle. The Ravens have been rolling all season and have some situations right now. Why? During meetings last week, they were discussing their game against the Jaguars in Jacksonville last season, a game in which the Ravens blew a fourth-quarter lead and lost 28-17. Baltimore had Jacksonville on third-and-over on the winning drive and couldn’t close it out. “It’s a game that still hurts us,” one Ravens source told me.
So here comes Baltimore, here comes Nelson Agholor. Before I get into him describing me as “the unsung hero in the wide receiver room,” no matter what he accomplishes as a player, I can’t erase this massive clip of his time with the Eagles and this soundbite. Please watch:
Now in his ninth season, Agholor joined the Ravens last March and has as many touchdowns as Odell Beckham Jr. and rising standout Zay Flowers. This is a room that has been criticized for years, and now Lamar Jackson has a slew of pass catchers who can get it all done.
I did well
There haven’t been many memorable moments for the Titans this season, but what they did on “Monday Night Football” against the Dolphins will go down as their greatest comeback of the season.
Tennessee became the first team in NFL history to pull off a comeback of more than 14 points in the final three minutes to win the game.
Now here’s the amazing story. Let’s go back. The team scored a touchdown to cut Miami’s lead from 27-13 to 27-19 with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. Head coach Mike Vrabel and the Titans decided to go for two points instead of kicking the extra point. The choice was easy because it was planned in advance.
Vrabel and game strategist/director of football management, John Streicher (nicknamed “Stretch”), had already talked about the exact situation of the game the night before over a heavy dinner. Before dinner, they were reviewing some games around the league and focused on a particular team in their division that did not use this strategy after scoring to lose by eight points in the fourth quarter. While enjoying their tomahawk steak, they got into it and discussed their own strategy. He became the center of dinner conversation with other employees and the Vrabel family. This pivotal discussion could not have worked out better for the Giants because when the situation arose, the Giants knew exactly what they were calling it.
Keep in mind that the odds of a two-point attempt being successful are 50-50. When teams have something to believe in, they feel their percentages go up based on the look the opposing team gives and the play they set up. I’d like Stretch to stand with me next time I’m at the roulette table! (Black 17. Always.)
Joe Cole Flacco
The plan was always for the Cleveland Browns to sign Joe Flacco to a contract despite some roster management decisions that sent him to the practice squad the past few weeks. It sounded dirty, but it made sense to the Browns front office and Flacco’s agent, Joe Lenta.
When I asked one Brown source to describe Flacco, they said, “He’s the adult on the team.”
Flacco, nearly 39 years old, is the oldest player on the Browns roster, with the most experience in big moments, including winning a Super Bowl. He also knows the AFC North well. As long as Kevin Stefanski continues to run the ball to give the best part of his team, the defense, time to rest, the Browns have a really good chance of overcoming an incredible number of injuries to reach the playoffs.
He calls his shot.
“I can get to 70,” Dallas Cowboys quarterback Brandon Oubre said this week. This is the distance he thinks he can shoot in a live match. Why do we doubt the newcomer? The former NFL player made all 30 of his goal attempts and 39 of his 42 extra point attempts in his first season in the NFL. Even though he’s never been asked to hit 70 yards in a live game, his attitude tells you he believes it, and that’s most of the battle.
The longest field goal ever made in an NFL game is a 66-yarder by Baltimore’s Justin Tucker in 2022. The 28-year-old Oubre, who was nicknamed “Butter” by quarterback Dak Prescott, cannot suffer from The meltdown is Sunday in Buffalo, where it’s set to be in the 40s with some wind for most of the game.
Finally, as the regular season begins to wrap up and you’re looking for more information about your favorite team or player, feel free to comment below the article with a question. I’ll go to work and dig for you!
(Brandon Staley Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Tags for translation) NFL