Brandon Staley is already becoming a rising star in his first year as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. Staley was a linebackers coach for the Bears and Broncos before spending last season as a defensive coordinator for the Rams, where he parlayed a successful year into the Chargers top job. Now the 38-year-old is leading a 4-1 football team in first place in the AFC West with a young star quarterback in Justin Herbert.
Staley is developing a reputation as one of football’s most quotable coaches. There have been a few viral clips of him this season talking shop with reporters, on why hurries and hits are a better measure of a pass rush than sacks, or why a quality running game is so helpful for a quarterback. While too many NFL coaches try to sidestep any probing questions on strategy out of paranoia or pure incompetence, Staley is the sort of coach who actually listens to questions and tries his best to provide a good answer. On Wednesday, he showed he understands the human aspect of the game, as well.
Staley was asked about Jon Gruden’s resignation from the Las Vegas Raiders after leaked emails exposed the former coach of using racist, misogynistic, and homophobic language in conversation with Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen. Staley gave a great response on why Gruden’s language was so hurtful.
Here’s the full quote from Staley:
Perspective and trust in this world are really, really difficult to achieve. I think about all the people that were affected by those emails — whether you’re a person of color, whether you’re a person, you know, a gender, your sexual orientation. That’s who I’m thinking about because it’s a sacred mantle for someone to call you coach or someone to call you a leader.
“Trust is really, really hard to achieve in this world. It’s really, really challenging to achieve, especially with people with those groups that I just mentioned. People are really guarded and skeptical of people because of emails like that.
“Kindness and lifting people up and respecting people you don’t know, I just think that that’s such a big part of our thing here … listening to people and learning about people because I think what you’ll discover is that we have so much more in common than not.
“For someone like me, it’s just incumbent upon you to set the example every single day so that people that were talked about in those emails that they don’t need to feel that way, they shouldn’t feel that way.
“Hopefully, all of us can learn from this, that it’s about bringing people together for me, so that people can become the people that they dream about. For me, leading this football team and being someone, hopefully, we can be a light for those people in those emails that not everybody’s like that, that there’s far more people that will love you than the opposite.
“Hopefully, this will be a chance for everybody to come together instead of go apart.”
Staley gets it in a way that too many of Gruden’s former associates do not. Whether it was Raiders quarterback David Carr offering up a word salad defense of Gruden’s character, or his former broadcasting colleagues choosing to do the same, the idea that Gruden is the persecuted one in this situation is laughable. Staley put the focus on trying to heal the marginalized groups Gruden took aim at, which is where it should be.
As his former player Keyshawn Johnson said, Gruden has always been a fraud. Few people have ever made more money out of coaching and talking about football. The man has been synonymous with the NFL for more than three decades. If this is what the past of the NFL looks like, hopefully the future can be a lot more like Staley.