This Is Not The Face Of A Man With Job Security

It’s been a long time since Brandon Staley wasn’t going to be fired by the Los Angeles Chargers, so long that the array of antisocial media messages regarding that very thing last night seemed to be the equivalent of backing over a dead squirrel. Even the gentlest of grenades still had the same point: this man has hours left, not days, weeks, or games. I mean, if you like your job, you don’t lose 63-21 to a team of persistent failures whose last effort was a shutout loss.

But slow-motion firings seem to last forever, and Staley has been updating his résumé with his well-charred hindquarters since last year because unless you’re Mike McCarthy, hot seats do not cool over time. The Chargers have underachieved so consistently for so long that mere defeat is no longer interesting. They blew a 27-0 lead in the playoffs last year, so the logical bookend for that was giving six touchdowns before halftime, with the added groining being the fact that last year’s bed-fouling happened against an accomplished Jacksonville team while this shamefest was provided opposite the clinically depressing Las Vegas Raiders. The surprise for most people is that Staley wasn’t fired during the game just to see if Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit were still paying attention.

But most people have been committed to this bit for so long that when Staley finally does get it, it won’t even make the crawl at the bottom of the screen on the NFL Network. Kyle Brandt will toss it off as an aside. “You know Chargers coach Brandon Staley? Well, no he isn’t.” And Jamie Erdahl will add, “I actually didn’t know the Chargers were coached.”

Last night never really promised much in the buildup, and within 12 minutes the minimal expected drama had been reduced to morbid curiosity. It surely wasn’t about Staley, as his demise had already been well-prophesied, although the Amazon telecast kept showing him talking into a giant card of ineffective plays when they weren’t showing Mark Davis with a small army of water bottles before him that suggested seriously overtaxed kidneys. They never showed Chargers general manager Tom Telesco, who amazingly isn’t being blamed nearly enough for this scandalously incomplete roster, or owner Dean Spanos, who has hired this army of management mega-meh men. This was long ago declared to be Staley’s doing because if everyone else in the room is voting yes, you’d be an idiot to vote no.

We have no reason to think Staley isn’t at fault, only because nobody has raised a significant defense on his behalf. But this has been his lot in life almost from the moment he took this ill-fitting gig. The Chargers are one of those teams that are deemed guilty by reason of existence, mostly because so many people fall into the trap of thinking “They’re just one guy away” when in fact they are one guy away from being one guy away forever. As a historical truth, anyone who takes this job is perceived to be inadequate for the job specifically because he took the job.

True, the Chargers were particularly doomed last night because they were playing without either Justin Herbert or Keenan Allen, the effect of which took them from being a four-point favorite to a three-point underdog. But losing by six scores under nearly any circumstances is typically unforgivable. Sean Payton survived the Broncos’ 70-21 loss to Miami in Week 3 only because he had just taken the gig, was making tons of money, and had a brand-new owner who didn’t want his first personnel move to be that daft.

Staley won’t be nearly so fortunate, but every day he is still in the job is increasingly more burden than boon, a combination of agony leading toward anticlimax. At this point, it almost doesn’t matter when it happens, except of course to him and his family, but now we’re starting to view him as a human being rather than a topic for brief conversation, and that simply won’t do. He’s been on the hot seat too long to be regarded as anything other than the lunch special. 

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