Who is Giff Smith? Meet the Chargers’ interim head coach replacing Brandon Staley

There haven’t been a whole lot of positives to point out when discussing the Chargers’ 2023 season. But in the aftermath of Brandon Staley’s dismissal, the franchise is putting its hopes for the immediate future under the watchful tutelage of linebackers coach Giff Smith.

Smith was named Los Angeles’ interim head coach after Staley was sacked on Dec. 15. He was a surprising choice for the job, especially when compared to offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who has been tipped for an NFL head coaching bid since his time in Dallas came to an end.

Smith is a veteran in the City of Angels. He also possesses gobs of footballing wisdom, having made the grade in the college game as both a player and coach before jet-setting around the league as one of its more gifted defensive minds.

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So, just who is Giff Smith? The Sporting News details the rise of the man tasked with leading the Chargers in their last three games of 2023.

Who is Giff Smith?

Smith’s journey starts in the sleepy suburbs of Mableton, Georgia, where he starred as a sack specialist in high school. Smith took his talents to Georgia Southern, thrice earning All-American honors for the then-FCS powerhouse.

After graduating, Smith went straight into the coaching ranks. He popped up at programs across the South, moonlighting as a graduate assistant at Arkansas and Georgia before returning to Georgia Southern as the school’s wide receivers coach in 1996. By ’98, he had moved to Tulane, finding his footing as a defensive line coach. After a five-year spell with the Green Wave and a six-year spell at Georgia Tech, Smith eventually went pro in 2010, joining the Bills as their defensive line coach.

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He made rounds across the league, joining the Titans staff in 2014 and the Chargers’ staff in 2016. He’s been in California ever since, moving with the team when it swapped San Diego for Los Angeles and swapping roles coaching the defensive line, outside linebackers, and now, interim head coach, over the past few years.

“I’ve been in this game a while and there are always new things that come up,” Smith said, per the Los Angeles Times. “You just roll with it. You give to these players. You give to this organization. Then, whatever happens, happens.”

The 55-year-old Smith has been credited with helping Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack develop into all-world pass rushers over the years. He also has decades of experience, a welcome departure from the youthful exuberance of Staley, whose lack of wisdom often was left on display in tight contests.

Above all else, Smith is a Charger through and through. He seems to have the support of those within the locker room, as a result.

“This place matters to him,” quarterback Easton Stick said. “People in the building know him, and they know him well. They know that he cares.”

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