Few coaches have had a career arc like Chargers head coach Brandon Staley.
Back as early as 2016, Staley was a highly respected Division III coordinator at John Carroll (OH) and in 2017 he made the jump to the NFL as the outside linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears for a few seasons, then accepted the same role with the Broncos in 2019 before Sean McVay brought him to LA for a season to be the Rams defensive coordinator in 2020.
That meteoric rise leads us to where we are today, with Staley in his first season as the head coach of the Chargers, who sit at 3-1 early in the season.
Four games in, the Chargers rank smack dab in the middle of the NFL in rushing yardage and in the top 6 in the league in passing on the arm of a young and promising quarterback in Justin Herbert.
Asked at a recent presser about the run game and it setting up the subsequent play-action passing game, Staley (a former college quarterback himself) shared some great perspective on why the run game is important, but maybe not for the reason many think.
"You don't need the running game to be a good play action team, but what you need the running game for is the physical element of the game. There is a physicality to the game that is real. If you're strictly a passing team, there is a physical element to the game that the defense doesn't have to respect. That's the truth."
"The data will tell you, you don't need a run game to play [action] pass. You don't need that. But what running the football does for your is that it brings a physical dimension to the football game, and what the running game does that the passing game does not, is the running game forces a defense to play blocks and to tackle. That happens on a run play. You must play blocks, and you must tackle. In the passing game, those things don't have to happen. Right? You don't have to play as many blocks, and you may not have to tackle, based on incomplete or not."
"So what the running game does is it really challenges your physicality. That's why I think the run game is important to a quarterback, because it is going him, literally, to have more space to operate when you do throw the football. It's not that you need the run game to throw it, it's just what it gives the rest of your skill players."
Upon hearing this from Staley, my first thought went to the handful of college Air Raid teams who pretty much abandon the run and have trouble seeing consistent success, then the high school coach in me thinks of epic battles through my career with Power T teams that grind out yards on the ground and force you to "play blocks and tackle" every single down and only pass a handful of times a year.
Hear Staley's full comments in the clip.