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Chargers’ Brandon Staley explains the why behind their fourth-down aggressiveness: “It just has to be a fearlessness of spirit “

The mentality of fourth down aggressiveness is an intensity that’s behind every play.

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Even though 2021 was Brandon Staley’s first year as Chargers head coach, he was already one of the league’s most aggressive play-callers on fourth down.

Staley’s Chargers attempted 34 fourth down conversions in the previous season. In the NFL, only the Lions (41) and Bears (43) had more (36).

The Chargers were the only team with a winning record to try to convert at least 30 fourth downs last season, so Staley’s boldness was especially noteworthy.

pic.twitter.com/yF5jv6IPws THE CHARGERS ARE BIG FANS OF 4TH DOWN This is a script from the PFF Fantasy Football 2022 season. — PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF Fantasy) January 10, 20

Some of his gambles backfired, especially when they occurred deep within his own end zone or when other coaches would have punted to give their defense a chance to set up the offense for success.

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This is a 4th down stop for the @Raiders at the LAC 18! Watch #LACvsLV on NBC! https://t.co/ApuDpKzsOv pic.twitter.com/szCUvVPsW2 January 10, 2022 — NFL (@NFL)

Staley discusses fourth-down tries against the Chiefs in MORE detail. We’re going to play like that from now on

In a recent interview with The Athletic, Staley explained that he is comfortable with the scrutiny and criticism he has received as a result of this.

And that’s what I set out to do,” Staley said. “This game requires a fearlessness on the field. When I first joined the team, the narrative was always the same: someone was going to get hurt, the team was going to blow a lead, or something terrible was going to happen. Something called “Chargering” exists. All the things going on in my life outside of myself are just excuses. Justifications of this sort amount to nothing more than that.

Consequently, what can be done to alter this situation? Now you just need to take a new tack, do things differently. … Rather than focusing on the other team, we’ll be thinking only of ourselves. We will have to pay for it. That’s why we need to instill in our players the confidence that comes from knowing they can take the initiative and lead when given the ball. Even if we end up losing, it will be on our terms and not theirs.

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Staley’s approach cost the Chargers at times in 2021, but they were still among the best fourth-down teams. They were fourth in the NFL in fourth-down conversion percentage (64.7%) and second among teams that attempted more than 20 fourth downs.

Read more about Brandon Staley’s explanation for the botched fourth-down play against the Raiders here.

That would be enough to keep Staley going, but he also thinks there will be some kind of secondary benefit. He believes that the decision to go for it on fourth down has boosted quarterback Justin Herbert’s confidence.

For some reason, Justin was the first person to come to mind. Staley claimed, “I wasn’t paying attention to anything or anyone else.” When I first got here, I told myself, “I know I have a special quarterback.” As a result, I am aware that it is also my responsibility to instruct him. As his manager, it’s my job to help him get ready. What’s more, I’m aware of the consequences of removing the ball from his control.

He needs to be in these high-stakes situations in order to develop and reach his full potential. It doesn’t matter if he throws it or not. For me, it all started with the fact that he has possession of the ball and that we, as a team, can do anything with it.

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When Staley gets these kinds of results, it’s hard to argue with him. On fourth down, Herbert was among the best passers in the league, and his second season was even better. He threw for a career-high 197 yards and two touchdowns while completing 15 of 22 passes. His fourth-down passer rating of 126.5 was the fourth-best among NFL quarterbacks who attempted at least 10 passes on that down.

Quarterback Value of Passer on Fourth Down Joe Burrow 145, Kyler Murray 136, Zach Wilson 135, Justin Herbert 126, 5.

It’s true that Staley’s ideas have their flaws. When the Chargers failed to score on two fourth downs inside their own territory early in Week 6’s lopsided loss to the Ravens, 34–6, the fans in attendance saw it firsthand.

The team may not be perfect, but their numbers are hard to deny. Staley seems determined to keep calling the same aggressive plays in his second season as head coach.

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