COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Chargers -- as far as we know, because they don't talk about such things -- appear to be no farther along in their search for a head coach.
But they could be further than we think with every interview on Zoom, as we can't stake out the practice facility to get a glimpse of someone walking in or out. We do know via various reports, via ESPN's Adam Schefter and others, that they have interviewed six to eight candidates, including offensive coordinators Eric Bienemy from the Kansas City Chiefs and Brian Daboll from the Buffalo Bills. Former Florida and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was on the list as well, but he accepted the Jacksonville Jaguars' head coaching job Thursday.
Chargers GM Tom Telesco says he will have plenty of input on who is hired, but owner Dean Spanos will have the final say.
So now what?
Telesco says they will take their time (perhaps until after the Super Bowl) and are not necessarily set on bringing in an offensive-minded head coach. And that might be a welcome change, as the Chargers have typically hired offensive-minded coaches with limited success. Of the 16 coaches that the Chargers have hired in their history, 14 of them have come from a offensive background, including the last three (Norv Turner, Mike McCoy and Anthony Lynn). Only Harland Svare (1971-73) and Marty Schottenheimer (2002-06) have bucked that trend.
The Chargers last defensive coach was Schottenheimer, who took the Chargers to two playoff appearances in 2004 and 2006 after the team hadn't qualified for the postseason since 1995. That included a 14-2 record in 2006, Schottenheimer's final season.
A defensive-minded coach with a grand offensive plan will work if it's the right fit, but it has to be someone they are comfortable with running the entire team. That means a personality fit as well, which was one of the main reasons they hired Lynn.
Telesco has said it makes sense to him to hire a coach with a strong defensive plan, because he's seen those type of coaches help quarterbacks dissect what the defense is doing. While the Chargers' ace, Justin Herbert, doesn't seem to need a lot of help in that area, more is never worse.
"Just because we have a young franchise quarterback doesn't mean you have to have an offensive-based coach," Telesco said on Jan. 6 after firing Lynn. "You just don't, which is why we're casting a pretty wide net."
That defensive coach would need to build a rapport with Herbert, either face-to-face or by bringing in an assistant coach to build a bond with him. That's what Lynn did with Pep Hamilton, who meshed well with Herbert and could be worth keeping no matter what the next coach's background is.
So if defense is the way the Chargers want to go, there are some candidates to choose from -- with Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus headlining that group after San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was hired by the New York Jets late Thursday.
It will be interesting to see what happens this weekend in the divisional playoffs and who might emerge as the Chargers' hot candidate after that. Eberflus is now free to interview, as the Colts were eliminated by the Bills last week. Staley needs to wait until the Rams are out of the playoffs, but is intriguing not only due to his defensive success (the Rams are among the best defenses in the league) but also with his background as a quarterback at the small college level.
"We have an opportunity to ascend," Telesco said. "And ascend quickly. Bottom line, I have to find someone to get this team over the hump."
As for offensive-minded candidates, ESPN's Marcel Louis-Jacques wrote that Daboll went "beyond Xs and O's" to revive the Bills offense, and is especially loved by the players, especially quarterback Josh Allen, whose grandmother died the night before the Bills' 44-34 win against Seattle in week 9. Allen still had one of the best games of his career after his grandmother's death, with 415 yards and three touchdowns on 31-of-38 passing and a rushing touchdown.
"I hate to keep giving him so much credit," Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs told Louis-Jacques, "I don't want anyone to steal him from me."
As for Bienemy, he reportedly was not going to be interviewed by the Houston Texans, but when Deshaun Watson learned of that and was upset, the Texans suddenly became interested. But with the Chiefs favorites to reach the Super Bowl, it could be a while before any team, be it the Chargers or someone else, can decide on Bienemy.
Brian Schottenheimer, Marty's son, was just let go as offensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, so that's interesting. But his blunders in Seattle (a play mixup on fourth down against the Rams ... sound familiar?) proved to be the deciding factor in Pete Carroll firing him. So it's doubtful the Chargers would go down the Schottenheimer road again.