COSTA MESA — The Chargers’ come-from-ahead, 31-30 loss on Saturday night to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the wild-card playoff round was devastating on many levels, with the fallout still not fully felt upon their return to their training facility Sunday. Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next:
Squandering a 27-0 second-quarter lead will have consequences for the Chargers. Quarterback Justin Herbert, safety Derwin James Jr., running back Austin Ekeler and linebacker Drue Tranquill each said coach Brandon Staley should not bear the burden of the players’ breakdowns in the second half.
Each said his confidence in Staley had not changed in the wake of the Chargers losing that lead, the third-largest given up in an NFL playoff game. Each said he supported Staley. Each said changes weren’t necessary among the coaches or front office. Each shouldered a degree of blame.
“We believe in coach Staley and the front office 100%,” Herbert said as the Chargers cleaned out their lockers less than 24 hours after their playoff elimination. “Everyone would be lucky to have a coach like Staley. He’s been an incredible leader. He’s got the respect of everyone on our team.
“He’s genuine. He’s himself and we believe in him. He’s been the same person he’s been the past two years. It didn’t go our way this year, but we took a big step forward. We believe in this coaching staff, this team. We’ve got the right pieces. We’ve just got to put them together and execute better.”
Asked if he would use his influence to keep the coaching staff intact during what is likely to be an offseason of change throughout the locker room, Herbert said he would, adding, “I have complete trust in this coaching staff and this front office. I think we did take a big step this year.”
In fact, the Chargers were 10-7 this season, advancing to the playoffs for the first time since the 2018 season. Last season — Staley’s first as an NFL head coach after four years as an assistant coach — they went 9-8 and missed the playoffs with an overtime loss in Week 18 to the Las Vegas Raiders.
“Obviously, it’s not the way we wanted to end the year (Saturday in Jacksonville),” Herbert said. “Really, only one team is happy at the end of the year. But this coaching staff, this team, I believe in them 100%. I know that we will continue to give it everything we’ve got for as long as we can.”
Ekeler, James and Tranquill echoed Herbert’s support of Staley and his staff.
Said Ekeler: “As players, we have to make the plays. I was telling my running backs coach (Derrick Foster), ‘You set up everything for me. I have to make the cut. You can’t make the cut for me. I have to see what’s in front of me. I have to make it happen.’ They put us in position to make the plays.”
Said James: “That’s my guy (Staley). He’s put a lot into it. A lot of guys believe in him. I definitely believe in him. We’re going to get it right. Everyone respects him. Everyone loves him. We didn’t get it done for our fans, for our coaches and for ourselves. That’s why it kind of hurts right now.”
Said Tranquill: “I love coach Staley. I think he’s a very, very intelligent coach. When you’re up 27-0, it doesn’t really matter, the play calling. You’ve got to go out and execute as players, and we didn’t do that. When you’re up 27-0 in the NFL, it should be good enough. You’re one of the top players in the world.
“I fully support coach Staley. I fully support our staff.”
BOSA EXPLAINS HIMSELF
Edge rusher Joey Bosa said he didn’t wish to talk about his two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties, including the one given for spiking his helmet as Staley tried to calm him near the Chargers’ sideline. That penalty enabled the Jaguars to convert a two-point conversion from the 1-yard line rather than the 2.
“I really, really do want to say some things,” Bosa said before going ahead and saying them. “I need to be more accountable for my actions. It’s a heated game. I’m hurting out there. I’m playing on half a leg (after returning from a 12-week layoff following groin surgery).”
Asked if the fractured rib cartilage he suffered in the Chargers’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 was now fully healed and in the past, Herbert said, “Time was the best healer, and just getting through it, icing it and doing everything I could to get it better. But it’s behind us now.”