Scapegoating Brandon Staley Allows Justin Herbert To Bear No Responsibility For Playoff Collapse

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Los Angeles Chargers head coach for Brandon Staley is a polarizing figure. Although, most people seem to just hate him. Thus, the media had no problem attacking him on Saturday night. That left quarterback Justin Herbert practically unscathed.

Go to Twitter.com right now and type “Brandon Staley” into the search bar. The blue check brigade wanted him fired before the team left the field.

Before you think this is going to be another defense of Brandon Staley — it isn’t. He clearly was out-coached by Doug Pederson. He screwed up by playing his starters in Week 18 and it cost him Mike Williams.

Though, I’m not going to be one of the media members who pins this entire loss on Staley. Justin Herbert — who seems to be escaping completely unscathed — deserves some criticism, too.

Brandon Staley serving as Justin Herbert criticism shield

Matt Ryan quarterbacked two of the biggest collapses in NFL history. And he was rightfully roasted for it.

But ALL of the blame seems to headed toward Staley and everyone is making excuses for Justin Herbert.

In a game where his team scored 30 points, Justin Herbert was just OK. He completed 25 of 43 passes for 273 yards. He had a touchdown pass and no interceptions while taking three sacks.

But it’s more about the misses that are going nearly undetected. Luckily for him, his biggest issues came when the Chargers had the big lead. But it should have been bigger.

Thanks to Brandon Staley, Justin Herbert is nearly free from criticism after a playoff collapse.
Thanks to Brandon Staley, Justin Herbert is nearly free from criticism after a playoff collapse. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With a 7-0 lead, the Chargers picked off Trevor Lawrence for the second time. On second and goal, Herbert had Keenan Allen wide open on a slant for a touchdown. But his pass deflected off the helmet of Jaguars defender Arden Key. The Chargers settled for a field goal.

It was one of several Herbert passes deflected at the line, thanks to his 3/4 arm angle. Herbert’s size is mitigated by the arm angle.

Herbert misses Allen badly… again.

Toward the end of the first half, The Jags muffed a punt deep in their own territory. Herbert had Keenan Allen wide open AGAIN. And he missed him AGAIN. This one was bad. Herbert faced no pressure from the defense and completely sailed the throw.

Again, the Chargers settle for a field goal. Eight points lost on two missed throws.

At the end of the first half, Jacksonville finally got on the board. But it shouldn’t have happened. On a third and inches, Herbert and receiver Michael Bandy had a horrible miscommunication.

Sure, you can blame Brandon Staley. He bears responsibility here. But the quarterback has to have better control of the offense on such a key play. If he were any other QB, he would. Though Justin Herbert feels immune to criticism.

Others at fault, too

Having Brandon Staley as your head coach is great. He might not be the best coach in the NFL, but he will certainly bear the criticism for you.

Cameron Dicker, who has been excellent this season, missed a very make-able 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. That kick would have given Los Angeles a 13-point lead with less than nine minutes left.

Joey Bosa took not one, but two, 15-yard penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. The second one allowed Jacksonville to attempt the two-point conversion from the one-yard line. They converted, and that paved the way for the Jags to win the game on a field goal.

Not absolving Staley, just pointing out the obvious

People believe Brandon Staley is wasting Justin Herbert. But Staley’s Chargers have had winning records in both of his seasons at the helm. His defense helped open a 27-0 playoff lead — that should have been 35-0 if not for Justin Herbert’s mistakes.

Additionally, Herbert didn’t do anything in the game that made you go “wow.” If anything, it was his counterpart Trevor Lawrence who made those plays.

One final time: I am not saying Staley does not deserve a lot of criticism for a nearly historic collapse. he does.

But so does golden boy, Justin Herbert.


Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.

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