Recapping the 2021 Los Angeles Chargers, Part 1

The 2021 Los Angeles Chargers looked entirely different from previous years. It seems a changed organization.

On January 4th, 2021 the Chargers cut ties with head coach Anthony Lynn, along with much of his personnel. They had just delivered an underwhelming 7-9 record. Fans across the world were united in confusion and frustration at some of the play calls and questionable clock management.

Ending a 4-year stretch with the Chargers, Lynn was the 4th head coach in 18 seasons. He was brought in to oversee the teams' transition from San Diego to Los Angeles in 2017.

Former Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn (Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Lynn’s hire can be viewed as an attempt to overhaul the team culture as well as the expectations of the fan base. The Chargers’ impatience with Lynn suggested how seriously the team ownership and front office saw this task.

Visible confusion between offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and Anthony Lynn (Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Lynn's head coaching mediocrity was largely overshadowed by the stellar performance of quarterback Justin Herbert’s rookie year in 2020, earning him an Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Enter Brandon Staley.

The hire of new head coach Brandon Staley just two weeks after the end of the 2020 season brought with it a new dawn.

A defensive-minded coach, Staley was drawn to the Chargers from their neighboring Los Angeles Rams by a vision he had for Justin Herbert. Staley had a vision to make the cogs begin to turn of what would become an explosive offense.

Justin Herbert gifts Brandon Staley his first game ball as head coach after the Week 1 win over the Washington Football Team (Mike Nowak/Los Angeles Chargers)

Enhancing the offensive line was the core of Staley’s first year plan to bolster this already promising offense.

Over the next year the Chargers learned to perform together in a powerful new scheme spearheaded by their promising leader. While the foundations of this developing structure had already been in place with the hardened veterans on the team, the mortar was quickly set with the additions of rookies and new free agent signings.

Another offseason together should help smooth down the rough edges, brought about by drops and penalties, required to make this fort complete.

Derwin James hyping up the defense at SoFi Stadium (Mike Nowak/Los Angeles Chargers)

Clear effects of Staley's leadership have been evident throughout the highs and lows of this past season. The commendable way in which players talk about each other and their coaching staff is especially noticeable this year compared with those past. This is most true when listening to Herbert talk about his achievements, offering only praise and respect for each player that helped make it happen, keeping none for himself. A trait that previous Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers exhibited frequently, humility comes to Herbert naturally.

A restructure of any major project does not come without its potholes. Issues this year came in various forms. On the defense: a lack of run stop ability became disturbing to watch. On offense: drops by wide receivers and tight ends made our hearts sink. In overall discipline: the Chargers had the 3rd highest number of penalties in the league.

The depth of the team in key positions was largely unaddressed by general manager Tom Telesco over the last year. These issues are not foreign to Chargers fans. Depth and defense in particular are two noticeable struggles that have clung to this team from a 9 year tenure of Telesco.