The Chargers opened the 2023 regular season in a thrilling game in Los Angeles against the Miami Dolphins, where they came up short, 36-34. Austin Ekeler did his part for the Chargers, rushing for 117 yards, a touchdown, and adding four receptions for another 47 yards. Ultimately, this wasn’t enough, and the Chargers fell to the Dolphins in a back-and-forth game. Following the loss, Ekeler spoke about the team’s inconsistency on the field, and launched a dart in the direction of the coaching staff that could end up being a dagger to Brandon Staley.
“For us, when we have our guys that are getting hurt that are being consistent for us, right, that plays a part into it,” Ekeler said. “And we’ve had injuries over the past years, and you can’t blame everything on injuries. Our coaching hasn’t always been the best. Our play hasn’t always been the best. And when you have a combination of those, then guess what? You’re going to be inconsistent.”
Accountability is always refreshing. But when a player throws coaching under the bus, especially on a staff where the head coach is already on the hot seat, that grabs people’s attention. Ekeler also called out the players, but that isn’t uncommon. Staley and his staff already have their feet to the fire after that playoff loss to Jacksonville, where they squandered a 27-point lead. When a star player publicly shows a lack of confidence in his coach, the end is likely near.
This SoCal squad finally looked like they’d turned a corner last season. Then, that wildcard game against the Jaguars happened. All doubt that had quietly sunk into the background surrounding Staley quickly resurfaced, and Week 1 didn’t help simmer any of that talk. The Chargers have to make it back to the postseason whether they win the AFC West or achieve another wildcard berth. However, they must go one step further this time, advancing to the divisional round. Anything less than that, Staley will likely be coordinating somebody else’s defense in 2024.