COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Coaches love to extoll the virtues of their profession, calling it a "small fraternity." They meet at the combine, individual workouts, college workouts, meetings, workouts called by agents and various clinics. They get close and rarely forget something they learned from someone else.
Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley is insistent his coaching "tree" is his father, Bruce, and his late mother, Linda, who died of breast cancer after a nine-year-battle, but there is much more. Staley is smack in the middle of developing his own tree, one that spans from his playing days at Division II Mercyhurst University to his rapid ascent through the NFL coaching ranks.
Staley has utilized the connections he's made and lessons he's learned through his coaching journey to craft his first Chargers staff.
"We wanted to hire a diverse set of backgrounds," Staley said, striving for a combination of the best of the best from the NFL and college. "Coaches who really wanted to be here. We believe in character and capacity ... we wanted it to mean something for each."
In just about every case, the coach is young, and the position is a promotion. They are hungry.
"I hired a lot of guys I had relationships with and guys I didn't have relationships with," Staley said. "And now we have a whole staff together. It's a lot of responsibility but I'm proud of the product we have today."
Consider who he hired for his staff from his previous football stops:
In 2005, Staley -- a quarterback -- transferred to the Pennsylvania college from the University of Dayton to join his twin brother, Jason, for a final season. The Lakers' offensive coordinator was Joe Lombardi, who Staley recently hired as the Chargers' offensive coordinator. Lombardi (grandson of Vince, who died before he was born) delivered coaching lessons that Staley cited as an inspiration to go into coaching.
"It's when I really fell in love with the game," Staley said. "I thought Joe was an outstanding teacher, really progressive at that time. I had never been around an offense like that from a mental or preparation standpoint. And as a gym rat, I couldn't get enough of it.
"He really taught me the game at a high level. How do these concepts fit together and how can we get in and out of plays at that time and that's kind of where my love for coaching came from."
Lombardi has spent most of the past 13 years working with the New Orleans Saints and future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees. Now he'll get to work with young phenom Justin Herbert, who thrived as a rookie under former Chargers coaching Anthony Lynn. Herbert is smart, very smart. And, oh yeah, he was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after 4,336 passing yards and an NFL rookie-record 31 touchdown passes.
Lombardi and Staley say they plan to mix systems ... use what worked last year under Lynn while bringing in QB coach Shane Day, who spent the last year with the San Francisco 49ers.
Herbert is back from vacation in his native Eugene, Oregon, and is ready to roll, noting that the rest was good for his arm.
"I think they're going to bring in some of their stuff that has been able to work," Herbert said. "A lot of stuff that we were able to do last year, I think that will carry over."
Northern Illinois was Staley's entry into the coaching world, as he served there as a graduate assistant from 2006-2008. Fifteen years following his NIU entrance he hired receivers coach Chris Beatty, who was the running backs coach at Northern Illinois in 2007. Beatty coached at the high school level in Virginia before that. He followed up his season with the Huskies with stints at West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Illinois, Wisconsin, Virginia, Maryland and Pittsburgh at various positions before moving to the NFL, where he'll oversee a Chargers receiving corps led by Pro Bowler Keenan Allen.
Staley landed with the Volunteers in 2012 as a graduate assistant. Nine years later, he hired Derrick Ansley, who was a grad assistant at Tennessee alongside Staley, as the Chargers' defensive backs coach. Staley also tapped into the Tennessee graduate assistant pool further by hiring Derrick Foster as the running backs coach. Ansley and Foster have a deep assortment of player talent available to them.
Staley was the outside linebackers coach for the Bears from 2017-2018, working under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Coaches he hired for the Chargers with Bears ties include.
Special teams coordinator Derius Swinton was with the Bears in 2017 and also has Tennessee ties (graduate assistant from 2007-08).
Offensive line coach and run game coordinator Frank Smith was the Bears' tight ends coach from 2015-17.
Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers was the Bears' D-line coach from 2015-20. Staley said Rodgers "was one of the most sought-after guys in the NFL and one of the best coaches I know."
Alex G. Spanos Coaching Fellow John Timu played 29 games at linebacker for the Bears from 2015-17, including 11 under Staley in 2017.
Staley became the outside linebackers coach for the Broncos in 2019, following Fangio, who was hired as Denver's head coach. Staley's new defensive coordinator with the Chargers, Renaldo Hill, was the Broncos' defensive backs coach the past two seasons. Hill and Staley, who was the defensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams last season, will work in tandem to lead a Chargers' defensive corps headed by All-Pro defensive end Joey Bosa.
Los Angeles Chargers
Staley kept two coaches -- sixth-year defensive line coach Giff Smith and fifth-year offensive assistant Dan Shamish. Smith worked alongside two coaches that were on the Rams' staff with Staley. Rams defensive line coach Eric Henderson was an assistant D-line coach with the Chargers in 2017-18 while Rams outside linebackers coach Chris Shula was a defensive quality control coach with the Chargers in 2015-16.
Shula was also the defensive coordinator at Division III John Carroll in 2014. The coordinator that both preceded and replaced him at John Carroll? You guessed it, Staley.