Why 49ers present Brandon Staley a perfect chance to resurrect his career

In some regards, the 49ers hiring Brandon Staley is mutually beneficial for both sides.

Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley
Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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The 49ers are hiring Brandon Staley to be their next assistant head coach, which is the perfect opportunity to revive his floundering career.

The San Francisco 49ers are no longer on the hunt for a defensive coordinator after firing Steve Wilks in the wake of last February's Super Bowl loss.

Former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley was a candidate for the role. But the Niners ultimately elected to promote from within, placing former defensive passing game specialist Nick Sorenson into the role after he first joined San Francisco in 2022 following tenures with both the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars.

But Staley, too, now finds himself working for head coach Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers as assistant head coach in something of a surprise move.

Is that move a good one?

For both parties, yes.

We shouldn't be that surprised after all. Speaking from the NFL Combine, general manager John Lynch was asked about Staley interviewing with the Niners and had some provocative things to say that all make sense now.

"He's a really bright dude," Lynch said of Staley, via ESPN's Nick Wagoner. "We have an open mind, but we do know there's certain core principles that we're going to always be on the defensive side. ... I wouldn't rule him out because of that."

Why Brandon Staley benefits from joining 49ers

Staley's rise to prominence hit its high-water mark in 2020 when he was at the helm of the Los Angeles Rams defense, a unit that finished No. 1 in both fewest points allowed and fewest yards surrendered.

That translated into him getting the Chargers' head-coaching gig the following year, but his tenure with the Bolts was anything but prominent. While he ultimately finished with a 24-24 overall record with a playoff appearance in 2022, Staley's teams were generally viewed as massive underachievers who never came close to living up to expectations.

Including on the defensive side of the ball, Staley's specialty.

Then, following a 63-21 beatdown at the hands of the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 15, Staley was ultimately let go along with general manager Tom Telesco.

It's going to be hard to shake that reputation, yes. But San Francisco is arguably as good a situation as he could ask for in order to get his career back on track.

For starters, Staley won't be under much scrutiny if the 49ers' own elite defense struggles in 2024. That'll ultimately fall on Sorensen, who is now much more prominent a figure. Assistant head coaches (and whatever other role Staley gets) rarely catch flak, if ever, meaning Staley can operate from within the shadows of Shanahan's coaching crop.

Additionally, Staley will now be working with a defense that ranked No. 3 in scoring last season and boasts All-Pros and Pro Bowlers at every level, including edge Nick Bosa, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, linebacker Nick Bosa and cornerback Charvarius Ward.

It's an ideal landing spot for Staley, no doubt.

Why 49ers benefit from Brandon Staley's presence

Sorensen will ultimately call plays, but he's a first-year coordinator. That's always risky.

Staley, meanwhile, is not a first-year coordinator and also called defensive plays during his head-coaching tenure in Los Angeles. As a top lieutenant to Sorensen now, Staley can assist with proper game-planning and preparation.

For another wrinkle as to why Staley makes sense for the Niners, he's going to be awfully in tune to opposing Shanahan's offense. After all, Rams head coach Sean McVay operates a very similar system, and Staley can provide plenty of insight into how opposing teams will likely try to curtail Shanahan's own offense on a weekly basis.

That can pay off handsomely in practice and during game preparations.

Despite his reputation, as Lynch pointed out, Staley does have a solid defensive mind and one that can be put to use in San Francisco without the pressure of having to get results.

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