COSTA MESA, Calif. — When the news of the firing of head coach Brandon Staley became known last Friday the Chargers decided to name outside linebackers coach Giff Smith their interim head coach.
Tuesday was his first opportunity to speak to the media after the news and he was very clear with his message that the team will compete and stay united in the final three games.
“The teams that have been successful, that I’ve been a part of, you have great leaders, and in times of adversity, those are the guys that have to lead,” Smith said. “Even if it’s out of your nature to step up and be aggressive, this is what this team needs for these three weeks. We have a three-week season, and we’re going to play to win.”
The Chargers sit at 5-9 with their final three games against the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, and Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills and Broncos are fighting for a playoff spot, while the Chiefs are vying for the first seed.
Mathematically, the Chargers have yet to be eliminated, but it isn’t looking good with a less than 1% chance to make the playoffs.
“We have three weeks to show the character of the men and the coaching staff that we are, to go out there and compete,” Smith said. “That’s what we’re looking to do, compete, right there, and try to win these next three games.”
The Chargers ownership decided that the 63-21 thrashing at the hands of the Las Vegas Raiders was enough.
“We flushed that game,” Smith said. “It’s embarrassing. It was embarrassing to everybody involved in it.”
Embarrassing was used several times last Thursday after the game and even a few times on Tuesday.
“Emotionally, you just want to burn it, for sure, but there’s a benefit to going back and watching it,” Stick said when asked if they would watch the film from the Raiders game.
The Chargers didn’t come ready to play last week, and sometimes a coaching change could give them an energy boost, especially with the instructions that Smith is giving his captains.
“Just as captains (he) has been putting pressure on us and making sure we keep the energy up,” Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said. “If you feel it drop, pick it back up, making sure we’re all doing this together.”
Smith has worked his way up the ladder, from the University of Arkansas as a graduate assistant to coaching the defensive line at Georgia Tech for five seasons, to making the jump to the Buffalo Bills in 2012.
He has coached five Pro Bowl players like Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa. He coached Derrick Morgan (Titans), Michael Johnson (Buccaneers & Bengals), and even Joe Anoaʻi in the college ranks.
That last name might look familiar because Joe Anoaʻi now goes by Roman Reigns and is the current Undisputed WWE Universal Champion.
The Chargers face a tall task as they face a red-hot Buffalo Bills team coming off wins over Kansas City and Dallas. Now that Staley is gone, defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley will call the defense. There will be some personnel changes, but it will be interesting to see how they perform.
“We’re going to put the best guys out there in the best position to have the opportunity to stop Buffalo and give us a chance to win,” Smith said.
The players are confident in the unity and competitiveness that Smith is preaching. As he takes on a whole new opportunity, he will rely on some advice that former Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey gave him.
“I thought that Chan Gailey had a great one. He said, ‘All of those suggestions and thoughts that you had are now decisions. Good luck,'” Smith said laughing.