Brandon Staley New York Jets
Photo via therams.com

The New York Jets are on the hunt for their head coach. Could the Los Angeles Rams young defensive mind Brandon Staley be the answer?

Brilliant young coaches always deserve an interview. The New York Jets brought in Joe Brady, the young offensive mind from the Panthers for one on Saturday. On Sunday, they’re bringing in the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive mind, Brandon Staley.

Staley is one of the youngest coaches getting interviews this offseason. He isn’t the hot candidate that Brady is, but Staley has drawn some interest for his influence on the LA Rams defense this year.

He’s taken the unit to new heights and that deserves praise. Not to mention he’s learning from THE brilliant young mind, Sean McVay. NFL teams love hiring from McVay’s coaching tree, Staley is going to be the next guy to be plucked.

Does he make sense for the Jets? Let’s take a look.


History

Brandon Staley began his football career as a quarterback at Dayton. Upon graduating he took a job as a graduate assistant with Northern Illinois. He held that position for three seasons. He took his first position coach job at St. Thomas (MN), as their defensive line and special teams coach.

That led to his first coordinator job in 2010. He was named the defensive coordinator at Hutchinson Community College. He held that position for two years before getting called up to a power five school.

Staley took a graduate assistant job at Tennessee. After one year there he became a coordinator again, this time at John Carroll University, he also coached the secondary. Again, after one year he left and took a defensive coordinator job with James Madison, he also coached the linebackers. After a year at JMU, he returned to John Carroll University as their DC and secondary’s coach.

The NFL always finds talent. Even if they’re coaching Division III defenses. The Chicago Bears came calling in 2017. He took over as their outside linebackers coach, a position he held for two seasons. He held the same position with the Denver Broncos in 2019.

After Wade Phillips retired, the Rams hired Staley to take over their defense. The move proved to be a masterstroke.

Under Staley, the Rams improved from 17th in scoring defense to 1st. When a young coordinator has their team first in the league in scoring, the rest of the NFL is going to stand up and take notice.

That noise is only going to get bigger after Staley’s defense completely shut down Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs.

He’s scheduled to interview for the head coach openings with the New York Jets and Los Angeles Chargers.

Scheme

Brandon Staley is credited with innovating a unique defensive scheme in the NFL. Other coaches around the league have gone out of their way to talk about the kind of things that Staley does well and why these new concepts have been so strong.

To keep things simple, Staley runs a 3-4 hybrid defense. This means that while Staley runs a base 3-4 his defense has elements of both 3-4 and 4-3 in it and uses them interchangeably.

Some of his most innovative work has been finding ways to crowd the interior defensive line. Instead of using the typical 3-4 formation, one nose tackle and two defensive tackles/ends, Staley likes to crowd the middle. There are some plays where there are three players who could technically be correctly described as nose tackles.

This has allowed the Rams to create pressure by forcing offensive lines to collapse to help in the middle. If they don’t collapse then Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers get to enjoy one on one matchups against guars and centers, which teams can’t afford. However, if they collapse to help that leaves them vulnerable to edge pressure from the likes of Leonard Floyd.

So basically Staley is forcing offenses to pick their poison. Would they prefer the pressure to come from inside or out? This system works extremely well for the Rams due to their strong interior pass rush, and it would work well with the New York Jets for the same reason.

Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers combined for 90 total pressures according to PFF. Only the Rams pair of Donald and Brockers and the Steelers pair of Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward had more pressure.

By adopting Staley’s innovative defensive scheme the Jets would be able to force pressure up the middle using their elite pass-rushing defensive tackles. That would in turn allow pressure to come from the edge more frequently, something the Jets have historically struggled mightily with.

That’s just the beginning though. In the secondary Staley requires corners who can play both man and zone coverage. He doesn’t play one over the other, he uses both and often disguises his coverages by starting in one and morphing into the other.

This can confuse quarterbacks and force them to hold onto the ball an extra second or two longer, which could lead to a sack or pressure that forces a bad throw.

By combining Staley’s unique pressure scheme with his complex coverage scheme the Rams have been able to dominate offenses around the league. They’re incredibly tough to play against because the defense is so well schemed that its weaknesses are covered up by other strengths.

That kind of innovative thinking could take the New York Jets defense to the next level. They have the players to make it work on the defensive line, but the secondary is going to need a lot of work if they’re going to try and pull this one-off.

Is he the next New York Jets head coach?

Brandon Staley is the underdog in this race. He has an uphill battle, as he lacks experience and likely doesn’t fit the CEO archetype the Jets are looking for. However, teams can throw away archetypes when a brilliant mind walks into the room.

Staley landing the Jets job would require two things. First, he has to nail his interview. He needs to prove that he’s ready to be a head coach, not just a defensive schemer. The Jets went through that once with Rex Ryan. No matter how good his defenses were it wasn’t enough because teams can only win so much if only half the team is paid attention to.

Second, Staley needs to find a strong offensive coordinator to bring with him. Lucky for him he comes from the Sean McVay coaching tree. He has a perfect candidate for the role already on staff in Shane Waldron.

Waldron is the Rams passing game coordinator and has 15 years of coaching experience, all on the offensive side. Waldron has also been with McVay since their time together in Washington. He followed him to Los Angels and has climbed up the ranks with him. If anyone could bring an innovative McVay-style offense with them to help out Staley it’s him.

The odds may be against Staley right now, but don’t be shocked if he lands the job. He’s a brilliant defensive mind with connections to some strong offensive coaches to help him succeed wherever he goes next.