Chargers fire offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi: 6 candidates to replace him

The Chargers fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shane Day on Tuesday after two seasons.

Head coach Brandon Staley, who is returning for 2023, will now be searching for a new coaching nucleus around 24-year-old quarterback Justin Herbert.

Herbert made his first playoff appearance this season, but amid a slew of injuries, the offense as a whole regressed. The Chargers finished fourth in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA in 2021. They ranked 19th this year. Injuries were a factor. So was a lack of speed and depth at receiver. But Lombardi’s scheme and play calling just felt stagnant. The Chargers could not run the ball effectively all season, and that was the primary issue in the team’s epic 27-point blown lead against the Jaguars in the playoffs over the weekend.


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The Chargers rushed for just 7 yards on seven designed rushes in a game they needed to take over at the line of scrimmage and finish on the ground. That performance, more than anything, is what led to these firings. Herbert, who was dealing with fractured rib cartilage all season, finished 2022 with career lows in touchdowns and yards per attempt.

Staley needs improvement from this offense, and he needs to find a coordinator who can unlock Herbert’s full potential.

The Day firing is slightly surprising as he has a very close relationship with Herbert. But this feels like a necessary move to attract the top offensive coordinator candidates, who will likely want to bring in their own staffers.

Here are six possible candidates to replace Lombardi.

Mike LaFleur, form Jets OC

LaFleur shared ways with the Jets earlier this month to pursue other opportunities. The Athletic‘s Jourdan Rodrigue reported over the weekend that LaFleur is “one name to keep an eye on” for the Rams’ open offensive coordinator position. NFL Network reported that LaFleur is expected to join Sean McVay’s staff. But the Chargers’ opening would be a play-calling opportunity for LaFleur, the younger brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. Mike LaFleur coached under Kyle Shanahan from 2015 to 2020, first with the Falcons and then with the 49ers.

Nathaniel Hackett, train Broncos head coach

Hackett’s stint in Denver ended unceremoniously. And the Broncos offense, with Russell Wilson, was an abject disaster. But Hackett has play-calling experience from his three seasons as the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator from 2016 to 2018. He turned a Blake Bortles-led unit into a functional offense. He appeared unready for his head-coaching opportunity, but the Chargers could be a good fit. Hackett coached for three seasons under Matt LaFleur in Green Bay from 2019 to 2021.

Thomas Brown, Rams assistant head coach/TEs coach

McVay, of course, cut his teeth as a young coach working on Mike Shanahan’s Washington staff in the early 2010s. Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator. Matt LaFleur was the quarterbacks coach. McVay was the tight ends coach. Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel was the wide receivers coach. That is the tree Staley will likely be picking from. And Brown has now worked under McVay for three seasons — first as the running backs coach in 2020, adding the assistant head coach title during the Super Bowl run in 2021, then switching from running backs to tight ends this past season. The Chargers need to improve their running game. That will be a priority as they conduct this search. Brown was an NFL running back and has been involved in the running game at every stop of his coaching career, in college and the pros.

Thomas Brown is a candidate who could help the Chargers improve their running game. (Kirby Lee/USA Today)

Dan Pitcher, Bengals QBs coach

Pitcher has spent the past seven seasons coaching for the Bengals, including the past four on Zac Taylor’s staff. He was the assistant quarterbacks coach in 2019 before being promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2020 for Joe Burrow’s rookie season. Taylor spent two seasons coaching under McVay, including one season as quarterbacks coach in 2018 before the Bengals hired him as their head coach.

Zac Robinson, Rams pass game coordinator/QBs coach

Robinson played four seasons in the NFL as a quarterback from 2010 to 2013 before joining McVay’s staff as an assistant quarterbacks coach in 2019. He was the assistant wide receivers coach in 2020, went back to assistant quarterbacks coach in 2021, and was promoted to passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach this past season.

Frank Reich, train Colts head coach

Reich, whom the Colts fired midseason, is already getting head-coaching interviews. He reportedly interviewed for the Panthers’ opening last week. But we will include him here in case he does not get a head-coaching spot and is still looking for a play-calling job in 2023. Reich spent three seasons on Mike McCoy’s Chargers staff from 2013 to 2015, first as the quarterbacks coach and then as the offensive coordinator for two seasons. So there is some organizational familiarity there.

(Top photo of Joe Lombardi: Kyle Terada/USA Today)


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