UD Grad makes first appearance in NFL Playoffs as head coach

Photo of Brandon Staley courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers.

Max Cross | Sports Editor

When the Los Angeles Chargers hired Brandon Staley ‘05 in January of 2021 as their head coach, he joined elite company. Two other UD graduates who played football at Dayton have coached National Football League (NFL) teams to Super Bowl championships. 

The first is Chuck Noll ‘53, nicknamed “the Pope” by his Dayton teammates for his incredible and accurate knowledge of the game. As a member of the Flyers, he was a lineman, linebacker and a co-captain. Coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers, Noll guided the franchise to four Super Bowl victories. No other coach in history has won that many without losing in the big game. 

The other is Jon Gruden ‘86. At Dayton, Gruden was a three-year letterman and backup quarterback for the Flyers, who were led by beach coach Mike Kelly. Following college, Gruden continued into the NFL where he would ultimately land the job of head coach for Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they won the Super Bowl in 2003.

Now Staley can begin that path to the big game after securing his first playoff berth as a head coach following a 20-3 rout of the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night. This also marks the first time since 2018 that the Chargers will be in the postseason after improving to 9-6, with two games remaining. 

The Chargers entered week 16 with a direct path to the playoffs after moving into the No. 6 seed with a Dec. 18 victory over the Tennessee Titans. The Chargers and Staley were able to secure a playoff bid after the New York Jets, New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders each lost in their weekend matchups, allowing the Chargers to move in front. 

“It’s just the beginning. This is not our final goal,” said Staley after the game, who narrowly missed the playoffs in his first season as coach after losing to the Raiders in Week 18 — when a tie or win would have sent the Bolts to the postseason. “We’ve got the makeup to withstand the type of season that we’ve had. I think that we would not be here if it were not for the toughness of our football team, the makeup of our football team.”

The Chargers take on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, and then wrap up the regular season at Denver in Week 18. 

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