It was impossible for Brandon Staley to return after that epic bust in Vegas

The Chargers' jaw-dropping, 63-21 defeat to the Raiders spelled the end for the coach and GM

A group of guys took a trip to Las Vegas and lost just about everything they own, a tale as old as time. The group of men in question this time were none other than the hapless Los Angeles Chargers, who ended any chance of scraping together a respectable performance before the end of the season.

The Raiders, who were starting fifth-round rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell, ripped off 49 straight points before the Chargers scored a touchdown with 10 minutes left in the third quarter on Thursday. The Chargers had no Justin Herbert, no defense, no ball security and absolutely no reason to bring back head coach Brandon Staley after suffering a 63-21 defeat.

Staley was fired Friday morning, along with general manager Tom Telesco, the team announced. Telesco became GM in 2013.

Outside linebackers coach Giff Smith was named interim head coach, and director of player personnel JoJo Wooden will be interim GM.

There should be some peace with this move. It’s not like everything is completely over for the Chargers moving forward. They’ll need to tweak their roster to get under the salary cap and be players in free agency, but they get Herbert back next year in conjunction with what could be a top-five draft pick. There are worse places to be for a new regime walking in.

The challenge of this Chargers job is that L.A. resides in an AFC West ruled by Patrick Mahomes, and it's a very top-heavy roster on the defensive side of the ball, meaning hard decisions will likely need to be made by the new GM. On a scale of 1-10 of head-coaching attractiveness, this feels like a 7 or 8. Hot names will surely be linked to this gig, including New England's Bill Belichick, the University of Michigan's Jim Harbaugh and coordinators Mike Macdonald (Ravens defense) and Ben Johnson (Lions offense).

Where it went downhill for Brandon Staley

Staley noted that he still had a grasp on the culture of the team after its Week 12 loss to the Ravens, ESPN's Kris Rhim reported during the game. Staley said his team would be getting “blown out of the water” if the Chargers had tuned him out. Well, that happened.

The Raiders (6-8) and interim head coach Antonio Pierce were up 42-0 before halftime Thursday. At no point was this game close except at the starting point of 0-0. The Chargers (5-9) were embarrassed on the national stage in such a jarring manner that there was no way for them to come back from this. Offense, defense, special teams — each unit had a disastrous performance that led to this historic loss against a team that’s in the middle of its own tumultuous season. It would be difficult to seem more disinterested in winning than the Chargers were during their Thursday night implosion.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 14: Head coach Brandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers looks on before playing against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Brandon Staley and the Chargers suffered a humiliating 63-21 loss Thursday against the Raiders. It was his final game as head coach of L.A. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

In a way, this loss should be freeing for the Chargers. There’s no hiding from a defeat such as this. It was impossible to spin this in a positive manner to keep a sliver of hope alive for the job prospects of Staley and Telesco following the season, which has three games remaining. This was the green light the Chargers needed to rip the Band-Aid off and get a head-start on who will replace Staley. It wasn't losing a tough game to the Ravens or a shootout with the Lions — that was allowing a 60-piece to a team that’s about to enter a lengthy rebuilding phase.

"Games like this happen in the NFL," Staley told reporters postgame.

Actually, it wasn't a result that happens very often in the NFL. Since the 1970 merger, there had been only nine games in which a team scored 60 points; this was the 10th (and on a different note, the second this season). Backup quarterbacks and injured defenses play every week, but they don’t give up this kind of result. The Chargers’ tumble this season now has a defining moment, and they’ll be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Staley said that he deserved to keep his job after the debacle, saying,"I know what I've done here for three years, and I know what I put into this, and I know that we're capable of going. I know the type of coach that I am."

The extenuating circumstances didn't matter. The Chargers knew it was time to turn the page. It's too hard to come back from a team looking totally disinterested like it did Thursday — plus, he never got remotely close to figuring out how to get the Chargers' defense moving in the right direction, like he did as coordinator with the Rams.

The Chargers are in this position only because Staley was a whiff as a head-coaching hire. Better luck next year, Chargers. At least you can say you probably won’t give up 63 points in a game next season. It’s about the small victories — that’s all this team has left after a demoralizing night in Vegas.