By the time Week 18’s Chargers-Broncos game kicked off in Denver, the Chargers were locked in as the AFC’s fifth seed. The only intrigue before Sunday’s games started was whether the Ravens could leapfrog them, but Baltimore rested a bunch of starters against the Bengals and ensured Los Angeles a meaningless regular-season finale. Surely that meant Chargers head coach Brandon Staley would make the easy call to bench his starters, right? The guy in charge of a team with a reputation for disastrous injuries, even beyond those of the typical NFL organization, would understand the risks of keeping his best players on the field for no reason. Right?
Well, Staley didn’t make that call until after Mike Williams hurt his back this past Sunday. Today’s news means the Chargers’ leading receiver probably won’t be in the playoffs unless they get to the Super Bowl.
Williams left the game late in the second quarter after being tackled on a screen play. The following day, Staley said Williams had a contusion, not a fracture, and would be able to practice ahead of the team’s game against Jacksonville. The Chargers listed Williams as questionable on Thursday after he missed practice all week, though Staley downplayed the injury and implied that he could have practiced.
“We’re at that point of the season where the reps aren’t what matter. The rest is, in his case,” Staley said, which is correct logic he should’ve applied to the game against the Broncos. As it turns out, Williams does have a small fracture in his back, and now the Chargers will be a receiver down against the Jaguars on Saturday night.
Staley also tempted fate in Week 18 when he played receiver Keenan Allen into the fourth quarter. When asked why he would jeopardize his team’s chances of advancing past the Jaguars in a futile effort to beat a sorry-ass team, Staley offered an unconvincing defense. Via the Los Angeles Times:
“I stand behind what we did in that football game,” [Staley] said. “All my players are really important to me. There were a lot of players that were playing in that game that were in harm’s way. That’s just the nature of football.
“It’s very difficult to decide who plays and who doesn’t and who’s more valuable than the rest. What you’re trying to do is set a standard for your program about how you do things. That’s what I believe in. I didn’t want anybody to get hurt in that game, regardless of their status, because everybody’s important.”
While Staley is right about the nature of football, he really shouldn’t need help to figure out who is “more valuable than the rest,” especially since he already committed a similar sin in Week 3 when he left in quarterback and franchise player Justin Herbert during a blowout loss to the Jaguars while he was recovering from a rib injury. The Chargers are still slight favorites over the 9-8 Jaguars tomorrow, but Staley has a ton of pressure on him. He’d better not screw this up, or else his dumb team will be inundated with many more receipts about how the underachieving Chargers can’t get out of their own way.
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