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    Chargers ‘playing to win’ under interim head coach Giff Smith
    • December 20, 2023

    COSTA MESA — It’s a three-week season, Giff Smith said after conducting his first practice as the Chargers’ interim coach Tuesday. He also said the final three games of the 2023 season should not be viewed as meaningless because there’s plenty at stake for the coaches and players alike.

    So, he asked the team captains, including running back Austin Ekeler and safety Derwin James Jr., to lift the energy at practice if they believed it was falling. Smith asked them to raise the spirits of their teammates if it seemed like they were bottoming out on the field, in the locker room or in meetings.

    It seemed like a tall order given all that’s happened since the season began Sept. 10, but particularly since Chargers coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco were fired Friday, only hours after a 63-21 loss to the AFC West rival Raiders on Thursday night in Las Vegas.

    “It’s a team game and it’s a player-driven league and the teams that have been successful that I’ve been a part of, you have great leaders,” said Smith, who was elevated from outside linebackers coach. “In times of adversity, those are the guys who’ve got to lead. Even if it’s out of your nature to step up and be aggressive, this is what this team needs for these three weeks. We’ve got a three-week season and we’re going to play to win.”

    Smith and the Chargers do not have an easy route to the season’s finish line. They face the Buffalo Bills, the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, three teams either fighting for AFC playoff spots or to improve their postseason seeding. None of the three will hold a pity party for the Chargers, in other words.

    As embarrassing as the loss to the Raiders might have been, and it was impossible to find anyone in the Chargers’ headquarters the past few days who would argue the point, Smith said it was time to move on. He was thrilled to be elevated to the head coaching position, but it wasn’t a time for personal reflection.

    “Well, I wish I would have lost some weight a few weeks back,” Smith joked. “That would have been a positive. I wasn’t expecting this, in all seriousness. I’ve been in this game a while and there are always new things that come up. I’ve been around a lot of great coaches through the years. You just roll with it. You give to these players, you give to this organization then whatever happens, happens.”

    Smith said he got some pearls of wisdom from an old friend, a former NFL coach.

    “I thought Chan Gailey had a great one,” Smith said. “He said, ‘All of those suggestions and thoughts that you had are now decisions. Good luck.’”


    Defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley will call the plays, taking over for Staley. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will continue in his role as offensive play caller. John Timu will replace the fired Jay Rodgers as defensive line coach, a promotion from assistant defensive line coach.

    Robert Muschamp, who was a defensive quality control coach, will slot into Smith’s old position for the final three weeks of the season. Smith also said he would likely oversee the outside linebackers and the defensive linemen, as well.

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    Giff is short for Gifford, of course, but Smith revealed there’s more to the story of his first name.

    “I created a story to kind of make it cool, that my mom was in labor and ‘Monday Night Football’ was on and they saw Frank Gifford (on TV),” Smith said, breaking into a wry smile. “But I’m just making that up.”


    The Chargers signed quarterback Will Grier to the active roster from the New England Patriots’ practice squad to serve as Easton Stick’s backup for the rest of the season, and they also waived quarterback Max Duggan. … The team also placed center Will Clapp on injured reserve, signed center Cameron Tom to the active roster from the practice squad and signed center Brent Laing to the practice squad.

    ​ Orange County Register