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In the footsteps of ‘the Pope’

In the footsteps of ‘the Pope’

Thomas M. Columbus April 20, 2021
The Los Angeles Chargers hired Brandon Staley ’05, making him the third University of Dayton grad to be named as an NFL head coach.

When the Los Angeles Chargers in January hired Brandon Staley ’05 as their head coach, he joined distinguished company. Two other UD grads who played football at Dayton coached National Football League teams to Super Bowl championships.

illustration of three coaches
Illustration by RANDY PALMER

The first was Chuck Noll ’53, nicknamed “the Pope” by his Dayton teammates for his infallible knowledge of the game. Coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers, Noll won four Super Bowl championships; no coach has won that many without a loss.

Staley’s Chargers play in the NFL’s American Football Conference West Division, the same division as the Las Vegas Raiders, who are coached by Jon Gruden ’86. Gruden led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to victory in the 2003 Super Bowl.

In 2020, Staley was defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams defense was the best in professional football, ranking No. 1 in the NFL in total defense, passing defense and scoring defense.

Both Staley and Gruden played for longtime Flyer coach Mike Kelly.

Also in the department of Flyer connections:

  • Staley’s head coach at the Rams was Sean McVay, grandson of former Dayton coach John McVay; while McVay was vice president/director of football operations for the San Francisco 49ers, the team won five Super Bowls.
  • After graduation, Staley used his last year of eligibility to play at Mercyhurst with his twin brother, Jason. His quarterback coach there was Joe Lombardi (Vince’s grandson), who had coached at Dayton before Staley’s arrival. Lombardi was recently hired as the Rams’ offensive coordinator; he came from the New Orleans Saints, for whom Adam Trautman ’19 catches footballs. .
  • When Tom Moore ’67, offensive consultant for Tampa Bay, receives his Super Bowl 2021 ring, that will be 24 rings having gone to former Flyer players and coaches.

NFL had a 'nifty' birth — and it was in Dayton, Ohio