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Giff Smith and Kellen Moore are the initial candidates to interview for the Chargers’ coaching vacancy

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Giff Smith, who served as the Los Angeles Chargers interim coach for the final three games, and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore became the first candidates to interview for the head coaching position.

The team announced both interviews on Tuesday.

Under the new interview process approved by owners in October, any internal candidates or someone not currently employed by the NFL can interview in person.

Smith lost all three games as the interim after Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco were fired on Dec. 15. Players though lauded Smith for his approach and his ability to bring the team together down the stretch of a disappointing 5-12 season.

“These last three games we were more together as a team. And that’s so huge,” running back Joshua Kelley said. “I feel like when you’re together and you’re playing together cohesively, I just feel like that’s when you really can start playing some good ball. I think that’s something to build off of.”

Smith has been with the Chargers since 2016 and was the only position coach retained by Staley when he was hired in 2021. Smith was the defensive line coach from 2016-21 and was the outside linebackers coach the past two seasons.

Moore just completed his first season as Los Angeles’ offensive coordinator after five seasons as an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys, including the last four as offensive coordinator. Moore interviewed for the Carolina Panthers head coach opening last year.

The Chargers were 18th in total offense this season after being in the top 10 four straight years. It was their lowest offensive ranking since they were 18th in 2014.

Even before Justin Herbert broke the index finger on his right hand and missed the final four games, the offense was struggling. Moore was hired to help improve the running game, but the run/pass ratio was still among the worst in the league. Los Angeles’ 39% run rate was the seventh lowest in the league.

The Chargers have requested interviews with six assistant coaches on other teams, all coordinators. Three — Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Steve Wilks (49ers defensive coordinator) and Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris — have previous NFL head coaching experience.

They have also put in requests for Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, who are both with Detroit.

The Chargers can schedule virtual interviews this week with Monken and Wilks since both their teams have a bye week. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said on Tuesday that Wilks is likely to interview this week.

Teams can’t start in-person interviews with those employed by other NFL clubs until after the divisional round. Owners pushed this back one week to slow down the hiring process and increase diversity in hiring.

The Chargers have also made requests to interview Giants assistant GM Brandon Brown, Bills director of player personnel Terrance Gray and Jeff Ireland (Saints vice president and assistant general manager for college personnel) for the general manager opening.

Of the three, only Ireland has previous general manager experience. He served in that position with the Miami Dolphins for six seasons (2008-13).

Telesco was the Chargers GM for 11 seasons (2013-23). Director of player personnel JoJo Wooden is the interim general manager and is also expected to receive an interview.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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