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With Brandon Staley leaving, Rams once again searching for a defensive coordinator

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In mid-December, when Brandon Staley’s name was among those circulating in the buzz for the next round of NFL coaching hires, Rams coach Sean McVay lamented what might be a short partnership.

“I hope to at least have more than a year with him,” McVay said, “but if not, I’d be ecstatic for him and his family. … He’s done such a great job. I couldn’t be more grateful to work with Brandon, and if that’s what happens for him, that’s great for him.”

It happened Sunday when Staley, 38, agreed to terms to become coach of the Chargers.

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Now, for the second time in as many years, McVay is in search of a defensive coordinator.

When the Rams hired him in 2017, McVay, who was 30 at the time, hired veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who had been an NFL coach since 1976.

The McVay-Phillips combination helped the Rams finish 11-5 and advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The next season, the Rams finished 13-3, repeated as NFC West champions and advanced to the Super Bowl.

But after last season, when the Rams finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs, McVay opted not to renew the contract of the 72-year-old Phillips. He went outside the staff and hired Staley, who had coached outside linebackers for three seasons with the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos under Vic Fangio.

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With star tackle Aaron Donald and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey as centerpieces, Staley molded a defense that developed into one of the NFL’s best. The Rams gave up the fewest yards and points during the season and finished 10-6. They were No. 1 in pass defense and second in sacks.

How McVay fills the role this time remains to be seen.

Twice during the season, Staley said Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant, safeties coach Ejiro Evero and defensive line coach Eric Henderson were more than ready for larger roles. Associate head coach Joe Barry, who coaches inside linebackers, was defensive coordinator in the NFL for Detroit and Washington.

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