I’m a huge football fan who has spent a lot of time watching games. I’m 32 years old and as the years have gone on I have realized more and more how important quality coaching is in the NFL. Most people look to see if a Head Coach can have his team prepared, motivated to play, and if they are disciplined. All those things are important, but there are a few other things that I look for to judge how a Head Coach is doing. I like to see how the coach puts his players in situations to best succeed, how he makes adjustments and how he manages the clock at the end of halves.
What I like most so far about San Diego Head Coach Mike McCoy is his ability to put his players in situations to have success. When McCoy was the offensive coordinator in Denver in 2011, the Broncos had Kyle Orton at QB running an offensive scheme that had Orton in the shotgun, mostly with 3-4 WR sets. McCoy knew Orton didn’t have the arm strength to throw deep, so they used a short to intermediate passing game.
Well, after the Broncos went 1-4 to start the season they pulled Orton and started Tim Tebow. Orton’s skills are completely different from those of Tim Tebow. Orton is a pocket QB who isn’t mobile and is accurate. Tebow, on the other hand, is very mobile but one of the least accurate quarterbacks ever. McCoy had to completely change his offensive scheme midway through a season. Not an easy task. McCoy went to the read option, which Tebow was comfortable with running. Now the Broncos didn’t light up the scoreboard like they did this year, but they found ways to win with their great defense and running game. They finished the season winning 7 of their next 11 games to finish a respectable 8-8 . Tebow isn’t even in the league anymore. For McCoy to get what he did out of Tebow is great coaching.
Under Norv Turner, the Chargers continued to run the same offensive scheme for the 7 years he was in San Diego. His offense had a lot of 7 step drops for Philip Rivers and the Chargers threw the intermediate and deep balls on most occasions. At first this style worked. But as the talent declined, Norv never adjusted. It amazed me how many offensive players did better on different teams after they left San Diego and Norv Turner’s handling. Sean Payton in New Orleans finds so many ways to get the best out of Darren Sproles. He finds ways to get him in space and utilize his talents. Norv, with the game on the line gives Sproles, one of the smallest RBs in the league, a run up the middle on 4th and 2 right at Ray Lewis. I would imagine that most of you remember that.
Vincent Jackson’s best season under Norv had him finish with 1,167 yards receiving. Since coming to Tampa Bay two seasons ago, he had more receiving yards in both years with 1,384 and 1,224. It’s not that big of a difference, but when you consider that he was catching passes from Philip Rivers in San Diego, compared to Josh Freeman and Mike Glennon, it makes you wonder. Also factor in that Greg Schiano is a defensive minded coach who relies on defense and running the ball. Since leaving Norv Turner, both Mike Tolbert and Louis Vasquez have made Pro Bowls. Neither made them with Norv coaching them. Players look better when put in the right situations.
When Mike McCoy came to San Diego in 2013, he took on a tough situation. Even the coach prior to McCoy’s arrival, said the Chargers were years away from making the playoffs. McCoy had to deal with significant injuries to Danario Alexander, Malcom Floyd and Melvin Ingram, to name a few. But this 2013 Charger team never made excuses and kept fighting.
Mike McCoy and his offensive staff completely changed the offensive scheme that Norv Turner ran prior. McCoy’s staff ran a quick, short passing game. Philip Rivers got rid of the football much quicker. This limited the turnovers which was completely out of hand under Norv Turner’s scheme. The offensive line was much better under McCoy’s system. The Chargers brought in King Dunlap and Chad Rinehart via free agency. They then drafted DJ Fluker in the 1st round. When healthy, they all played well. A lot of the credit has to go to the coaching staff, as any team could have gotten Dunlap or Rinehart. The staff but the offensive line in the best situation it could to have success.
Ryan Mathews had his best year to date. As the season went on, the coaching staff believed more and more in Mathews. He ran for 100 yards or more in 6 of the last 10 games. He also had a 99 yard game in that stretch. Mathews was a key factor in how the Chargers managed to get to the playoffs this past year.
This would never have happened under Norv. He never trusted Mathews. He actually played Jackie Battle….. I repeat, Jackie Battle over him at times. Norv would also take Mathews out inside the 20. Mathews runs hard, is athletic, and has the ability to jump over the pile to score. Why would someone not have him inside the 20? It comes down to coaching.
Another player who excelled under McCoy’s staff who didn’t under Norv was Eddie Royal. Royal, in 2012 under Norv, had 234 yards and 1 TD. In 2013, he had 631 yards and 8 TDs. The staff put Royal in situations to use his skills. How many bubble screens did they run where Royal had big plays? That’s coaching.
In his 1st season as a Head Coach, McCoy and his staff made some nice adjustments. They started the season with a no-huddle, fast tempo offense. This caught some teams off guard. As teams got more film and prepared for it, the Chargers relied more on the running game. You have to love coaches who can make adjustments and don’t just stick to one thing. Bill Belichick is the master at this. They won Super Bowls running the ball and relying on a great defense. Since the defense diminished in talent, Belichick opened up the offense and relied more on the passing game. They were also the 1st team to really utilize the 2 TE set. You have to be creative.
Another thing Mike McCoy did well, but can get better at, is managing the clock. It amazes me how bad teams butcher the clock. Against the Chargers in week 2, the Eagles were trailing by 3 in the 4th quarter with the clock running at 2:20 and had a 1st down at the 14. Instead of letting the clock go to the 2 minute warning and leaving less time when San Diego got the ball back, the Eagles ran up to the line and threw an incomplete pass. They ended up throwing 3 incompletions in a row, giving San Diego 1:51 to go on the clock with the game tied and win could be had with a field goal. San Diego did just that.
No way should that type of stuff happen. McCoy did a good job with clock management this year. In week 1 against the Houston Texans, the Chargers had a drive of eight plays scoring a touchdown while leaving 18 seconds on the clock before the half giving the Texans not much time to score. He can get better at clock management but he has presented the beginnings of a great foundation in that department. As a rookie coach, it’s something that I believe he will indeed improve at sooner, rather than later.
The way Mike McCoy makes adjustments, puts his players in the best situations and manages the clock are some of the reasons that I think the Chargers should win a Super Bowl soon. It was amazing that the Chargers got to the playoffs this year. They were the only team to win in Cincinnati and in Denver. You have to be very impressed with what McCoy did his 1st year as a Head Coach. The Chargers need some help on the defense. I question if John Pagano is the best guy to be the defensive coordinator. This could be his last year to prove whether he is or isn’t the man for the job.
With a few more quality players via free agency and/or draft, the Chargers should be an elite team for years. The time is now. Charger fans have waited long enough. Let’s get our Super Bowl.
I’d like to thank Craig for the contributor’s piece to BoltBlitz. He’s helped us out a few times and has never disappointed. Be sure to follow Craig on Twitter @craigmedy and leave your thoughts below in the comment section. Thanks again!