Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Jan 2013

Chargers Hire Mike McCoy as New Head Coach

The Chargers will hire Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy as their new head coach. The man who was able to design offenses for both Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning will now try to fix Philip Rivers.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 15 Jan 2013

38 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2013, 9:36am by tshanku


by Dave0 :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 2:16pm

I'm provisionally very excited about this (provisionally, because I don't really know very much about McCoy other than he seemed to produce good results with the Broncos).

People talk about the window closing in San Diego, but I'm not sure that's true. I think there's still plenty of talent on the roster. If Rivers can be fixed with a few competent offensive linemen in front of him, they'll be plenty good.

by speedegg :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 3:27pm

I would have liked Arians since he was a de facto head coach for this year and did a lot with what he had. McCoy has been good designing offenses around the strengths and weaknesses of his players (that's good), but playcalling alone doesn't make you a good HC. We'll see.

Not sure the window "closed", but SD isn't an elite team, probably just above-average. Their key players are getting older (Gates, Phillips, Jammer, etc), there are players that were bad drafts (Matthews, Mouton, etc) and bad free agent acquisitions (Meachem, Royal). The coaches and GM will have to get together and decide who's worth keeping and who needs to get cut.

by dryheat :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 5:10pm

Plenty of talent? Above-average? In any other division San Diego is probably a 3-win team in 2013. How many guys on the roster are among the best at their position? None on offense, unless this year was a one-year aberration for Gates and not the start of a trend. Offhand, I can't think of any on defense either. That window has been slammed shut, painted over, and boarded up.

Their punter's really good, though.

by BlueStarDude :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 6:16pm

Well, Eric Weddle is among the best safeties. And they have some young talent on the defensive line. The defense is basically a pass rusher away from being good. If they could add a couple of quality offensive linemen to help settle Rivers down, they will be a good team again.

by dryheat :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 9:46pm

I think Rivers's days as a top-15 QB are gone for good. Mathews needs to go, and nobody can keep him upright long enough to hit the likes of Floyd, Royal, Alexander, and Meacham, with a fast-declining Gates. I can see them taking 3 of 4 from Oakland City, but not too much else. I think it's the beginning of a total rebuild for the new GM.

by Collapsing Pocket (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 1:43am

I'm comforted by the fact that you don't have the first clue what you're talking about.

by speedegg :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 9:40pm

Don't confuse a run-center offense, an injured running back, a questionable O-line, and a bad head coach with roster talent. On top of that, Norv Turner lead teams typically blow it when they're up only by a TD in the 4th quarter and fold if they're down by a TD or less.

If a Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton, Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll were calling the plays a lot of the close losses (Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Saints, and Broncos the second time) could have been wins. Get 5 additional wins and the Chargers would be 12-4.

by Collapsing Pocket (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 1:41am

Alexander and Floyd were #1 and #3 in DVOA, respectively. Weddle is now a 2 time all pro. Reyes, Liguet and Thomas are solid young players for a d-line which ranked 7th against the run and 8th in adjusted sack rate. And Donald Butler is a stud. Maybe you should try learning about a team before dismissing them "offhand".

The Chargers problem was very simple: their O-line has been atrocious. Worst in adjusted sack rate, bottom 10 in the league in run blocking. They've lost 2 solid left tackles in 2 years to injury, and 1 all pro guard. Those players were replaced by a below average guard and not one but two of the worst UDFA left tackles in recent memory, and the extra help given to help them allowed their league worst right tackle to be exploited even more. This was liteterally a case of "value over replacement player" being played out in real life, and it cost the Chargers plenty of yards, points, and probably a few wins this year.

Opposing d-line players routinely had season or even career best days against them this year. And then to top it all off both horrible tackles were hurt and replaced with guys off the street. End result: Rivers was the most pressured, most sacked (adjusted rate) QB this year, and that was with him leading the league by a large margin in intentional throwaways.

This isn't that hard to understand, and its actually a pretty easy situation for a new head coach to come into compared to a lot of the dumpster fire jobs out there. All you have to do is draft, sign or steal a couple of solid O-lineman. Rivers and the running game will improve, and you'll be heralded as the next new coaching genius.

by speedegg :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 2:30am

You sound a lot like sjt...and like someone that doesn't watch games, NFL Replay, or coaches tape. The Chargers problems aren't that simple. If they were, it would've been fixed already, right?

Norv Turner offense is built around the run and he likes to use base personnel (2WR -1 TE -2 HB). When your "foundation back" is injured and the O-line is bad, the run game is inconsistent. By extension, the offense is inconsistent. Combine that with an immobile QB and a passing game that relies on isolation routes, you have problems.

I'm assuming your getting your numbers from this site, but without context it doesn't mean anything. Alexander was cut by the Chargers, he kept getting injured. It was only out of desperation they re-signed him in midseason. The WR you really want to build around is Vincent Brown, not Alexander.

Sign and steal a couple of solid O-lineman? Yeah, the Chargers tried that and it didn't work out too well. This draft is D-linemen heavy, so would you draft an average O-lineman over a great Defensive End?

by BlueStarDude :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 9:24am

There's decent OT depth in this draft. They can go pass rusher in round one and OT in round two, or, what I would vote for in a offense-driven league, OT in both rounds: Joeckel will be gone, but one of either Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson should be available for their first pick, and Menelik Watson or D. J. Fluker for their second.

by speedegg :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:54pm

From what Matt Waldman and Rob Rang are saying it's going to be a great draft for D-linemen, OT will be okay. The other problem is there will be O-line needy teams like Chiefs and Bears. Depends on how it shakes out at the Combine and what the new GM and coach think. Though, you do have a point, they need to go O-line, just not sure if it's a good strategy to both O-line in first 2 picks.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 3:46pm

I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Is the Chargers' most serious problem the offensive line? Yes, and it isn't close. They need, probably, a tackle, two new guards before long if not now and the center position may be in question too. The big question is whether Jared Gaither will ever play football for a full season. If so, then the other problems can be fixed and/or papered over. If not, then finding a franchise LT is going to be hard, and the other problems become that much harder to fix. Gaither has been very good when he has been remotely healthy (that just hasn't been very often).

Elsewhere on offense, Rivers has proven that he isn't Peyton Manning by failing to record really good statistics behind an awful offensive line. I don't think anyone thought he was Peyton Manning anyway. He is still a top 15 quarterback in the league: "Good enough." Danario Alexander is a very good WR when healthy. Floyd is a very good #2 WR when healthy. It's probably time to start thinking about the end of Gates' career, and the RB position is a mess (although a fungible mess, as we know).

The defense has the potential to be good. I heard good things about Liuget in his second year, and Weddle (being juked by Guy Whimper aside) is a good safety. The defense will probably remain above average until Phillips and Weddle slow down, even without a lot of drafting attention.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:40pm

You sound a lot like... someone that doesn't watch games

This sounds very interesting. What was it he said that "tipped you off" to the fact that he doesn't "watch games?" Do you mean that he literally doesn't ever watch TV on weekends? Or does he watch the games on TV, but somehow doesn't do it "right?" I assume you consider yourself better at "watching games" than other people, correct? How, exactly?

by speedegg :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:19am

Haha! So you call yourself ninjalectual because you....stole all common sense? No, I'm saying you get a different perspective when you watch games live and coaches tape. Gives you a better appreciation of the plays. Some of those preconceived notions are mistaken and some simple fixes aren't so simple. Funny how simple things are missed.

And since you have a better understanding of simple things, why don't you break down the Chargers defense? Maybe how they gave up a TD to Drew Brees when he broke Johnny Unitas' record? Or for the offense, how did Rivers score his 14 yard TD throw to Gates when they faced the Chiefs the second time?

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:31pm

Opposing d-line players routinely had season or even career best days against them this year.

This is interesting & I'm curious... who?

by Dean :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 4:16pm

By all accounts, Dannerio Alexander is a decent human being. But if you're counting on him to be a healthy WR for any extended time period, you're pretty much fucked.

by DavidL :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 2:23pm

Who calls the plays in Denver, McCoy or Fox? If McCoy, was the fourth-quarter kneeldown incompetence or merely pre-emptive dedication to beating an AFC West rival?

by JayBee (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 2:47pm

I believe McCoy calls the plays since Fox has a defensive background. But my guess would still be that Fox made the decision, as it was a crucial moment in the game.

by Displaced Bolthead (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 3:00pm

I would agree. Though Manning made a comment that it was his decision to do that, it seems totally out of character. Defensive coaches tend to be more conservative in clutch situations and have their defense make key stops. Too bad Rahim Moore didn't pay attention.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 4:30pm

I thought Manning was taking the blame for a different play: a running play on 3rd and 7. Not the kneel down.

I literally cannot imagine Peyton Manning passing on a chance to win the game with two timeouts and 31 seconds on the clock in a tie game. That would be like Jordan passing on an open jumper, or Tyson not nibbling on an exposed ear.

by BroncosGuyAgain :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 11:46pm

Manning took responsibility for audibling into the third-down running play. McCoy called plays, although Manning obviously had more leeway than the typical quarterback. The kneel-down decision would have been Fox's; that is a game-strategy decision, not a play-call.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:43pm

Whoever made it, Fox and Manning are sticking to their guns defending it. Fox said something about wanting to give him team a mental rest.

Didn't a rookie Tom Brady drive for the game winning FG in the super bowl, against one of Fox's old teams?

by tshanku :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 9:36am

Brady was not a rookie; and that drive was against St Louis (HC Mike Martz), not against Carolina where John Fox was the HC.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 3:08pm

I don't know whether McCoy is good or not. He obviously did a good job at getting the best out of Tebow and Manning.

However headcoaching is different ... you're suddenly the leader ... you no longer necessarily have time to get into the intricacies of X's and O's, or coaching the players.

You only have to look at San Diego's last incumbent to know that being a good co-ordinator doesn't necessarily make for a good headcoach.

by coboney :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 3:27pm

It seems like a lot of people are holding McCoy's X and O knowledge here against him - when to get noticed you generally have to have that at the NFL level.

He's also been through some tumultuous times as an OC - with Orton/Tebow/Manning over the last couple of years - and I would say by now is almost certainly used to media circuses around.

Is it a change from OC to HC? No doubt.

But if we're going to be saying this about McCoy shouldn't we be saying it about pretty much any coordinator?

P.S. I am happy as a 49ers fan he didn't take the Arizona job. Seattle - and possible St Louis are enough trouble.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 3:34pm

I don't see anybody holding it against him, just noting that sometimes guys whose strength is Xs and Os aren't equally strong when it comes to the skills required to run a team. (And the opposite is also sometimes true.) And, yes, that point gets made basically everytime a coordinator with no prior hc experience gets hired.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 3:40pm

McCoy and Fox deserve MAJOR props for what they did that year with Tebow. There aren't many coaches out there who would have switched gears on their offense to that degree in midseason. They took the offense they'd been running with Orton, threw it out the window to become a team that could win with Tebow, and then they went to succeeding with Peyton Manning the very next season. That takes some amazing versatility. That speaks very well of McCoy. I don't know if he'll be a huge success as a head coach or not, but I guarantee he'll be missed in Denver.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 5:13pm

To me, this is the major selling point for McCoy. He can design a system to fit the players on hand. So many coaches have their "system", and wherever they go, they implement that system, whether the players on hand fit the system or not. This is how you end up with madness like Michael Vick running the west coast offense.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 7:55pm

Ain't that the truth. You're constantly seeing square pegs rammed into round holes because all that matters is the precious "system." Sometimes, coaches won't even admit to TWEAKING their offense when the starter goes down and the obviously differently-suited backup has to step in.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 7:56am

Absolutely ... and that's really what I was questioning. As headcoach will he design the offensive system or will he go employ an offensive co-ordinator who then tries to fit round pegs into square holes!

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:53pm

Can't know in advance. But it's reasonable to assume that a coordinator who understands the importance of matching scheme to personnel will still understand the importance of it when he's a head coach. He might not design all the plays himself, but he'll probably hire assistants that share his philosophy. Where you might run into trouble is if you get a meddling owner who has his heart set on a particular coordinator and imposes that on the head coach.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:45pm

McCoy and Fox deserve MAJOR props for what they did that year with Tebow

You mean the year Tebow had the worst passing DVOA AND the worst rushing DVOA for a quarterback?

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 5:13pm

Obviously getting the best out of Manning? Really? Laser-rocket Arm'd hall of famer, coach-on-the-field Peyton Manning?

Thats like getting the best out of Mike Trout on your beer league softball team.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 3:41pm

Well, assuming he interviewed well, as determined by someone who is competent at evaluating an interview (which in this instance may be wholly not the case) it's always a pretty good idea to hire away one of your divisional rival's talented employees.

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 4:08pm

I'd be interested in what Panthers fans have to say about him. He looks to work really well with quarterbacks. I'm thinking about Jake Delhomme. McCoy went to Denver in 2009 and I'm guessing that couldn't have been the best thing for Delhomme.

And though McCoy was OC in 2009 and 2010, didn't McDaniels call the plays? Not that I was following the Broncos that closely.

by snoopy369 :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 4:13pm

I'm curious what relationship this had with the Bears announcing second round interviews, if any. Did he see his name off the list, and then say 'yes' to SD? Or did SD offer him the job, and thus he took his name out of the Bears' search? Or neither? It seemed like two weeks ago McCoy was the next Bears Head Coach, and then yesterday we hear he's not in the second round, and the next day he's a Charger...

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 5:23pm

For what it's worth, Bears beat writer Sean Jensen said the Bears just weren't that into McCoy.

Also, "sources" (note the scare quotes) say that McCoy didn't want Cutler.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 2:52pm

Now only KC is left until the Elway-Fox Broncos have infiltrated the entire AFC West.