This weekend I watched two football games. The Chargers were one, the other was my alma mater. The University of Washington Huskies faced off against the Stanford Cardinal. The Huskies defense that has played very well this year had the tall task of facing off against a tough Stanford offense.
Now while Stanford may have better personnel the one thing that stood out to me is how well coached the Stanford offense was. The play calling was creative and varied and it was the reason the Huskies were on their heels. Stanford was constantly substituting different packages and running a variety of plays from each package. It was impossible to tell what was coming next.
It was a stark contrast to what I see in San Diego with the Chargers. Which leads us directly to San Diego’s head coach. In our series, “Who’s to Blame?” we look at the man that Telesco brought in to steer the ship – Mike McCoy.
McCoy is the man ultimately responsible for how the Chargers perform in all three aspects of the game. We could blame some of the coordinators or coaching staff, but these are McCoy’s guys. These are the guys that he has put on his staff and they are underperforming. Let’s take a look at the those three phases and see what is wrong in each area.
The offense is by far the most talented unit on the field. They have been successful in moving the ball mainly on the merits of Phillip Rivers and the playmakers around him. The two places that the offense struggles is in blocking and play calling. The line has talent on it which makes it really confusing for how much they are struggling in pass protection and run blocking. I am not sure the reason, but will guess that it lies in poor preparation, lack of execution and originality in play calling.
Poor preparation and lack of execution is solely on the coaches. Many times this season the Chargers have looked perplexed in how to pick up blitzes or handle additional rushers. How is this? Do they not watch tape? Every week the team seems to be unprepared for its opponent.
The originality of play calling is something that fans have been lamenting for years but only seems to be getting worse. Wide receiver screen, inside draw, Gordan up the middle, Allen on a crossing route, Allen/Stevie on a slant, Floyd Deep, a check down to Danny Woodhead account for what seems like 99% of the plays. when was the last time we saw a misdirection or even a counter on a running play. It seems that the only misdirection we run is the screen.
McCoy was supposed to be an offensive guru but the Chargers are far from the quality of offensive play calling that I saw in the Stanford Cardinals.
As for the defense, what do you say? The numbers speak pretty loud. The Chargers can’t stop the run, they can’t pressure the QB and they lead the league in giving up big plays. We run a hybrid 3-4, what ever that is supposed to mean. From my perspective it looks like we run a 5-3 with Ingram and Attachou playing as undersized DEs and Weddle filling in the 3rd linebacker spot. I don’t know what it is but it obviously is not working.
In addition tackling is poor and assignments are missed which result in huge plays. Case in point go look at the Raiders WR screen that went for 60+ yards. Flowers is so fooled by this basic play that by the time he reacts to what is going on a lineman has gotten to him and blocks him out of the play. Did the Chargers ever practice how to handle a wide receiver screen? It sure looked like they had not.
Also the Raiders attacked Donald Butler in pass defense. Several times Butler was asked to cover RBs and TEs with no help over the top. Both times resulted in big plays. I am not blaming Butler here. We all know that anytime you can get a linebacker in one in one coverage you attack that.
Then there is special teams. I have not checked the stats, but I am sure we are near the bottom in the league in starting field position. The return game is non-existent. Jones is horrible. He is worse than having Keenan Allen fair catch everything on punt returns and worse than taking a knee in the endzone on kickoffs. But he is not alone to blame as blocking seems to be as bad as punt coverage is on the other side of the ball.
So if all these units are underperforming this has to be talent or coaching. I fear that it is more coaching than the talent level on this team. There are some talent deficiencies in areas but this team seems to be lacking fundamentals and consistent play. They are outcoached every week. The Raiders seriously outcoached us last week and it showed. They exposed all of our weak spots and the Chargers appeared shell-shocked and bewildered as to how to react to what was happening.
After the Raiders game Mike McCoy said, “That first half is not us. In all three phases.” Here is a new flash for you Mike. It is you. This is where you have led the Chargers. This is where you have steered the ship. Your are 2-5. And if you did not have your best coach, Philip Rivers on your team you would be 0-7 without hope of winning a game.
We can blame Tom Telesco for lack on talent, but full blame for how that talent is executing lays squarely on the shoulders of Mike McCoy. And right now it is not executing at all.