The 2016 NFL season has had a similar theme for the San Diego Chargers as year’s prior: A competitive sleeper team that has failed to live up to expectations. For the second year in a row, a Mike McCoy-led team will have missed the playoffs and find themselves with a top-10 pick in the 2017 NFL draft.
A couple of days ago, the L.A. Rams were the first team of the year to fire their head coach. And even though Jeff Fisher had a poor winning percentage with the Rams, he was able to defeat the teams within his own division. That is more that can be said for McCoy. In the last 29 games, the Chargers are 9-20 and have finished no better than third in the AFC West during McCoy’s tenure. McCoy’s poor inter-division record could ultimately lead to his demise.
And if the Chargers were to relieve McCoy of his head coaching duties, there will be a plethora of options they could choose from. Here are some options that can find themselves coaching in Southern California for the 2017 NFL season.
Aug 18, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) talks with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Bears 23-22. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Perhaps the hottest name out there, Josh McDaniels has been rumored to be looking at a second shot at a head coaching job. McDaniels is no stranger to the AFC West. He had a short, unsuccessful stint as head coach with the Denver Broncos in 2009. McDaniels returned to the New England Patriots in 2012 as offensive coordinator where he has continued to grow and mature as a coach under the tutelage of Bill Belichick.
What makes McDaniels an attractive candidate is his brilliant and versatile offensive mind. He has created and implemented game plans that exploit the specific weaknesses of a defense. One week the Patriots are a ground-and-pound team and run Blount 30 times, and other weeks McDaniels uses his version of a west coast offense where Tom Brady throws the balls 50 times during a contest.
Yes, he has worked with the best in the business (Tom Brady) and a concern could be that McDaniels could be just another McCoy. But McDaniels has also made winners of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. There are some hurdles that will prohibit McDaniels from becoming the Chargers next coach. His experience as a head coach and successful coordinator will make him highly coveted and he will likely come with a high price tag (a tag that will scare the Spanos away). There has also been rumblings that McDaniels is looking for an opportunity that will allow him to have a strong say in roster moves which would be another deal breaker for Chargers’ management.
Jan 3, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley (L) reacts on the sidelines against the Baltimore Ravens during the third quarter in the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. The Ravens won 30-17. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Another former AFC West coach, Todd Haley has really re-invented himself as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Haley joined the Steelers back in 2012 as their new offensive coordinator. The main benefactor of Haley has been Ben Roethlisberger. Before the hiring of Haley, the Steelers were a run first team, followed up by the wild improvisations of their all pro quarterback. The offense lacked rhythm and organization. Haley has done a phenomenal job of reigning in Roethlisberger and as a result, Big Ben now does most of his damage from within the pocket. Roethlisberger has had some of his best seasons under Haley. Now the Steelers are one of the most dynamic and well balanced offenses in the NFL.
Haley would be the complete opposite of what the Chargers currently have in place now. Haley is a fiery coach that puts a lot of pressure on a defense with his aggressive play calling style. Under Haley, fans can expect a San Diego team that will go for touchdowns instead of settling for field goals and field position.
JIM BOB COOTER
Oct 28, 2015; Chandler
Had to get the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator in here. Jim Bob Cooter is more than just a catchy football name. Cooter has been the architect of a Lions offense that has made Matthew Stafford a legitimate MVP candidate this year. Everyone was ready to write off Stafford due to the departure of All Pro wide receiver, Calvin Johnson. Stafford’s critics were quick to point out that his gaudy numbers were the sole result of him getting bailed out on the Hail Marys thrown to Johnson. Since Cooter took over as offensive coordinator in 2015, Stafford has become a more efficient passer. Stafford is completing 9% more of his passes, while cutting his turnovers down (by almost half). In addition, Stafford’s passer rating has increased from 83.9% to 105.5% while Cooter has been calling the plays for the offense.
Jim Bob Cooter’s offensive philosophy could greatly improve an area of concern for the Chargers. San Diego is one of the most turnover prone offenses over the last two years. However, Cooter believes in quick short passes to help eliminate turnovers produced by the quarterback. This will also alleviate the stress of a weak Chargers offensive line.
Jul 29, 2016; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan reacts during training camp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Shanahan is another trendy name that is being thrown out there as a possible 2017 NFL head coach candidate. The Atlanta Falcons hired Shanahan in 2015 as their offensive coordinator. Shanahan has a long, productive track record as an offensive coach. He has coached many different quarterbacks- from Matt Schaub, to Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, and Robert Griffin. Shanahan is a creative offensive mind that has formula for success. However, he does not simply force the offense to adapt to his style of play. Shanahan tweaks his offense to take advantage of the strengths of the players on his team. For example, the Falcons offensive coordinator has used his duel threat running backs (Freeman and Coleman) in numerous ways to make up for the deficiencies of Atlanta’s offense.
The Chargers would be the best offense Shanahan would ever coach. Shanahan would make Keenan Allen a bonafide star in his system. In addition, Shanahan would have an abundance of versatile playmakers (Gordon, Woodhead, Henry, Benjamin, Williams) at his disposal to create match up nightmares. That being said, Shanahan will be in high demand and could facilitate a bidding war, something Spanos would shy away from.
Aug 18, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on the sideline against the Chicago Bears in the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Bears 23-22. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Patricia is the only defensive minded candidate on this list. Another one of Belichick’s right hand man, Patricia has been with the Patriots for 13 years. Patricia has served as New England’s defensive coordinator for the last 4 years and has done a great job using the talent that has been supplied to him. The Patriots defense has lost a lot of talent throughout the years (Revis, Browner, Collins), but that has not stopped Patricia from stopping opposing offenses.
The Patriots defensive coordinator makes good use of what he is given. He has made productive players that were once considered washed up (Alan Branch, Chris Long, Shea McClellin) and has made stars out of unfamiliar names (Malcolm Butler, Trey Flowers). His defensive scheme are like the players he coaches, versatile. Patricia’s style is a bend but don’t break, but he achieves that in different ways every week. For example, this past week, Patricia used a 3 man rush to force the big play Ravens to dink and dunk all game. Other weeks, he will be blitz heavy to create pressure and force turnovers.
Patricia reminds me of a Ron Rivera type of coach. The hiring of Patricia would change the culture of the Chargers where they would mirror a Baltimore Ravens scheme, play tough defense to set up the offense. The Chargers defense is much improved and could be ready to start carrying a sputtering San Diego offense. Patricia would have a field day moving the chess pieces in place all over the field to create havoc.
There has been rumors that San Diego has a backdoor deal already in place to extend Mike McCoy. Ownership is scared to make to many changes during this time of uncertainty and they could be afraid that no one would want to come to the Chargers until matters are figured out. However, I personally think, McCoy has to win 2 out of the next 3 games to retain his job. He HAS to beat Cleveland and split one of the AFC West home games they have remaining on the schedule for the Chargers brass to consider him a part of their future. If not, the Chargers could once again follow the Rams lead and fire their head coach.