Mike McCoy Has Got to Go

An examination of the failures of the Chargers head coach

NBC 7’s Derek Togerson vents some frustrations in this commentary

I like listening to people who are a lot smarter than I am. While that list is staggeringly long, in this particular situation … meaning the Chargers losing yet another close game … there are two very intelligent individuals I think we should invoke.

“I never worry about action, but only inaction.”Winston Churchill
“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”Sun Tzu

There are few things I despise more than not trying.

I know a lot happens in a football game. I know it never truly comes down to one play at the end of the game. No sporting event is ever like that. I also know the head coach is not the one who fumbles or throws an interception or misses a tackle.

But the head coach is the one who sets the tone for the football team. The psychological state, the attitude, the temperament of any given ball squad is dictated by the man in charge. Mike McCoy panics when things get tough, so his team follows suit. The two fatal flaws of Mike McCoy as a head coach were on full display in Oakland on Sunday:

1)    He is so terrified of seeing a mistake made that he plays conservatively
2)    He does not learn from past mistakes

Basically, when it comes to being a football coach, Mike McCoy is a coward, and the Chargers need to send him packing. Actually they should have sent him packing at the end of last year but Sunday in Oakland everything crystallized.

With just over two minutes to play the Chargers, trailing 34-31, faced a 4th and 1 from the Oakland 18-yard-line. Well, actually it was a lot less than a yard. Maybe a foot and a half. This is what many refer to as a defining moment and as our good friend Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy taught us, when a defining moment comes along you define the moment or the moment defines you.

McCoy decided to go for the tie and kick a field goal, even though his quarterback had shredded the Raiders defense for most of the day and his offense has a fun new jumbo package designed specifically for short-yardage situations. Rookie punter Drew Kaser dropped the snap and the Chargers lost by three.

After the game I asked McCoy why he elected to kick instead of go for it and we had the following exchange:

MM: “I made the decision to kick the field goal.”
DT: “Why?”
MM: “That’s what I did. It didn’t work.”
DT: “Do you not have confidence in your team in situations like that? Because that’s the message that you’re sending right now.”
MM: “Well, I decided to go for the field goal.”
DT: “So is that a yes or a no?”
MM: “We kicked the field goal. We didn’t make it.”

Actually Mike, no you didn’t kick the field goal and not make it. You didn’t even get a chance to kick the field goal because your rookie punter let the snap slip through his hands. But Kaser should have never been placed in that situation in the first place.

As Churchill alluded to, taking action might lead to failure. But not taking action leads to lethargy and ensures that nothing will improve. I would rather try and fail than not try at all. Furthermore, if you’re going to make a decision, at least have the guts to explain why you did it.

At the end of the 3rd quarter Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio gave his offense the green light to go for it on 4th and 3 from the San Diego 21-yard-line. Oakland was down 24-19 with plenty of time left. Kicking a field goal to make it a two point game would have been understandable.

But Del Rio does not play to get close. He plays to win. So he let Derek Carr throw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. That is the kind of decision that instills confidence in your football team. Why did he do it?

“You make the call, what you think is best for the team, and then you count on your guys going out and executing,” said Del Rio.

Or, as Sun Tzu would tell you, the more you take control of a situation the more situations you will have the opportunity to take control of. Del Rio believes in his guys and in turn his guys believe in themselves. That is what leaders do.

We now have enough of a sample size to know that Mike McCoy does not have the ability to lead lemmings over a cliff. The man inspires weakness, not confidence, in his football team. This is not to simply harp on one bad call. McCoy has a history of letting apprehension lead to poor choices. A few examples:

In Week 1 in Kansas City, when the Chiefs were starting to get some momentum, McCoy punted on 4th and short on the Chiefs' side of the field. He also decided to try a 56-yard field goal on 4th and short, which of course Josh Lambo missed. Both were makeable conversions and making either would have likely taken away enough time to keep KC from its historic comeback.

A year ago in Cincinnati McCoy refused to use any of his time outs at the end of the first half, choosing to allow the Bengals punter to stand on the field and run out the clock instead of giving his Philip Rivers-led offense a shot at getting some points. Keep in mind on Sunday McCoy himself called Rivers one of the best quarterbacks of all time. The list goes on and on. What really drives the point home is in the moments he does decide to throw caution out the window it usually works out pretty well.

Go back to last year in Jacksonville. In the fourth quarter the Bolts were facing a 4th and 7 in Jacksonville territory. McCoy elected to go for it, Rivers ran for a 1st down, the drive ended with a touchdown, and the Chargers won 31-25. That also happens to be the last time they won a one-possession game.

Since then McCoy’s Chargers are 0-7 in games decided by eight points or less.

After these tough losses McCoy has been fond of saying somebody needs to make a play. That is awfully hard to do when you don't give your players chances to make plays in crunch time. What’s truly disheartening is he will never realize the error of his ways. He either doesn’t get it or refuses to make any changes to his approach.

The Chargers have outscored their opponents by a total of 10 points this season, yet have a 1-4 record. Their struggles are not due to talent or roster composition, they’re due to a complete and thorough lack of leadership from San Diego’s head coach.

I guess the one good thing about this is I now understand why Mike McCoy wears a visor on the sidelines: it’s like somebody started a hat but just couldn’t finish.

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