Did Dean Spanos finally do something right? Were we wrong to doubt him?
The Dean Spanos Chargers fans had come to know did not inspire confidence. He seemed to be a risk averse man that was bad at gauging risk. He earned this reputation with his handling of all of the high profile decisions he had faced since the death of John Butler.
When his Head Coach, Marty Schottenheimer, and General Manager, A.J. Smith, were unable to work together, Spanos refused to act, instead waiting until Schottenheimer forced his hand. In the resulting Head Coach search Spanos allowed Smith to conduct a farce of a coaching search in which the decision to hire Norv Turner appeared to have been made in advance by Smith.
When his team missed the playoffs for a second straight season, but "finished strong," Dean Spanos blinked and was unable to pull the trigger on firing Turner and Smith. This failure to act gave Chargers fans another year of lame duck Head Coach and GM and another wasted year of Philip Rivers' career.
Finally, this season the team forced Spanos' hand by finishing below .500 and he fired Smith and Turner the day after the regular season concluded. By this point rumors had leaked out that Spanos was likely to promote Jimmy Raye III to replace A.J. Smith and that his top choice for head coach would be Bruce Arians. These rumors turned out to be just rumors, but they were exactly the kind of choices that people expected Spanos to make. They were that Dean Spanos brand of safe where safe means low upside.
When it was announced that he had hired former Packers General Manager Ron Wolf as a consultant, some were cautiously optimistic, but many wrote it off as Spanos giving himself cover for making the hires many already believed he had decided upon. Others still pointed to it as a sign that Spanos was unable to do the job on his own despite years in the industry. The former concern was apparently unfounded and the latter concern strikes me as petty. Spanos identified his weakness and hired someone to offset it. That's an admirable lack of ego.
Tom Telesco's hiring signaled that real change was coming to Chargers park. Nobody could confuse the former Indianapolis Colts' VP of Personnel for A.J. Smith. Telesco, more than 20 years Smith's junior, has a remarkably different way of carrying himself and as we've seen already has a different way of handling his duties as GM. Some still weren't convinced at this point that things were changing and pointed to Telesco's relationship with Colts' Offensive Coordinator, Bruce Arians. This concern would prove to be unfounded as well with the Chargers never even interviewing Arians.
The coaching search, just like the general manger search, developed rapidly and covered wide array of qualified candidates. It was unlike anything this Chargers fan can recall witnessing the team do. Prior to the divisional round of the playoffs it appeared the favorite for the job was former Arizona Cardinals Head Coach, Ken Whisenhunt, but the divisional round bounced the Denver Broncos from the playoffs and made their Offensive Coordinator, Mike McCoy, a viable candidate.
Unlike the Dean Spanos we have all come to know over the years, this year's Spanos pounced. Mike McCoy was scheduled for an interview quickly. The Chargers' plane flew out to pick up McCoy on Monday. They apparently knew early in the interview process that they had their man and they didn't want to let him leave finally conceding that he should be able to fly home to discuss the matter with his wife, but they would not take "no" for an answer and McCoy's other scheduled interviews never took place. He was officially announced as the new Chargers Head Coach within two days.
Mike McCoy is a drastically different kind of Head Coach than Norv Turner. He commands the attention of a room. He is a man with a detailed plan. He won't trouble himself with calling the plays on offense. He represents real change from the failure of the previous regime. It's as refreshing as it was unexpected. Just as importantly, McCoy and Telesco appear to have been given the authority to make real change. Numerous coaches including the much maligned strength and conditioning coaches have been let go already.
There's no guarantee the outcome will be good, but it's nearly indisputable that the process has been and that's really all you can ask for. Maybe it is time to apologize to Dean Spanos.