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2013 San Diego Chargers Review: Coaches

The San Diego Chargers coaching staff was much better in 2013 than it was in 2012. We try to figure out why that is, and what changed to help the team win a playoff game.

Justin Edmonds

Hi, all. I'm John. I know I haven't been around much since the end of the season, so there's a chance that some of you don't even know who I am, so I thought I'd re-introduce myself.

I've been thinking about the 2013 season since it ended abruptly, 8 days ago in Denver. I've been trying hard to avoid looking ahead, but that's the easy thing to do. What should the GM do? What free agents should he sign? How good will these team be when everyone is healthy? That's pure optimism, and it's easy and fun. I want to do what Richard Wade did, and look back at this season to try and make sense of it all. I want to see what changed from 2012 to 2013.


There appears to be two different types of arrogance.

There is the type that believes that something will work because it always has worked, which is mostly a confidence that the sky is still blue and the world still turns. This is what always drove me crazy about Norv Turner. Norv thought that if something worked today, it would work 5 years from now. If it had worked 5 years ago, it would still work now. After all, it's still football. This is the same philosophy that got Mike Martz chased out of the league.

Honestly, this is all I knew when Mike McCoy walked through the doors with his "I know best" fatherly attitude towards the media and everyone else. I was a little worried that fans of the San Diego Chargers would be stuck with another Norv Turner.

As soon as I heard that Ken Whinsehunt had been hired as the offensive coordinator and would call the plays, I knew that McCoy was a different animal altogether. This wasn't a man that was convinced that his offense would work in San Diego because it worked in Denver. This was a man that believed in himself, and wanted to instill that belief into a team. That' For Chargers fans anyway. In that way, McCoy seems to be cut from the same cloth as Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll, who are currently working as the example hires that other teams are following.

Sometimes, those uber-confident coaches cause problems. Greg Schiano would be an example of that. Sometimes, they cause problems and then fix them, such as Rex Ryan. Either way, the Chargers were no longer a team without a head coach, letting the offensive coordinator run the show the way it was under Norv Turner. There was a real person at the top of the food chain, and he is more than willing to whip us all back in shape and back in line to get this team moving in the right direction.

It took me almost a full season to inhale that breath of fresh air that came with figuring out McCoy. I still don't love the conservatism on 4th down or the way he interacts with the media, but at this point I can see that it has more to do with his "plan" and his confidence in that plan than it does with fear. I can, at least, respect that and see how it plays out.

As for the other coaches, here are the ones I actually learned something about:

  • Ken Whinsehunt: A much better offensive mind than I originally thought. He deserved that job in Tennessee.
  • Frank Reich: Someone deserves credit for Philip Rivers' reducing his fumbles, and it might as well be the QB Coach.
  • Joe D'Alessandris: An absolute genius. A savant in the same mold as Hudson Houck. Give him a 20-year contract and whatever money he wants and the offensive line will be fine.
  • Kevin Spencer: The special teams weren't bad, but Rich Bisaccia was a special guy and the unit took a dip without him around.
  • John Pagano: I still don't really know what to make of John. Like Norv Turner, he seems confident that things should work the way they've always worked, and when they don't it's the fault of the players/injuries. He needs to get past that, but he's young so it could happen.
  • Ollie Wilson: Actually, wait....

I learned something this season about head coaches. Specifically, the ones that don't call plays on offense or defense. "What is their job, exactly?", I wondered. If Whisenhunt and Pagano were coming up with gameplans, what was McCoy doing?

Well, I think I've figured it out. I think the head coach's job is to help out wherever help is needed. It's one thing to look at Philip Rivers' improvement year-over-year and say "Well, he had McCoy and Whisenhunt and Reich." What about Ryan Mathews' improvement? He had the same RB Coach he's had his entire career. What changed?

My guess is that the zone-blocking running game implemented by D'Alessandris and Whisenhunt played a role, but that doesn't explain why he stopped fumbling the ball or where he suddenly found the strength to play through tough injuries. I think McCoy got involved here, assisting Ollie Wilson, and that's why Mathews and Danny Woodhead had such successful years.

(Note: I was never a huge fan of Jason Michael, a former errand boy for Norv Turner that he brought in as the TE Coach, and was happy to see him get the job as Whisenhunt's offensive coordinator with the Titans.)

I'll be back to reviews of the general manager and players over the next few days. For now, come up with who you might want the Chargers to go after to replace Reich as the QB Coach and Michael as the TE coach and let us know in the comments.