The Chargers offense is broken.
Sure, it may have the look and feel of a Ferrari, but the sad fact is this sports car has yet to get out of the garage. Granted, the injuries to the offensive line have certainly exacerbated the problem, but this particular problem is being driven by an inability to put playmakers in the best position to make plays. The question is, can it be fixed and, if so, how?
It doesn't take a genius to figure out this offense is playing too tight. There are plenty of theories as to why, but it seems to me they've checked out on Mike McCoy's ultra-conservative offensive philosophy. They know they're predictable, lack the personnel to be the sort of smash-mouth offense McCoy wants to run and simply aren't selling out to execute it. With that in mind, I think there are three steps the coaches can take to fix the offense moving forward.
For the sake of argument, we'll call it the Idiot's Guide to Offense in the NFL...
The first step in improving the offense is by removing Mike McCoy from the play-calling discussion.
Even the most untrained eye can see the 2015 Chargers are indecisive and disorganized on offense. In fact, it's pretty clear the head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback aren't on the same page, which is why it takes so long to settle on a play Rivers just winds up checking out of at the line of scrimmage, anyway. It's time for the ball coach to trust Reich and Rivers to matriculate their way through whatever flawed, vanilla game plan McCoy has drawn up (or recycled) for a given week.
What does this accomplish? First of all, it would build trust between Reich and Rivers, which is clearly lacking at the moment. It would also enable the offense to play faster, which might actually lead to the occasional first quarter lead. Finally, it would probably get the players engaged earlier in games, which has been a problem of late. And, as for Mike McCoy, well...it would free him up to do the things a head coach needs to do, like finding new and inventive ways to piss away timeouts.
With play calling and tempo hopefully fixed by letting Reich call the plays, now it's time to find a way to get Melvin Gordon outside more often.
Here's a thought, how about running Melvin Gordon off tackle?! Not that I expect McCoy and Reich to understand this, but the best way to slow down overly aggressive defensive ends, which was a huge problem in Minnesota, is to run right at them. That's why the Chargers need to run more plays designed to attack the cut-back lane created by those crashing defensive ends. This is something they've had success doing in spots early in the year and it should lead to more explosive plays.
Enough with the three-yards and a cloud of dust approach to running the football, already. It's boring, predictable, ineffective. and, most importantly, it doesn't put Melvin Gordon to his highest and best use. Yes, I understand the role the draw plays in "slowing down" opposing pass rushers but, if the coaches watched the same game I did on Sunday, they'd realize they aren't slowing down much of anything with those poorly designed draw plays. Mix. It. Up.
The third and final step in improving the offense is getting Stevie Johnson more involved.
Yes, I know Keenan Allen is putting up monster numbers, and I'm sure he's even won a fantasy football match-up for a few of you. But here's the thing; it isn't good for the offense. I assure you Philip Rivers is missing open receivers as a result of being so locked in on Allen, and I have no doubt Johnson has been among the most frequently missed potential target through the first three games. Reich and Rivers must get the ball in Johnson's hands early and often in order to keep defenses guessing.
The truth is, Johnson can do things Allen just can't do on the football field. No other Chargers receiver is as lethal or as explosive in the open field, and there is little doubt that Johnson is the best route runner of the bunch. We need to see more Stevie screens, more quick slants, and pretty much anything else they can think of to get Johnson the ball in space. Frankly, with as effective as the Stevie screen has been thus far, not finding more ways to incorporate it into the offense borders on incompetence.
The time has come for a philosophical shift in this offense. In case the coaches haven't noticed, controlling the clock doesn't win games when you sit on the ball for 38:00 minutes, as they did in Minnesota, and only manage to score 14 points. Quite to the contrary, time of possession is only valuable when you have an early lead to protect, something this team hasn't managed since week 14 of the 2014 season.
By letting Frank Reich call the plays, getting Gordon outside and getting Stevie Johnson more involved, the Chargers should enable themselves to play much faster, get everyone engaged earlier in games and create opportunities for more big plays. As a result, they should start having more fun as they build early leads and, yes, win more games. Novel concept, right?