Back in January, the San Diego Chargers announced that they had hired Mike Nolan as the team's Linebackers Coach. I was ecstatic, but I was also confused.
Nolan is a former NFL Head Coach who is a defensive mastermind, and the last time he had a position below "Defensive Coordinator" was 1992. That's 13 years ago! It's not like Nolan's name has gotten worse since then. It's actually gotten better. He's usually the DC you hire when you're one defensive improvement away from being a Super Bowl contender.
So, why take the job?
Well, when Ron Rivera took the same job, I thought there were three potential reasons...
- Rivera had pissed off the Bears by interviewing for the Chargers' head coach job during Bears' run to the Super Bowl and they were going to fire him as a result.
- Rivera knew that Ted Cottrell was going to implode and wanted the job as the Chargers' defensive coordinator.
- Rivera knew that Norv Turner wouldn't last and wanted to be around, proving his worth and forming good relationships with management for when they needed a new head coach.
- (Bonus) Rivera actually saw the 3-4 defense as "the wave of the future" and wanted to learn about it from Cottrell.
The question you'd undoubtedly asking is why Rivera would want the Chargers' DC job when he had a cushy gig as the DC in Chicago with Brian Urlacher and others. To that, I can only say, "Assume point #1 is true."
Still, none of this really explains Nolan coming on board. As far as I can tell, he has no previous relationship with anyone on the coaching staff already, and he would've been able to easily find another Defensive Coordinator job. There's also nothing that John Pagano can teach him.
In addition, what Nolan's 49ers team did immediately after he left convinced many that he had brought them really close with a great rebuilding plan and would've broken through if he had stayed. It would not be surprising if he got another head coaching job offer in the next year or two.
Was Mike Nolan hired to be an in-house Head Coaching candidate, a defensive coach for once, if Mike McCoy can't get the team back into the playoffs? That was, after all, the standard that Norv Turner was held to (and eventually fired for) with the same group of guys.
It seems crazy. However, if you take a step back and look at the Chargers from a macro perspective, there are problems....
During this offseason, the team's franchise QB (Philip Rivers) and agent seemed to push for a trade to another (lesser) team. That same franchise QB publicly defended his previous head coach countless times, and now seems to share that same affection for his former offensive coordinator (Ken Whisenhunt). Where is his public love for McCoy?
The team's best defensive player (Eric Weddle) and agent have attacked the team publicly and will soon end all contract negotiations with them, as their feelings have been hurt after it came out that McCoy was trashing Weddle to his teammates during OTAs.
The team's best running back (Ryan Mathews) signed to be another team's #2 RB rather than come back to be the Chargers' #1 RB again.
Future Hall of Fame TE (Antonio Gates) seems more focused on his post-career business ventures, and reportedly asked to play less this season (a report that he later denied).
Four veteran players retired over this offseason (Hardwick, Clary, Johnson, Freeney) and another announced that he'll retire after this season (Floyd).
Call me crazy, but it doesn't seem like NFL players desperately want to play for Mike McCoy. In fact, it seems to be closer to the opposite. Is this the first sign of trouble?
I know, I know. Winning fixes everything and this team has just as much potential to make it to the playoffs as last year's team did. However, before thing go spinning out of control, I think it's fair to wonder if McCoy's red ass attitude is starting to wear thin on a group (NFL players) that respect you more on what you've accomplished than what you say.
Also, I'm not saying Mike McCay has lost the Chargers locker room. I just think we've reached a point where it's fair to ask.