When fresh offensive minds replace entrenched regimes, skill players often benefit from the new perspective. Younger head coaches can offer struggling players a new technique or mental approach that can help turnaround their careers. They also craft personnel packages, configure formations, and call plays to better leverage individual skill sets and matchup advantages that older coaches either do not perceive or appreciate.
San Diego Chargers Mike McCoy is one of the the NFL‘s youngest and most innovative minds; in 2013, he replaced 61-year-old Norv Turner. Turner has built a reputation for offensive excellence over his 30-plus year career, but the offensive wizard lost his wand in 2012 as he guided, or rather misguided, a talented Chargers roster to a disappointing 8-8 record.
|NFL Coach of the Year||Votes|
|Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers||21.5|
|Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs||13.5|
|Bill Belichick, New England Patriots||7|
|Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles||4|
|Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks||3|
|Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals||2|
That year, Phillip Rivers finished outside the top 10 in passer-rating. The uber-hyped Ryan Mathews was banged up all season and finished as the 30th ranked running back. Clearly missing Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd emerged as the Chargers’ No. 1 receiving option, but barely cracked the top 40 wide receivers. Future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates finished outside the top 10 tight ends. The Chargers were actually fortunate to finish 8-8.
When the 41-year-old McCoy arrived in San Diego, everything changed. During his time with the Denver Broncos, he was regarded as an innovative offensive mind and quarterback whisperer. Under McCoy’s guidance, Kyle Orton out-produced his talent level in 2009 and 2010, incredibly rising to fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game. In 2011, as Broncos’ offensive coordinator, McCoy scrapped Denver’s entire offense to accentuate Tim Tebow‘s strengths as a runner while concealing his flaws as a thrower. The Tebow experiment resulted in a Broncos’ playoff run and is regarded as the greatest in-season tactical adjustments by an offensive coordinator in recent memory.
As the Chargers new head coach, McCoy helped Rivers dramatically turn around his career on his way to winning the 2013 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. McCoy implemented creative screen passes and short timing patterns, which are key features of the West Coast offense. These tactics proved to be a revelation for Rivers, who finished the season as a top five NFL quarterback by any measure. Mathews was equally as impressive, completely turning around his career by exhibited vision, decisiveness and a violent running style for the first time since San Diego selected him in the first round of the NFL Draft.
While Rivers and Mathews rejuvenated their careers under McCoy, wide receiver Keenan Allen and tight end Ladarius Green experienced breakout seasons and project to be top 10 players at their respective positions in the near future.
McCoy not only revamped the Chargers’ offense, he also improved their defense, particularly against the run. Improved in all phases of the game, San Diego made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. After constructing such an impressive turnaround, McCoy must have have been shocked to receive zero votes for the NFL’s Coach of the Year Award. Given his 2013 accomplishments, McCoy deserved to receive votes and San Diego fans are rightfully disappointed.