With his team sitting at 2-5, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy is beginning to take some serious heat for the first time in his coaching career. While most of his answers in his Monday press conference were typical McCoy, the questions were much tougher than they have ever been. Obviously, that’s what happens with the Chargers stumbling out of the gate. That said, at this critical juncture in the season, a deeper look at some of McCoy’s answers to questions he’s rarely, if ever, asked are worth looking in to.
(Questions have been abbreviated)
Is there enough accountability on this team?
I think it comes down to execution. That’s every play in football, in all three phases. You have a certain plan. The picture’s not always going to be perfect. There’s certain things you got to do in all three phases, all 11 guys doing their job the right way. I think in this business, in this league, at this level, if you’re not doing your job the right way, you’re going to get exposed some way or another. Whether it’s offense, defense, the kicking game, if all 11 guys aren’t there and they find a weak link, or if you’re not disciplined in what you’re supposed to be doing, you’ll get exposed. There was too much of that the other day.
The fact that McCoy refused to even mention the word “accountability” in his response speaks volumes about his mindset. Yes, every play, every game for that matter, comes down to execution. That’s obvious. But, execution requires measurement of the result, good or bad, one way or another. In the Chargers case, when the team fails to execute in whatever facet of the game—or in all three phases such as Sunday—it means the “plan” was not executed and someone should be held accountable. McCoy did say put it all on him at the beginning of his Monday press conference, but that he is so fixated on execution rather than accountability is a huge problem. Leadership is a quality based on accountability, and if players aren’t held accountable for failing to execute, then the head coach should be.
Have the players bought in?
I think the players have bought in. Like I’ve said before, time and time again, they’ve worked extremely hard. We’ve just got to keep grinding. That’s what we’re going to keep on doing.
In McCoy’s defense, you never want to hear the head coach say his players have not bought in. He’s never going to say that, nor should he. However, if he truly believes they have bought in, I would argue the results should be different. No one cares how hard (or not) the players have worked. It’s about winning games. McCoy has said that repeatedly, I’ll give him that. But when the Chargers continually play from behind early, it’s hard to argue players have “bought in” to McCoy’s plan. They look unprepared at the start of every game.
What was the thinking behind the use of Melvin Gordon?
You go in with a certain game plan and you have a certain approach you want to take to the game. He had limited reps in practice because of his injury during the week so we weren’t sure, up until late in the week, or even early, we worked him out before the game, whether he was going to play or not. We decided he was healthy enough to play the football game but we had a plan early in the game and then we got in a mode of, the two-minute situation, the no-huddle we went in, so he wasn’t involved in those early parts of the game… and then we got in the two-minute mode, and then we put him in the game in the third quarter when we did.
Translation: I’m not going to tell you he was benched because of the fumbling, but he was benched because of the fumbling. I have no problem with Gordon not playing because he’s put the ball on the ground. He’s a rookie and he needs to understand the importance of protecting the football. I do, however, think he got that message last week against Green Bay when he was benched for the remainder of the game, in front of families and friends. What’s weird is that McCoy chose to go to him in the third quarter against the Raiders. This isn’t college where you sit a player for a half for whatever disciplinary reason. If he was good to go, and your team needed him (they did), then play him.
Is there any concern at this point that guys in the locker room can tune out?
No. I think we have great leadership. When you have the type of players we have around here and the coaching staff we have and the way we work, no.
Another one where you would hope the head coach would NOT say yes to that question. But, his response in this case, is worth really thinking about. It’s hard to image questioning the attitude of a locker room that has players like Philip Rivers, Anotnio Gates, and Eric Weddle, among others, but for the first time in a long time, I think it’s at least a legitimate question. Aside from Rivers, Gates and Weddle could be gone next year. Malcom Floyd has said it’s his last season. Who is the “next generation” leader? Who, besides Weddle, commands the defense? Do the Chargers have strong, up-and-coming leadership? This is a young team and it needs a young player to step up on the field and in the locker room.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER:@andrewburer)