(Photo by TheMighty1090.com)
When a team has incidents that cost it the game in the fourth quarter, the head coach will get the blame because conventional wisdom states that the players’ prevention of mental mistakes throughout regulation and overtime is his fault. Such was happening with the San Diego Chargers in their 2-4 start and based on the moments listed down below, any benefit of any doubt toward head coach Mike McCoy went away quickly.
• Week 1: Punter Drew Kaser performs a 17-yard punt to set up a game-tying Spencer Ware touchdown, and the Chargers allow Alex Smith to score a two-yard touchdown to win the game in overtime. Chargers lose 33-27.
• Week 3: The defense lets wide receiver T.Y. Hilton score a 63-yard touchdown to give the Indianapolis Colts the lead and Hunter Henry and Travis Benjamin fumble with roughly two minutes left. Chargers lose 26-22.
• Week 4: Travis Benjamin fumbles at the Chargers 30-yard line to set up a John Kuhn rushing touchdown to give the New Orleans Saints a lead after being up by ten points at halftime. Chargers lose 34-35.
• Week 5: Drew Kaser fumbles at the Oakland Raiders 18-yard line when Chargers were in a position to tie the game and send it to overtime when down by three. Chargers lose 34-31.
If it is the coach’s job to make sure the players stay in line for all four quarters, McCoy deserves a great share of the blame. But when he is not praised and credited for going to the playoffs and having back-to-back winning seasons in his first two years while not looking the part of a head coach because he is not a barking tyrant, the blame aimed at him is only politically motivated by the media and his peers being anonymous sources.
It surely will be McCoy’s fault when Ken Whisenhunt is on the sidelines. He went to the Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals, even though his years without Kurt Warner and with the Tennessee Titans are making him look more like an annual fraud.
It most definitely will be when Philip Rivers is the quarterback of the team.
Rivers is known as the greatest active quarterback without a Super Bowl ring and most failed by his franchise not named the Indianapolis Colts. After all, when a quarterback has a cache based on jerks making up rules as they go along and is only great because no one grades according to a consistent standard, you always have a chance to win with him.
But what chance of winning does a team have when he is now doing the things that caused the Chargers to be 2-4 in the first place? What chance does it have when he has been absolved from all of the team’s blame when enough evidence shows that he deserves plenty.
Against four of his last five opponents (Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, and Oakland Raiders), he has thrown at least one fourth-quarter or overtime interception in each of those games and is tied for the NFL-lead with five fumbles lost. Most damning of all is his passer rating declines the longer he plays, and if people do not regard his sacks, rushing attempts, and fumbles when they watch him play, they will fully grasp that his throwing numbers are a reflection of his unbearable throwing attributes.
Rating by Period
1st Quarter: 114.2
2nd Quarter: 96.3
3rd Quarter: 92.6
4th Quarter: 59.5
1st Half: 104.1
2nd Half: 75.3
Rivers has thrown five first-half interceptions versus thirteen in the second half, including nine in the fourth quarter. If one’s passer rating dips by nearly 30 points when interceptions versus pass attempts are included in rating formula, it is time to admit to ourselves that he is currently the team’s biggest problem.
We all know that he likely wants to be the reason the team wins. If I am wrong, he would accept more roles involving him to go under center, a formation that is friendlier to running backs and conducive to Melvin Gordon’s strengths. Gordon averages nearly one yard per carry more from under center (4.1) than he does from the shotgun formation (3.4). He also scores touchdowns at similar rates under both formations (3.8 percent from under center and 4.2 percent from the shotgun formation).
You would think that Rivers would be encouraged by this revelation along with Gordon’s 11.5 yards per catch from under center. Instead, he wants to go with the passer friendly shotgun formation and put up better numbers for his team to win, including completing 76.1 percent of his shotgun passes to Gordon as supposed to completing 54.5 percent from under center.
For his career, Rivers has thrown nearly twice as many passes (4026) from the shotgun than he has from under center (1808), but this year, it has been tremendously lopsided. He has thrown just 79 passes from under center, which is five times less than his number of shotgun throws (415).
To his credit, his career passer rating from the shotgun formation is 94.0, a number that is just 3.4 points short of his rating from under center (97.4). However, when his passer rating is 30.3 points greater under center (115.2) than in shotgun (84.9) in 2016, either his coaches are horrible or he is a hothead.
McCoy’s placid attitude might be getting the best of him because he is acting powerless to Whisenhunt. The last time I checked, running games and Whisenhunt do not mesh well based on rushing statistics under him as the head coach in Arizona and Tennessee. Then again, with Rivers having a reputation of a bad attitude and not shutting his mouth enough, it is possible that his personality is interfering with the team’s progress.
Granted, the Spanos family are horrible business people by retaining the wrong people (A.J. Smith, Mike Riley, and team attorney Mark Fabiani), letting go of assets (Shaun Phillips, Darren Sproles, and Vincent Jackson), and building bad teams around Rivers.
Plus, as a thrower of the football, he has earned a tremendous reputation and can play well for at least another three years. However, when Gordon is outplaying Rivers despite Rivers averaging 557 shotgun throws from 2013 to 2015 and having an unlikeable reputation before he and the media downplay it with a positive spin, he may be the Chargers’ biggest problem.
When he finds himself in conflicts with LaDainian Tomlinson and situations where he reportedly opposes a move to Los Angeles for selfish interests unrelated to football, he is only about himself. Today, teams in the NFL win by going according to their strengths without regarding individual statistical demands from running backs, quarterbacks, and wide receiver. When his personality likely plays a role in how the plays are called, it might be time to exchange Rivers for picks that turn into players that teams would want.
Besides, when new head coaches want their own programs and quarterbacks, it is better that he be traded to a Super Bowl contender that is one piece away. Most importantly, with a promising youth movement happening inside the Chargers organization, the Chargers can find a new young quarterback that is able to be helped by Gordon and an array of promising young offensive and defensive players.
No one can predict the future, but when short-term fixes create long-term disasters for irreparable places, there are create greater long-term problems. Right now, San Diego is an irreparable place, and when Rivers makes the place in need more repairs, there is no point in keeping him when the long-term future is what matters most.