San Diego Chargers

Chargers should give Mike McCoy a pass due to injury-marred season

September 20 2015: Head coach Mike McCoy of the San Diego Chargers waits to speak with officials after a turnover during of their 24-19 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH.
(Icon Sportswire)

It’s true, the Chargers are barreling toward what would be a convenient juncture to make a coaching change. This Thursday night game against the Broncos would give them a longer adjustment period for what would likely be a Mike McCoy-for-Ken Whisenhunt switch.

McCoy’s past two teams have dragged the franchise to a point it hadn’t reached in some time, but are we sure he deserves to be fired now if the Chargers can’t beat the defending Super Bowl champions?

Obviously, San Diego has blown several games — each in authentic fashion. But if there’s a team and a coach that should be given a pass for such slip-ups, shouldn’t said mulligan be provided here?

The Chargers have endured a brutal run of injuries over the past two seasons. This one has already gone worse than last season’s carnage that helped put the Bolts in position to draft a top-five prospect for the first time since the Eli Manning/Philip Rivers drama transpired.

Season-ending injuries to Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead and Stevie Johnson — three of the team’s top-five pass-catchers — left Rivers without many proven options. Antonio Gates’ hamstring trouble continued that. Defensively, Jahleel Addae and Manti Te’o were two reliable starters, and Jason Verrett was the team’s top corner and a potential rising star.

Joey Bosa and Gates combined to miss six games due to hamstring trouble. Fifteen Chargers are on injured reserve, with Addae and now Brandon Flowers being merely declared out. A sizable chunk of the Chargers’ talent base is unavailable.

That could possibly have something to do with the Bolts’ inability to close out teams, right? McCoy hasn’t been a great coach by any means, but putting this on him isn’t entirely fair, especially when the Bolts have managed to stay in these games with a skeleton crew at certain areas.

Having to play without their top two corners, three of their best pass-catchers and the other aforementioned injured talents — Denzel Perryman also missed Week 5 — still produced a Chargers chance to push a game to overtime against what many are categorizing as a rising Raiders team.

It obviously looks bad when the latest fourth-quarter snafu followed those fumbles against the Saints, the T.Y. Hilton play, and that Chiefs disaster. But some patience would be wise here.

When equipped with healthier teams, McCoy guided the Chargers to back-to-back winning seasons. The Chargers stifled the Bengals in a 2013 wild card game and put a scare into the loaded No. 1-seeded Broncos a week later. The same 9-7 mark wasn’t good enough for the playoffs in 2014, but the 4-12 record last season featured nine one-score losses. Injuries ravaged San Diego’s pass-catching corps and offensive line in 2015 as well.

McCoy also resurrected Rivers’ career in 2013. He became a much more efficient quarterback under McCoy than Norv Turner. He threw for nearly 900 more yards in McCoy’s debut season than he did during Turner’s final year (2012) and connected on a 69.5 percent of his throws. Rivers’ completion rate hasn’t dipped below 66 percent since in a more precise offense than Turner’s deep-passing setup.

I had the Chargers as a prime sleeper team this season, their odds to win the AFC West notwithstanding, and they would almost certainly be above .500 and vying for the AFC West lead had some of these injuries not occurred. There’s enough here to justify McCoy keeping his job, even if this season could be lost.

Installing Rivers in a new offense next season is not ideal when he’ll be 35 and may have less time to work with some of his key pass-catching cogs due to injuries.

It might not be a fun season given what could happen as backups continue to see constant reps — plus a schedule that goes Denver-Atlanta-Denver the next three weeks — but blowing things up for the sake of making a change isn’t smart considering where the Chargers are right now.

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