If you ask the San Diego Chargers publicly to a man, most will probably tell you that they like playing for third-year head coach Mike McCoy and his staff. What some might say “off the record” could be something different.
Whether it is the rash of injuries this team has suffered through nine games, playing some teams that may simply just be a little bit better or even some ill-timed play calling, the Chargers are going nowhere fast at 2-7 with seven games to go in the regular season.
Case in point was Monday evening’s disastrous 22-19 home loss to the Chicago Bears (3-5) in front of a nationwide audience and a little over 68,000 fans in attendance
Nursing a 16-14 lead in the fourth quarter, San Diego had a golden opportunity to put the game away after moving into the red zone. A couple of bonehead penalties to wide receiver Stevie Johnson (spiking the ball for a delay of game on a first down play) and lineman D.J. Fluker (ineligible downfield) on a touchdown pass in the end zone to Antonio Gates did the Bolts in, leaving them to settle for a field goal.
Also ill-advised in the mix was the decision to try and have running back Danny Woodhead run the ball in. Woodhead is a phenomenal athlete for his size, but he’s not going to overpower linemen and linebackers who clearly outweigh him in short-yardage situations. Trying to “sneak” the ball in against the Bears from inside the 10 yard line was not likely going to work either.
So, instead of potentially taking a 23-14 lead late in the game, San Diego could only muster a short Josh Lambo field goal, giving it a precarious 19-14 advantage.
As anyone who watched the latter moments of the game knows, Bears’ QB Jay Cutler directed his team down the field and into the end zone on a great catch by tight end Zach Miller. With a successful two-point conversion in hand, Chicago went up 22-19.
While the game was far from over (San Diego had a chance to move into field goal range to potentially tie things up), Philip Rivers and Co. saw their hopes dashed on a desperation fourth down throw that was nearly intercepted. When all was said and done, game over.
What’s needed to fix the Chargers?
With just seven games remaining in the regular season, San Diego is still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff hunt, but the chances of it making the post-season are about as likely as Donald Trump being shy at a GOP debate.
Some were echoing after Monday’s game that the Chargers will play the final month-and-a-half of play fighting for a good 2016 NFL Draft spot. Even though this team is not going to give up on this season, the idea of them making the playoffs and/or calling San Diego home next season seems to be slipping away on a weekly basis.
With that in mind, who exactly is to blame for this season of frustration?
Everyone knows that the head coach is oftentimes the one who takes the fall for such mediocrity. Having said that, head coach Mike McCoy is only in his third season with the Chargers, having compiled a pair of 9-7 campaigns and a playoff win over Cincinnati in his first season at the helm.
Many eyes have turned towards offensive coordinator Frank Reich and his play selections, especially late in games where San Diego has had more than its chances to leave with wins instead of losses this season.
Reich, who played his most notable ball under center in Buffalo, and who is in his third year as the OC with the Bolts, may be walking another sideline or sitting up in another coaching box come next season (and that doesn’t mean Los Angeles if the Chargers bolt). While the buck ultimately stops with McCoy, Reich’s play-calling at times (especially late in games the Chargers have a chance to win) has left many scratching their heads this season.
While nothing is set in stone, here are three possible scenarios between now and start of next summer’s camp:
1. McCoy goes – Even though he is only in his third season at the helm, McCoy has one playoff win to show for his time here. If you looked at the schedule before this season began, you could have penciled in potentially nine or 10 wins. As it stands now, the Chargers will not finish over .500 unless they win their last seven games (two meetings with Denver, two meetings with Kansas City, Oakland, Miami, Jacksonville). If I had the final call, McCoy is back in 2016;
2. Reich goes – Some teams that are struggling will keep the head man and tell him it is time for some new blood below him. Would not be shocked, especially given some of the offensive ineptness late in games this season, if Chargers part company with Reich either before or after season ends. Yes, injuries to guys like Keenan Allen, a banged up and ineffective at many times offensive line, and the lack of a consistent rushing attack have all led to San Diego’s current state. If I had the final call, Reich is not back in 2016;
3. McCoy and Reich go – Finally, there is also the possibility that a potential move to Los Angeles after this season means management cleans house and starts fresh within the coaching ranks. If the Chargers were 7-2 instead of 2-7 at the break, a move to L.A. would seem more plausible, especially in attracting the fan bases in L.A. and Orange County. Given this team could have double digit losses at the end of this season, selling season tickets to temporary stadium settings like the Coliseum or Rose Bowl while the Chargers await new digs in Los Angeles could be troublesome. With Rivers all but definitely going to finish his career in a Charger uniform, he may be the only one who is safe if management decides to wipe the slate clean after what is turning into a disastrous 2015 campaign.