Chargers hire Mike McCoy: AFC West rivalry heats up

Dustin Bradford

The San Diego Chargers have hired Mike McCoy as their head coach, taking him from the Denver Broncos in much the same way the Oakland Raiders nabbed Dennis Allen from them a season ago.

So the San Diego Chargers have made their coaching hire, bringing in Mike McCoy to join general manager Tom Telesco as the new regime. McCoy doesn't have to travel far, coming from the Denver Broncos, where he was the offensive coordinator for the past four seasons.

He even gets to remain in the division.

Former Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen was able to say the same thing a season ago. He remained in the division, and took over the Oakland Raiders. So now the Broncos have sent offensive and defensive coordinators to head coaching positions within the division.

The Kansas City Chiefs are the only team without some form of recent Broncos assistant coach in charge.

These are simply interesting dynamics, given the familiarity of the rivals that the coaches are able to bring. This past season, that didn't necessarily work out for the Allen and the Raiders, however, as they lost both divisional games to Denver by a combined score of 63-19. So much for insider knowledge.

Still, McCoy has been entirely in charge of the Broncos offense since arriving. He had good offenses in 2009 and 2010, but it was in 2011 that he really started to shine. He managed to take Tim Tebow, a mechanically deficient quarterback who was and is tragically overrated, and turned him into a guy who could, at the very least, score points.

With that single wing, read-option offense, the Broncos finished first in the league in rushing yards, and Tebow went ahead and won himself a playoff game (and on a pass too, so that was neat).

There was buzz around McCoy potentially getting a head coaching gig last season, but he cemented his opportunity in 2012, teaching Peyton Manning a new offense and managing it to finish fourth in the NFL in yards and second in points.

Manning went on to say that McCoy is ready to become a head coach when asked about his offensive coordinator following the season. Manning said that McCoy is a "strong leader," and that he worked with Manning, who really only knew one offense his entire career, day and night to get things right.

Now Manning will have to watch McCoy from the sidelines twice a year, when he attempts to manage the Chargers back to the top of the division. He'll see McCoy working with Philip Rivers, a Pro Bowl quarterback who was probably the most surprised by his down season in 2012.

Rivers, a nine-year pro, had a significantly down season in 2012. He did manage to throw 26 touchdowns and finished with a completion percentage of 64.1, but he also thew 15 interceptions and had a total quarterback rating of 40.6.

How did he end up with that rating? Rivers had 13 fumbles. In short, he looked way out of his element and not at all like someone who has been in the league for nine years. Maybe Rivers looked a little worse thanks to the fact that everyone has consistently high expectations from him.

That will be McCoy's top task as head coach, regardless of who the offensive coordinator actually is. McCoy will need to work on improving a unit that was No. 24 in passing yardage and No. 27 in rushing yardage this past season.

McCoy has made a bad quarterback look decent in Tebow, so-so quarterbacks look pretty good in Jake Delhomme and Kyle Orton, and has taken a great, somewhat legendary quarterback in Manning, and delivered what is basically his second-best season to date.

The AFC West does have this interesting coaching dynamic, but it won't come down to McCoy's knowledge of the Broncos in a potential head-to-head if he can't get the Chargers running on all cylinders. The Raiders, in years past, have concentrated almost exclusively on trying to beat their divisional rivals, and it has led to them having horrible records outside of the division.

We'll see how McCoy handles that dynamic (and whether the Chiefs are eyeing any Broncos coaching assistants next offseason).

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