Mike McCoy’s work with Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, and Eric Decker in 2012 (and Tim Tebow in 2011) helped him become the Chargers head coach in 2013. McCoy is one of three 2012 offensive coordinators who will be head coaches this season. 1 The other two are are Bruce Arians (who goes from OC/interim HC/COTY in Indianapolis to Head Coach in Arizona) and Rob Chudzinkski (OC in Carolina, HC in Cleveland). I’m not sure if Arians really qualifies, but in any event, it’s McCoy who truly represents the “hot shot offensive coordinator –> head coaching job” rungs on the coaching ladder. His 2012 Broncos finished 2nd in points scored, 4th in yards, and 1st in both Net Yards per pass Attempt and Adjusted Net Yards per pass Attempt.
We’re working on our database of offensive coordinators, but it’s not 100% complete just yet. Let me know if I’ve missed any, but the table below represents all of the instances I’ve identified since 1990 where a team hired a new head coach who had been an offensive coordinator for a different team in the prior year. Here is how the McCoy line reads. In 2012, McCoy was the Offensive Coordinator for the Denver Broncos; after the season, he was hired to become the head coach of the Chargers. With the Broncos, his offense ranked 2nd in points, 4th in yards, and 1st in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt.
[Brief sidetrack: Every time I see it, my mind is blown that McCarthy was hired as a head coach after that disastrous 2005 season.]
From a rankings standpoint, McCoy looks extremely qualified, although I’m not sure what that means. Brian Billick was an offensive guru in Minnesota but couldn’t get that side of the ball right in Baltimore. Norv Turner, Cam Cameron, Todd Haley, and Marty Mornhinweg coached great offenses but have struggled (to date) as head coaches. Of course, Mike Shanahan and Mike Holmgren stand out as the exceptions. Both used success coaching Steve Young and Jerry Rice (nice work if you can get it) as launch pads to head coaching careers, but they’ve been two of the best head coaches of the last two decades.
Perhaps the more concerning note for Chargers fans: look at the most recent names on the list. Philbin, Mularkey, Shurmur, Haley, McDaniels, Cameron, Whisenhunt, and Turner is not a list any coach wants to join. But let’s look at some data and not just reputation. When you hire a hotshot offensive coordinator, presumably the offense should improve.
The next table lists each of the offensive coordinators hired to become head coaches. Each row displays his new team’s ranks in Points, Yards, and ANY/A in the year before his arrival as well as the results in those same categories in his first season. For example, Mccoy is taking over a Chargers team that ranked 20th, 31st, and 22nd last year in Points, Yards, and ANY/A.
Pts Yr N-1
Yds Yr N-1
ANY/A Yr N-1
Pts Yr N
Yds Yr N
ANY/A Yr N
Simple regression to the mean principles would have predicted that these offenses would show some improvement. As it turns out, most of these teams produced virtually identical numbers. Joe Philbin wasn’t able to bring any Green Bay magic to Miami. Mularkey looked great with Matt Ryan and terrible with Blaine Gabbert (perhaps not so coincidentally, Dirk Koetter exhibited a similar trait). Of the 16 offensive coordinator hires from 2000 to 2012, only four were able to improve their team’s rank in both points and yards (Whisenhunt, Linehan, Turner, and Mularkey).
Those results aren’t damning on Mccoy, of course: he’s his own person, not an amalgamation of his predecessors. McCoy’s success will depend on many things outside of his control, but also on his ability to be a head coach. As part of my Super Bowl preview, I wondered if the success John Harbaugh was having might prompt teams to promote more special teams coaches. I ended that post by saying: “Being a head coach is more about managing a team, creating a vision for the roster, hiring talented people, and being a leader more than it is about play-calling.”
For McCoy, success as a head coach will mean more than just turning the offense around. It will be about finding the right coaches and players to surround his roster. But if anyone expects his presence alone to solve the problems that have haunted Philip Rivers, this post might cause you to rethink that notion.
Previous “Random Perspective On” Articles:
AFC East: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC South: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans
AFC West: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins
NFC North: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC West: Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams
- As for the other six head coaching changes? Doug Marrone (Syracuse) and Chip Kelly (Oregon) jump from college to Buffalo and Philadelphia, while Marc Trestman goes from Canada to Chicago. Gus Bradley was the sole defensive coordinator hire, moving from Seattle to Jacksonville, while Andy Reid (Philadelphia to Kansas City) was the one “retread” hire. Sean Payton also moves from the naughty step back into the head coaching job in New Orleans. [↩]