Rivers is key for McCoy hire

January, 15, 2013
1/15/13
1:12
PM ET
The San Diego Chargers won on Tuesday morning.

Will it result in more victories when it counts? That’s the goal, but it is clear the Chargers want to take a young, refreshed approach as they move away from the long tenure of GM A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner that ended with a three-year playoff drought.

[+] EnlargeDenver's Mike McCoy
Byron Hetzler/US PRESSWIRENew San Diego head coach Mike McCoy's biggest job will be getting quarterback Philip Rivers back on track.
And the Chargers want to do it by fixing their 31-year-old quarterback.

Less than 72 hours after Mike McCoy landed on the market, the Chargers plucked the grand prize of the remaining head-coaching candidates by agreeing to terms with the Denver offensive coordinator. San Diego was one of five open jobs when it agreed with McCoy. McCoy had interviewed with four of the five, and the fifth -- Jacksonville -- was hoping to line up a visit.

San Diego finalized its deal with McCoy while Arizona tried to get a second interview with him Tuesday. The Cardinals were his most aggressive pursuer, and they were considered one of the few teams that would have waited for McCoy if Denver had ended up in the Super Bowl. However, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday -- the day of McCoy’s only interview with the Chargers -- that McCoy wanted the Chargers’ job.

And he got it.

His first task will be working with quarterback Philip Rivers.

Heading into the 2011 season, Rivers was considered the best active quarterback without a Super Bowl ring. But Rivers has since become a turnover machine. Still, he is far from a lost cause. He threw just one interception in the final six games of the 2012 season and none in the final four games.

Rivers has seen the talent dwindle around him at essentially every offensive position. It will be up to new San Diego general manager Tom Telesco -- who, like McCoy, is 40 -- to help in the talent area. It is up to McCoy to give Rivers a new life and to give him new philosophies. Rivers has worked closely with Turner since 2007.

Now, McCoy will get a chance to infuse his energy and knowledge into Rivers. This must be the main reason McCoy has been hired. Nothing can turn around a franchise like a top quarterback. Rivers can be that guy again.

Rivers is clearly the reason McCoy wanted the Chargers. Rivers was considered the best quarterback among the five teams without a coach, including Jay Cutler in Chicago. Cutler is younger than Rivers, but he is considered a more difficult personality to work with.

McCoy enters his relationship with Rivers on the heels of two unbelievable quarterback coaching experiences in the past two years. In 2011, McCoy coached Tim Tebow. In 2012, he guided Peyton Manning. He went to the playoffs with both QBs.

McCoy got on the radar as a head-coaching candidate with his Tebow work. In midseason, simply as an act of survival, McCoy scrapped a pro-style offense and scripted an option-based offense that suited Tebow. It worked. Then, in 2012, McCoy got a year into the mind of Manning, the greatest quarterback mind of all time.

McCoy comes to San Diego with quite a résumé and playbook.

For the second time in less than a week, I applaud San Diego for a key hire. The Chargers hired Telesco over longtime A.J. Smith assistant Jimmy Raye. Telesco is known as one of the bright young minds in the league. Going outside of the organization was a smart move for the stale Chargers.

The Chargers talked to several older coaches, including Lovie Smith and Ken Whisenhunt, and the team was planning to talk to Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who worked with Telesco.

But when the young, fresh McCoy became available, he clearly became the Chargers’ target. There’s no doubt the Chargers won the coaching sweepstakes with McCoy, and the reason why is the presence of Rivers. Now, they all have to make it work.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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