Chargers' coordinators prefer sideline view

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
12:30
PM ET
SAN DIEGO -- It’s a conversation head coaches usually have with their offensive and defensive coordinators before the season starts -- will they be on the field or in the coaching box on game days?

And the answer to that question depends on a lot of variables -- visibility, motivation, a coach's ability to communicate and ultimately comfort level.

Seattle head coach Pete Carroll wants his coordinators on the sideline communicating and motivating their players during the game.

But longtime defensive coordinators like Monte Kiffin with the Cowboys and Detroit's Gunther Cunningham prefer the bird's-eye view they receive from the coaches' box. Cunningham actually returned to the booth after spending a couple seasons on the sideline for the Lions.

“Personally, I like it up there, especially when it gets cold,” Cunningham told reporters when asked about the move.

San Diego coach Mike McCoy said he left the decision up to offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator John Pagano.

“It’s really what they’re most comfortable with,” McCoy said. “I preferred being down, myself, but that’s something you’d have to ask both of them. I was flexible with them in what they preferred and where and they wanted to be.

“The most important thing is that the whole staff communicates together and that they feel comfortable doing what they can do. But it doesn’t bother me. I don’t think it makes much of a difference.”

Whisenhunt said he preferred being on the field primarily because of his ability to quickly communicate with quarterback Philip Rivers. According to research complied by the Baltimore Ravens’ coaching staff, only five of the 32 NFL coordinators called plays from the coaches’ booth during the 2010 NFL season.

“If you are in the box then you have to relay it to a coach on the sidelines and sometimes that can take a little longer,” Whisenhunt said. “However, when you are on the field you can’t see as much as when you are in the box. So it’s a little bit of both.

“I think it’s a feel. It’s been good just because I have been able to communicate with Philip, and I think when you are talking after a series or in a break, you can get a better feel when you are actually on the field.”

Pagano said he better communicates with his defensive players when he's on the field.

“Years ago, I was always up in the box,” Pagano said. “I think being on the field I see the same types of things as I did in the box. Being in touch with the players is important to me.

“I preach communication. It's me being able to communicate to those guys that I feel the same way about being down there and around them. We have to be able to get things adjusted and that’s what our coaches do a great job of. I have always thought about it -- either going up or staying down, but I just feel comfortable downstairs.”

Eric D. Williams

ESPN San Diego Chargers reporter

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