Gut Reaction: The Mike McCoy and Marc Trestman hires

Happy Wednesday, friends.  A couple of interesting hires were made over the last 24 hours on the “coaching carousel” (I think that’s a dumb term, but whatever), and I thought I’d share some thoughts on them. 

The Chargers’ hiring of Mike McCoy strikes me as probably being good for them, and not so good for him.  It’s difficult to know exactly how good a coach McCoy is, and exactly what contributions he’s made to the Broncos, but I have a pretty good overall impression of him. 

I think the flexibility McCoy has shown, in fitting the Broncos’ schemes to fit its players, is very positive.  That kind of flexibility bodes well for going to a new team, with different kinds of talent, and maximizing it.  Of course, the Chargers have pretty underwhelming offensive talent on hand, so he may end up having to acquire new players, like a married-to-the-scheme coach would. 

They’re not quite the LOLJets, but you’re talking about an injury-prone Ryan Mathews, with nothing behind him at RB.  At WR, it’s Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander (yawn), with free agent busts Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal maybe (or maybe not) sticking around.  Antonio Gates is still a threat at TE, but he’s pretty clearly in his decline years.

The offensive line is a complete wreck, and you guys know that I don’t view Philip Rivers as positively as many people do.  Their defense was 16th in scoring, and ninth in yards allowed, and I think that’s about right, given its talent.  They’re slightly above average.

In the short term, McCoy is going to need to maximize the talent he has on hand, because the Chargers don’t presently have much cap room to quickly improve their talent base.  They can thank A.J. Smith’s spending spree from last offseason, as he tried in vain to save his job.

In the longer term, what’s going to matter most is what kind of leader McCoy is.  That’s the part of the package that I don’t have a good feel for.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard the guy speak, and I’ve never had a reason to think that he was a master motivator type of coach. 

The leadership/management aspect is kind of an unknown to me, after four years of having him as a Broncos coach.  It’s kind of like McCoy was hired through the sort of thought process that lands on a technocratic scheme guy, and that his scheme is that he’s not married to any particular scheme.  Seinfeld was a show about nothing, and it worked (although I never cared much for it), so maybe McCoy will work too.

In the middle of last night, the Bears hired Marc Trestman out of the CFL, and I like that move better than the McCoy hire.  The views of Trestman as a coach tend to break on the intelligence of the commenter.  If you’re a smart person, like Steve Young , you can handle the fact that the guy is a lawyer, and that he operates at a high intellectual level; he’s your kind of coach.  From Young, who compares Trestman favorably to Mike Shanahan:

"Mike and Marc aren't exactly the same personalities, but they get to the same place," Young explained. "Mike's a predator. I'd say the same about Marc, but you wouldn't know it ahead of time, just different. I like them both. I love Mike Shanahan, trust me. But I would put Marc right in there."

Then there’s the crusty old traditional football type, who isn’t going to like Trestman, or his outside-the-box thinking.  The following quote comes anonymously from Pro Football Weekly, which is based in Chicago:

“Marc Trestman’s offenses were so complex that his players could not learn it. He’s a lawyer who overcooks the game. That is why he has not gotten back in the NFL. Your quarterback has got to be able to understand the offense. There are not many that can handle everything he puts on their plates.”

Rich Gannon didn’t have any trouble understanding Trestman’s offense when he was the league's MVP in 2002.  That just seems like a quote from a guy who’s intellectually lazy.  As much I like the simplicity of what Peyton Manning does in Denver, you can also get to success by trying to be innovative, and I like Trestman’s approach to the game.  He’s finally overcome the anti-intellectualism of the NFL, and gotten back in.

It’s pretty clear that the priority in Chicago now is to maximize the productivity of Jay Cutler, as he’s already into what should be his prime years, with little team success to show for it.  It’s long past time to stop coddling the guy, and to start holding him accountable. 

Cutler has always seemed to think that he’s good enough, and that it’s the other people around him, be it coaches or players, who need to improve or be replaced.  I suppose it’s easy to think that way, when everybody defers to you, and lets you have your way, and Trestman’s biggest challenge will be to get Cutler to realize that he can and must play better than he ever has.

Young had another interesting comment in the article I linked above:

"There's a lot of great athletes in the NFL, and one of the things that keeps them from getting to their full potential is this idea that 'I'm such a great athlete, I just go out there and play. I'm that good,'" Young said. "Some of them are that good but never reach their full potential unless they go to school, especially quarterbacks. So if you have a willing participant in Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman, it could make some good music."

One of the candidates to interview for the position early in the process came away from his meeting with Chicago expecting the club to now hold Cutler to a higher level of accountability, in addition to administering some tough love to the quarterback, who has underachieved with the Bears.

The candidate said, "The person I spoke with said that is the plan."

Trestman also faces some challenges in Chicago.  His offensive line is also a mess, about on par with San Diego’s, but hiring Aaron Kromer away from the Saints is likely to help that.  The Bears defense is aging and expensive, and probably headed for some personnel transition.  The biggest thing for the Bears, though, is getting their putative “franchise quarterback” to actually perform like what he’s supposed to.  If Trestman can do that, then he’ll be a home run hire for Phil Emery and the Bears.

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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