For the San Diego Chargers (1-2), change has come this season and quarterback Philip Rivers is off to a good start. In the first week, he threw for 195 yards and four touchdowns followed by a second week performance that included passing for more than 400 yards, three touchdowns and zero turnovers. This was good enough to give Rivers an AFC Offensive of the Week honor.
Then we had Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans that ended in a loss after an end-of-game touchdown. It was a big win for the Titans–their first one of the Chargers since 1992 when the team was still in Houston.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, Rivers had cooled off with his 184 yards, one touchdown and two sacks. But what is more memorable was the way he ended the game. In a last ditch effort to come from behind by three points, on the last touch of the game, Rivers kicked the ball, showing his frustration with the way things ended. A penalty ensued from the action.
While fantasy owners may be dumping Rivers for Week 4 or possibly be getting rid of him, the bigger question may be if new Chargers coach Mike McCoy has resurrected Rivers’ career?
One thing you can say, McCoy isn’t surprised by Rivers’ play. Recently the question had been posed to him on whether Rivers was his quarterback. He definitely responded via NFL.com, “Without a doubt — there is no doubt in my mind. I’ve said that since Day 1.”
For McCoy, it’s business as usual the way he’s bringing Rivers into his system. This is the way he does it: install the system; allow the player to acclimate, get everything down and create the belief in it, and make adjustments to the system as necessary for the player.It’s worked before as McCoy has coached other quarterbacks this way including Jake Delhomme, Kyle Orton, Peyton Manning, Rodney Peete and Tim Tebow–to name a few.
McCoy has also two trusted lieutenants to bring Rivers into the system: Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and the quarterbacks coach, Frank Reich.
He said of the duo, “Frank and Ken put the tapes together to do the install, and used Indy, Denver and Arizona — those were good examples. From Day 1, we said to Phil, ‘Let us install it first, and then you buy in, and if you’re used to having things called differently, speak up as we go.’ If there are things that don’t make sense, we can talk about it. We’ll change if we need to. The thing is, everything you do is all off the quarterback. He has to be comfortable. If he’s not, you’ve got two strikes against you.”
For Rivers, he’ll hope history will repeat itself as McCoy, when he was the Broncos offensive coordinator, saw Orton pass for 7,400 yards-plus in two seasons. Then there was Tebow, who got the Broncos to the playoffs. Then there was Mannings’ first successful season with the Broncos in 2012. Whisenhunt brings some past success as well (see Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger).
But two questions still remain. Will Rivers buy into to the system? McCoy sees it as malleable to different players and their strengths. He said, “Do what they do best. I don’t care what we run. As long as the quarterback likes it, we have a chance. If he doesn’t, we don’t.”
At 32-years-old, Rivers is in the second half of his career. He’s a competitive player and the last two seasons have to be disappointing for him. As much as he can buy into McCoy’s system and the two build trust, there’s always that supporting cast that Rivers will need behind him.
A depleted offensive line won’t help but as Rivers improves so will his weapons, such as Eddie Royal, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead.
McCoy believes in Rivers, maybe the question is, does Rivers believe in himself?