7 Candidates to Become the Offensive Coordinator of the San Diego Chargers
Believe it or not, hiring Tom Telesco as the general manager and Mike McCoy as the head coach was the easy part for the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers now have to build a front office capable of identifying talent and get coaches that can develop that talent. Once that is done, the team can begin the process of refining the roster.
A chain is only as good as the weakest link and bringing in a good offensive coordinator is going to be vital to the success of the team. The offensive coordinator will call the plays, McCoy announced in his introductory press conference.
Since the team will sink or swim depending on the performance of Philip Rivers, the offensive coordinator is going to impact the Chargers nearly as much as McCoy will. The most important men for the San Diego Chargers next season will be McCoy, Rivers and the yet-to-be-named offensive coordinator.
McCoy doesn’t have a lot of time to build his staff, and he’s at a disadvantage because he’s coached under John Fox for the majority of his career and the Broncos aren’t going to let a division rival poach their coaches. McCoy is going to have to consider some candidates that he’s not necessarily familiar with.
Provided the Vikings will allow him to leave, Jeff Davidson seems like the ideal candidate to become the offensive coordinator in San Diego. Davidson was the offensive coordinator in Carolina when McCoy was the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator in 2007 and 2008. The two men are very familiar with each other.
Davidson’s specialty is the offensive line, which just so happens to be the Chargers biggest problem. Davidson has coached the offensive line in Minnesota for the last two seasons. In 2012, the offensive line opened up enough holes for Adrian Peterson to nearly break the NFL’s single-season rushing record.
There aren’t many candidates out there like Davidson, who is familiar with McCoy, experienced and who specializes in the area that was the Chargers’ biggest weakness. The only problem will be prying him away from the Vikings.
The recently fired head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars is looking for work. Mike Mularkey has been a good enough offensive coordinator to get two head coaching jobs and it seems likely he’ll get another coordinator job in 2012.
Mularkey runs a similar offense to the one Rivers knows, so there wouldn’t be a huge adjustment period. McCoy himself isn’t a West Coast Offense guy, so it seems unlikely he’d bring in a coach with that kind of background.
Mularkey earned his first head coaching job after three years turning the Pittsburgh Steelers into an offensive juggernaut. In his three years in Pittsburgh, he made the playoffs once with Kordell Stewart and once with Tommy Maddox at quarterbacks. Mularkey squeezed production out of an aging Jerome Bettis. Amos Zereoue was his leading rusher in one of the three years the Steelers made the playoffs.
When Mularkey took over the Steelers, their offensive ranking in points scored jumped from 18th to third. When Mularkey left it jumped from 22nd to 16th, despite replacing Maddox with Ben Roethlisberger.
Mularkey was Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator for the Dolphins in 2006, but he couldn’t get much done with Joey Harrington, Ronnie Brown and Marty Booker as his top offensive threats. In 2007, Mularkey remained on Cam Cameron’s staff in Miami as a tight ends coach.
Mularkey landed on his feet as the offensive coordinator in Atlanta from 2008-2011. In his four years, the Falcons finished no worse than 13th in scoring with three Top 10 finishes. Mularkey took former Charger Michael Turner and made him into his feature back and developed rookie Matt Ryan at quarterback.
When Mularkey arrived in Atlanta, the offensive production jumped from 23rd in scoring to sixth. When Mularkey left Atlanta, the production remained about the same. Mularkey has proven to be a good coordinator at every stop, even if he’s not a very good head coach.
Remember him? Cameron is looking for a job again and could be reunited with Rivers. The last time Cameron was in San Diego, they had the No. 1 scoring offense and a 14-2 record. Cameron parlayed that success into a one-year failure in Miami as a head coach.
Cameron latched on with the Ravens and was a mild success turning Joe Flacco into an NFL quarterback over the last five years. The Chargers could do much worse than bringing Cameron back.
The nice thing about Cameron is that he’d use the exact same offense as Turner, but with McCoy’s input taken into heavy consideration. Continuity is a good thing and Cameron would allow the Chargers to keep the offense intact and simply tweak it to fit the personnel.
If the Chargers wanted a bold hire, they might opt for the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Hue Jackson was Flacco’s quarterbacks coach under Cameron in 2008 and 2009 before the Raiders hired him in 2010.
While Jackson doesn’t seem like the type of offensive coordinator who would jive well with a guy like McCoy, he does know offense and was successful at turning the Raiders around. Jackson has coached running backs, receivers and quarterbacks in his coaching career.
Jackson would likely relish the opportunity to stick it to the team that fired him twice in a year and he’ll be highly motivated to be a success as he wants to be a head coach again. If Jackson can make Jason Campbell look like a competent quarterback, he might be able to make Rivers look like a star again.
Ken Whisenhunt might land in Denver, but if he doesn’t, the Chargers should consider him. Whisenhunt wants to be a head coach and has gotten several interviews including with the Chargers, but it looks like he’ll have to settle for a coordinator job again.
If Whisenhunt doesn’t become Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator, he’ll likely have the choice between coaching Rivers or Carson Palmer. Making the wrong choice might mean the difference between being a head coach again or not.
One of Whisenhunt’s big failures as a head coach was developing a quarterback and putting together a competent offensive line. This makes Whisenhunt risky because those are precisely the team’s weaknesses. He’s still a good coach that might be able to do a lot of good things with San Diego’s more talented offense.
If the Chargers are willing to wait to fill the offensive coordinator position, they might take a look at San Francisco’s quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst once the 49ers are out of the playoffs. The Princeton grad turned Alex Smith into a competent quarterback and developed Colin Kaepernick as a passer.
Chryst has ties to the Chargers as he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 1999-2000. Chryst was also the tight ends coach in Carolina when McCoy was there. It’s almost too good to happen.
The 49ers do not have to let the Chargers interview him for the position and he’d be a candidate to replace Greg Roman if the Jaguars want to make him their head coach. Chryst is a possibility, but he’s far from a certainty despite being an excellent fit for the job.
Pete Carmichael has been interviewed for several head coaching vacancies, but he hasn’t landed one. Adam Schefter reported that Carmichael’s contract with the Saints expired, making him a coaching free agent and free to make a lateral move.
Carmichael has studied under Sean Payton and his offenses have ranked first, 11th, second and third in the league in points scored the last four years. Carmichael was the offensive coordinator in Cleveland in 2000 and that offense ranked 31st in points scored.
With Payton suspended in 2012, the offense barely skipped a beat. Clearly Drew Brees is a great quarterback, but Carmichael appears to be a pretty good coordinator as well, despite his failure as a 29-year-old offensive coordinator of a horrible Browns team.
Carmichael might bring some of the creativity and diversity that makes Payton’s offense great to San Diego. Payton’s offense is similar to the one Rivers knows, but incorporates the running game and the short passing game to complement deep routes.