Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt Are the Perfect Duo to Fix Philip Rivers
While Rivers has spent the last few seasons stuck behind a mediocre offensive line with dwindling talent around him, with a head coach in Norv Turner that was always on the hot seat, the Chargers have now stabilized the situation.
That all starts with the addition of Mike McCoy as the head coach and Ken Whisenhunt as the new offensive coordinator. These two men may not be a foolproof solution for fixing the Chargers' recent woes, but there is no denying that they are the perfect duo to fix Rivers.
In order to understand what needs fixing, we must first establish what exactly is wrong.
That previously mentioned mediocre offensive line has been the main cause for the 79 sacks Rivers has endured over the past two seasons. He has been under constant pressure from opposing defensive linemen and blitzing linebackers, forcing either quick throws or bad decisions.
It is on Rivers' shoulders to make good decisions, but that job becomes significantly harder when he does not have enough time to dissect a defense and go through his reads. The results of this are seen by looking at Rivers' recent statistics.
The Chargers QB averaged 6.84 yards per completion last season, his lowest mark since 2005. He has also thrown 35 interceptions over the past two seasons, the worst two-year combination of his career.
Even so, Whisenhunt is someone that is immediately willing to put full faith behind Rivers, and he said as much to NFL.com. "I think he can be a Pro Bowl quarterback," said Whisenhunt. "I think he can play at that level again. That's certainly something I see from him, and hopefully we'll be able to achieve that this year."
This does not seem to just be a coach trying to say the right things about a player with no real hope of success. Rivers has been a great QB in this league in the past and is only 31 years old. And even in this recent tailspin he has still done some impressive things:
Philip Rivers reaches 25,000 pass yards in his 104th career game. Only 6 QB got there in fewer games.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 30, 2012
There is time to right the ship and the wide array of signal-callers that Whisenhunt and McCoy have worked with is impressive.
Consider for a moment that McCoy found success in a variety of players like Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton. He is capable of getting the best out of whatever type of QB he comes across. Similarly, Whisenhunt has been around Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger.
These guys know how to teach QBs to understand pressure, withstand it and thrive.
Last season, Rivers completed 43.2 percent of his 225 pass attempts while under pressure, per Pro Football Focus. However, he completed 74 percent of his 362 passes when he was not pressured. That is not someone who has forgotten how to play the game of football, but someone who struggles under pressure because he sees it so often.
These numbers also compare terribly with the recent quarterbacks coached by Whisenhunt and McCoy. In Denver last season, Peyton Manning completed 49.1 percent of his passes when he was under pressure. And in Arizona, where the passing game struggled mightily, Kevin Kolb completed 54.2 percent of his passes under pressure.
Will Philip Rivers return to form in 2013?
The point here is that the offensive scheme and system being brought to San Diego will help Rivers to regain his footing. The offense is going to become a multi-faceted attack. The system of two running plays followed by a deep pass is gone. In its place is an assortment of plays including sets with three receivers, four receivers, two tight ends, intermediate routes and play-action passes.
The offense is going to become more diverse and it is going to help Rivers gain the upper hand on defenses that won't always know what San Diego wants to do or when they plan on doing it.
Obviously, this all hinges on the offensive line improving and the rushing attack staying healthy, but the fact remains that the right coaches are in place to oversee the turnaround of the offense as a whole.
There is still an elite quarterback inside of Rivers, and 2013 may be the chance for the rest of the NFL to remember that.
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