The biggest priority for Mike McCoy in his first year as Chargers coach is to fix whatever has been wrong with quarterback Philip Rivers.
Rivers' decline can be traced to a few things out of his control. The offensive line was absolutely awful last year. The team didn't want to commit to receiver Vincent Jackson, whose deep skills fit Rivers' strengths perfectly. Not surprisingly, Jackson had a tremendous season with Tampa Bay last year. It was a stubborn and bad decision by former general manager A.J. Smith to not pay him. Other Chargers receivers have been unreliable the last two years. Tight end Antonio Gates isn't the same player he was a few years ago.
That doesn't mean Rivers has no responsibility for how poorly he has played the last two years. Rivers went from a MVP candidate with three straight years of at least a 100 quarterback rating to consecutive years posting an 88 rating. That's a steep drop.
McCoy was on the set of NFL Network to talk about Rivers, and he said all the issues can be fixed.
The biggest thing might be that Rivers is he is pressing too much. He has 35 interceptions the last two years, and many of them were the kind of jaw-dropping mistakes he didn't make a few years ago.
"Don't try to do too much," McCoy said about Rivers. "Just trust the system, and believe in it, and he'll be fine."
McCoy watched Rivers' worst play, an interception returned for a touchdown against Tampa Bay in which Rivers made a terrible throw near the sideline instead of throwing it away.
"Don't try to make something that's not there," McCoy said. "It's just a poor decision."
Unfortunately for Rivers, as his supporting cast has gotten worse, the Chargers have asked him to do more. He needs a consistent running game, and Ryan Mathews has rarely provided that after replacing LaDainian Tomlinson. Rivers never went over 500 passing attempts when he played with Tomlinson. Without Tomlinson, Rivers has attempted 541, 582 and 527 passes the last three seasons.
McCoy addressed two of the biggest questions, first about whether Rivers has lost some arm strength ("His arm is a lot stronger than people think it is," McCoy said) and the offensive line woes ("We have to help him here too, with the pocket," McCoy said). There's no reason Rivers can't be elite again. He's just 31 years old. His receivers aren't great but the Chargers have invested free-agent money and draft picks into the position.
Rivers shouldn't be past his prime yet, but the clock is ticking. If McCoy is going to be an instant success in San Diego, it will be because Rivers plays much more like he did from 2006-10 than he did in 2011-12.