Marcus Mariota's resurgence, Terrelle Pryor's emergence, more


Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks knows the ins and outs of this league, providing keen insight in his weekly notebook. The topics of this edition include:

» Does Terrelle Pryor have what it takes to become a true No. 1 wideout?

» Eric Kendricks explains what makes the Vikings' defense so darn dominant.

» Why Mike McCoy should NOT be on the hot seat in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO STRUGGLES: Why Mike McCoy deserves more patience

"You're fired!"

I know some San Diego Chargers fans would love to utter Donald Trump's catch phrase to Mike McCoy, given the team's 2-4 start, but I would urge Bolts supporters to slow down and take a deep breath before tossing aside a coach who is close to building a legitimate contender in the AFC.

Say what?!

I'm sure that's what some of you are thinking after reading that last statement, but San Diego is much closer to being a playoff team than an also-ran under McCoy's guidance. Despite sporting a 6-16 record since the beginning of 2015, the Chargers are trending in the right direction with a solid nucleus that features Pro Bowl-caliber players in critical spots.

Stepping back and looking at the roster, San Diego has a dynamic set of offensive triplets (Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen) and a star in the making in Hunter Henry. On defense, the unit boasts a pair of explosive pass rushers (Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa), a playmaking defensive tackle (Corey Liuget) and a "lockdown" cover corner (Jason Verrett). Not to mention, the team has a pair of budding young stars in Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown pummeling runners between the tackles.

While talent acquisition is the responsibility of the front office (general managers and scouts), the development of the team falls on the coaching staff. Say what you want about the team's disappointing record, but you can't dispute the on-field development of the team's core players. From top to bottom, the Chargers' foundation players have performed to expectations and the credit should go to the coaching staff for putting top players in the best positions to make plays. Granted, some would argue that hasn't always been the case, particularly with a guy like Gordon -- but he has played well during his second season after struggling as a rookie. With undrafted players like Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams thriving as a surprise contributors, the Chargers' coaches are certainly getting production from guys who weren't expected to fill key roles heading into the season.

To that point, I think it is important to recognize the litany of injuries the Chargers have encountered over the past two seasons. I know every team experiences the losses of key players throughout the year, but few have been bitten by the injury bug like the Chargers. The team is currently without Danny Woodhead, Manti Te'o, Stevie Johnson, Verrett and Allen -- and we haven't even hit the halfway mark. Not to mention, Bosa missed the first four games of the season after a lengthy holdout and hamstring issue that kept him from stepping onto the field. Thus, it's hard to really evaluate how good the Chargers could be under McCoy's direction.

With that being said, Bill Parcells repeatedly stated "you are what your record is" when evaluating a team, and the Chargers are sitting in the AFC West cellar at this point. On the surface, the 2-4 record is not only disappointing but it seemingly echoes an extended run of poor performance dating back to 2014. Since jumping out to a 5-1 record that season, the Chargers have lost 22 of their last 32 games. Part of their problem revolves around their inability to win close games. Since 2013, the Chargers have played the third-most games in the NFL decided by eight points or fewer -- behind the Ravens (38) and Saints (35) -- but sport only a 13-21 record in those contests.

No matter what I say, that's just not a good look on a résumé. However, let's take a closer look at how the Chargers have performed this season. San Diego has dominated play during in the first three quarters of games, outscoring opponents to the tune of 145-81 in those stanzas. On the flip side, they've been outscored 74-28 in the fourth quarter/overtime. Most disturbing: They've lost the turnover battle in the fourth quarter (minus-3) and made a number of bone-head errors that have called McCoy's leadership and coaching acumen into question.

Now, it's easy to blame the coach for every error, but players should be accountable for their physical mistakes. Fumbles, dropped balls and botched snaps aren't coaching errors. Therefore, it's a bit misguided to blame those miscues on the coaching staff.

"When contemplating a coaching change, you're looking for repetitive errors," a former general manager told me. "Things like clock management, situational-awareness errors and a lack of preparedness. Issues that should be covered in practice, but were glossed over and rarely discussed. If you see those issues play out on the field, then you pin the blame on the coach. Physical errors are on the players."

That's why I cringe whenever I hear McCoy blamed for numerous late-game gaffes that have led to heartbreaking losses for the Chargers this season. Sure, he is ultimately responsible for the performance of the team, but late-game fumbles by Gordon, Henry and Travis Benjamin have cost the Chargers potential wins. Not to mention, a dropped snap on a game-tying field-goal attempt. I don't how any coach could've prevented those errors.

"There aren't realistic expectations in sports anymore," the former general manager said. "If you aren't in the Super Bowl or Final Four or College Football Playoff, then the season is a considered a disappointment. People don't understand that you can't hoist the trophy every year."

If Chargers fans were wise, they would take a look at one of their former assistant coaches: Ron Rivera, who benefitted from his ownership exhibiting patience. "Riverboat" Ron posted a 13-19 record during his first two years on the job with the Carolina Panthers before rewarding the team with a 12-4 record and an NFC South title in Year 3. Although the team fell back the below .500 the next season, the Panthers somehow won the division crown and claimed a playoff victory on Wild Card Weekend. Last year, the team rolled to a 15-1 record and represented the NFC in Super Bowl 50. Carolina's a disappointing 1-5 right now, but you can't completely count them out yet, given what they've accomplished of late.

McCoy already has shown the NFL that he knows how to win after posting back-to-back 9-7 records during his first two seasons (and winning a playoff game in 2013). Although the Chargers' recent slump has been littered with improbable losses that are hard to stomach, a little show of faith could reap big rewards down the road for a team that's still playing hard for its coach.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.



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