|Mike McCoy flashing his best press conference smile - cbssports.com|
There's an unfortunate trend developing at San Diego Chargers headquarters. Mike McCoy, the team's second-year head coach, is becoming demonstrably more hostile toward the journalists that cover his team. And in so doing, he is shooting himself and his image in the foot. It's got to stop. Now.
McCoy has become positively Bill Belichick-like in his disdain for the local press. It's been like this all season, but this week it has degenerated into a genuine thing after a relatively harmless comment made by Chargers future Hall-of-Fame tight end Antonio Gates after Sunday's game that Charger quarterback Philip Rivers had a "severe rib injury."
This news came as a big surprise to the media and to Charger fans. Gates was just supporting his teammate and friend. Rivers, one of the toughest quarterbacks to ever play this game, apparently has been playing in considerable pain, but McCoy had not listed him as injured. Until after Gates made the comment.
McCoy is treating the Gates comment like Watergate II. He's battened down the hatches on this so-called leak. He's become even more evasive and tight-lipped. Preposterously so. He's damn near mute now. And the local sports scribes have had enough of this nonsense.
I guarantee you, if the Chargers don't win a crucial home game this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, the media will really turn against McCoy, and probably rightly so.
The former offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, McCoy is by all accounts a truly decent man. He's a guy who consistently emphasizes the importance of family. But my patience is thinning. For whatever reason, Mike just can't handle the process of talking to the media. He can't stand the fourth estate. And that sentiment is becoming increasingly mutual.
Nick Canepa, the acclaimed sports columnist for UT San Diego, said it best. "McCoy is SoCoy," Nick wrote. "He’s like an old spokesman for TASS — furtive, calculating, cautious, the deliverer of … well, not always misinformation, but of little or no information. You know, coy. And for what? Because he’s one of those football coaches who looks under his oatmeal in the morning to make sure it’s not bugged."
McCoy isn't just paranoid, he's also a bit of a snob. He seems to think he's smarter than the people who cover him. He's not. In his presser this week, he laughably labeled the Chargers ugly 13-6 win over the Raiders on Sunday an “outstanding team performance.” Please, Mike. Who are you trying to kid here?
While the defense had its moments against Oakland, the offense was awful. The offensive line, specifically, played poorly. It has for the last four games. Does McCoy think we aren't paying attention?
This coach has every reason to be happy. He's making about $4 million a year and living and working in San Diego, the best city in the world. And his 6-4 Chargers are still in it.
McCoy's squad is just one game behind the first-place Denver Broncos in the AFC West and just a half-game behind the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite suffering a boatload of injuries to key players this season, the Chargers still have a shot at the division title. But instead of giddy, we get surly. McCoy is downright nasty at times.
Is it a lack of maturity? After all, McCoy, 42, is the youngest head coach in the league. When the cameras go on and the microphones are placed in front of his face, he becomes Mr Hyde. This is a trait that can very quickly lead you to ruin as a head coach.
McCoy has a good football mind and, importantly, still has the locker room in his corner. Charger players clearly still believe in his ability to lead. And by all accounts he is a compassionate man who agonizes over the player cuts he has to make.
So where is that guy at his press conferences? They're cringe-worthy. And it didn't just start this week. It's been going on all year. Even when the Chargers were sitting pretty at 3-1 and in first place, when I watched McCoy address the media he appeared perturbed every time he was asked even the most basic, harmless question by a professional journalist.
Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco needs to tell McCoy to lighten up. He may be the only person to whom McCoy will listen.
I'm sure that talking to sometimes-cranky sportswriters isn't always a joy. But it's an integral part of the job description for a head coach. And it's the best and often the only way to communicate directly with the fans, who are ultimately responsible for paying McCoy's generous salary. It doesn't serve anyone's purpose if you are belligerent and hostile.
If there has been a specific incident that has soured McCoy on the local or national media, that may be a different story. But I'm not aware of any such incident. I don't know of any situation in which McCoy was burned by a reporter or egregiously misquoted or unfairly criticized.
If McCoy thinks the San Diego media are rough, he should thank his freaking stars he's not in New York, Philly or Boston. The media jackals in those markets would be eating him alive by now.
Telesco, also a relative youngster in his second year as GM, has talked often about how open this new Charger regime is to the public. How it embraces a family atmosphere. That's reflected by the fact that more assistant coaches are now sometimes talking to reporters now than they did in the A.J. Smith regime.
But those assistant coaches are far more effusive than McCoy, who is stepping into odious Belichick territory here. And he just hasn't earned the right to do this. Win a few Super Bowls, then you can get away with being a jackass.
Belichick, the undeniably successful coach of the New England Patriots, is one of the worst humans in sports. A dismal guy. I shudder to think that McCoy is headed in that direction.
We all know that sportswriters can at times be a pushy and sometimes even obnoxious bunch. But the vast majority of reporters I know who cover the Chargers - both print and broadcast -- are professional and fair. They've given McCoy no reason to be so hard.
So here's my advice, Mike: Just chill out! You got the job. And you know how to coach. Last year you should have been in more conversations for the NFL Coach of the Year. Is that it? Is that why you seem angry all the time when the camera and recorders are on?
Just try smiling now and then. It doesn't hurt. Talk to the media. Joke with them. Answer a question honestly. I know you don't like to talk about team injuries. But now and then you can, and should, and must.
You're a pretty nice guy when the cameras turn off, virtually everyone says so. Just remind yourself that members of the media are men and women with families, too, just like you. They have an important job to do, just like you. And remind yourself that whatever vibe you give off at a press conference is how the public sees you, too.
Above all else, coaching is about leadership and the ability to handle pressure and adversity and set the standard for a team. If you can't stand the heat, Mike, you're in the wrong job.