In staying up late to watch the San Diego Chargers the last two weekends, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for what head coach Mike McCoy has done to turn Philip Rivers around. He’s empowered his embattled quarterback and put the ball in his hands.
Rivers has complete control of the passing game, and the Chargers rely on his arm to win or lose games. So far, Rivers has delivered his highest completion percentage of his career (72.6%), and he commands a passing game that runs fast or slow depending on his dictation of the pace.
Looking at Rivers’ up and down performance the last two seasons, it would have been easy for McCoy to turn the other way and hold Rivers down. He didn’t have to trust a guy who has been erratic and mistake-prone, especially considering that Rivers has the most depleted group of receivers in his career. Rivers is minus his top two receivers from last season — Malcolm Floyd and Danario Alexander — and has made guys like Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen into household names. Right now, even with the changes, Rivers ranks third in the NFL in passing yards and second in passing touchdowns.
In a lot of ways, Rivers is dealing with many of the challenges that Joe Flacco has dealt with. Flacco has had to operate without three of his top four receivers — Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, and Jacoby Jones — for nearly the entire season. Boldin, won’t be back; Pitta might be back before the season ends.
However, while Rivers remains the epicenter of his offense, Flacco continues to play second fiddle to a run, run, pass archaic mentality. He is put in tough down-and-distance predicaments, particularly on third down. Instead of dictating the pace on offense, which Rivers does often, Flacco is trying to keep his head above water and survive in the face of a furious pass rush.
Flacco has more pass attempts than Rivers, largely due to his 62 tosses while playing catch-up in Denver and his miserable 50 pass game against Buffalo. However, he has guided a less productive offense. Meanwhile, Rivers is enjoying his best season in years. The “sink or swim with Philip” mentality in San Diego won’t change any time soon, especially under the direction of McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.
Isn’t it time that Flacco was treated like a big-time quarterback in his own right? Shouldn’t the Ravens ride his arm, especially when it comes to attacking defenses? Following a maddening loss to the Packers, Flacco certainly seemed frustrated with the early down inefficiency the offense has endured this season. Who can blame him?
Head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell should take a page from San Diego’s book and give Flacco the chance to run the offense according to his cadence and terms. That doesn’t mean abandoning the run. But they need to make things easier for him on first and second down by adapting a pass first approach, which is the case for most top-notch QBs.
The Ravens paid him like one.
Now it’s time to treat him like one.