Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Chargers matchups to watch Sunday, 8:35 p.m., at Oakland Coliseum
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen vs. Chargers head coach Mike McCoy
Tale of the tape:
Allen: second-year head coach, Texas A&M
McCoy: rookie head coach, Long Beach State, Utah
Dennis Allen and Mike McCoy know each other well. They coached together in 2011 under Denver head coach John Fox. Allen coordinated that defense while McCoy ran the office. Both were on the fast track towards a head job, with Allen landing the Raiders gig in 2012 and McCoy taking over the rival Chargers a year later.
“Dennis and I were very fortunate to be on a good football team in Denver and work with a great head coach,” McCoy said. “We were very fortunate with the opportunity he got last year and the opportunity that I got this year. When you’re playing on good teams with good organizations, you’re going to get an opportunity and you’ve got to take advantage when you can.”
The NFL’s youngest coaches (both are 41) face off for the first time on Sunday night at Oakland armed with more than a year’s experience on the same staff. Allen and McCoy are good friends. They talk often during the offseason. Their families vacationed together in the Virgin Islands this offseason.
Allen and McCoy aren’t forthcoming about game plans, injuries and insight in the name of competitive advantage, but that might be a smart move this week. They know how each other think, and there’s no reason to tip a hand, even in a poker game this friendly.
Allen has great respect for McCoy and vice versa. It’s no surprise that McCoy has the Chargers offense operating well and Allen’s defense is exceeding expectations.
NFL games are decided by players on the field, where talent and execution matter far more than scheme. But, if a coach can surprise an opponent and make proper adjustments, he can tip the scale towards his side.
That happened quite often during Broncos practice two seasons ago.
“I think there was always the give and take,” McCoy said. “That’s the truth, really. There were days when the offense has their day and days when defense has their day.”
Allen understands that McCoy’s offense isn’t identical to what he ran two seasons ago, when he made the most of Tim Tebow at quarterback. Chargers coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s fingerprints are on this offense, just like Jason Tarver’s creativity has influenced Allen’s scheme.
“It’s a combination of things that he did in Denver and what Whisenhunt did (as head coach last year) in Arizona,” Allen said. “You see a bit of both of what they do. They’re going to get in 11 personnel (three receivers, a tight end) and do some of the things that Denver was doing. They’ve done a nice job combining a couple systems and giving Philip Rivers some interesting things to do. It looks like he’s doing a lot more audibling and getting into the best possible play at the line of scrimmage. It’ll be key for us to be able to handle the tempo and the pace and do a great job of communicating to get guys in the right spots.”
Allen’s defense is creative, yet still focused on the concept of conceding yards at times in exchange for game-changing plays.
“Having worked with Dennis [Allen] before, you like the way his defense plays,” McCoy said. “They’re very well-coached. They get after the quarterback. The energy and the excitement he brings every day to practice is clear. You watch the film and quarterbacks are completing 55 percent of their passes. Nice job there and all around in regards to that defense.”