SAN DIEGO — Sure, John Fox will be satisfied Monday when he looks across the field and sees his protégé running his own team. He spent nine years with Mike McCoy on two different teams; the Chargers coach is the closest thing he has to football heir.
“I just pride myself in having success,” he said, “and then watching guys get rewarded for it.”
And then, it seems, beating the pants off them.
He’s won four of five games against McCoy, including a playoff contest after the 2013 regular season. Fox has outscored McCoy’s teams by 34 points.
Ask why he’s been so successful, and Fox says he doesn’t know — “Of course there’s familiarity, but it goes both ways,” he said — but outside factors certainly play a role. New head coaches inherit bad teams, by nature of their job. By that logic, Monday could be Fox’s turn to get whipped.
It would be a rarity if he were. Fox is 6-1 against his other two former coordinators who went on to become head coaches. Against Dennis Allen, the former Broncos defensive coordinator who ran the Raiders from 2012 until the middle of 2014, Fox went 4-0 and outscored him by 80.
He’s 2-1 against Jack Del Rio, who ran his defenses in Carolina and Denver before taking head coaching jobs with the Jaguars and Raiders, respectively.
McCoy coached under Fox at two stops, too. Fox inherited McCoy, then a receivers coach in Carolina, in 2002 — “I thought he was a bright young coach; It turned out to be true,” the Bears coach said — and then again in Denver.
McCoy had left Fox’s Panthers a year earlier to run coach Josh McDaniels’ offense. After two years with the same title under Fox, McCoy took the Chargers’ head coaching job.
“A lot of the things I do today are a reflection of John Fox,” McCoy said.
Filtered through his own more laid-back personality, McCoy has tried to mimic Fox’s ability to connect with people.
“Everybody’s different,” McCoy said. “You go to a new organization, there’s certain things you’re going to change. Your personnel’s different. The people you’re around are different. So you learn a lot about people. It’s a people business.
“That’s one great thing with John Fox; he adjusts to the people that he’s around and makes them all feel like they’re a big part of it.”
His practice schedule is similar to Fox: hard-nosed, full-pads battles that enforce “the old-school mentality of, ‘We’re going to outwork you,’” said Mitch Unrein, the Bears defensive lineman who’s played for both coaches this season.
McCoy’s offense is more pass-happy than that of the Bears — or, this season, any other NFL team — and is rooted in previous Chargers coaches. Influences from former head coach Norv Turner and former play-caller Ken Whisenhunt helped shape plays with which quarterback Philip Rivers is comfortable. McCoy still uses schemes from Dan Henning, Fox’s coordinator in Carolina from 2002-06.
The Chargers know the Bears, too. Their phrasing is similar to what Adam Gase uses in Chicago —the offensive coordinator inherited the Broncos job from his mentor, McCoy— and so is the familiar no-huddle.
“I know the system they’re running,” McCoy said, “having been with everybody in Denver.”
The strategy, though, is different.
“Mike’s biggest thing is just throw completions, completions, completions … and just keep going and keep going and don’t get bored with those things,” Rivers said.
That’s not Fox — but his influence is almost everywhere else.
“It’s the same thing — It’s a different attitude,” Unrein said.
“They’re getting to the same point; it’s just a different way of getting there.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley