The Ben & Faris Q&A: Mike McCoy soars, NFL ratings plummet

Mike McCoy appears to be safe – for now. What do the Chargers need to do the rest of the season for the head coach to get invited back next year?
 
Ben Higgins: Two wins – and they were both impressive in their own way – are still not enough to convince me that McCoy is the right head coach for the Chargers next season. He needs to demonstrate a killer instinct when the game is on the line, or the Chargers will never reach their full potential. 
 
When he was first hired by the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera was a play-not-to-lose head coach and came dangerously close to losing his job. Instead, he transformed himself into “Riverboat Ron,” taking some aggressive chances that paid off in a Super Bowl trip last season. 
 
McCoy needs to set aside the “Milquetoast Mike” moniker he was given by Denver columnist Mark Kiszla and become…well, I can’t think of a good word starting with the letter “M,” but you know what I mean.
 
The Chargers played their best football of the season once they fell behind by 17 points in Atlanta. That should tell you something. If McCoy always coached like his team was down double digits, the Chargers might be unstoppable.
 
It really will be a shame if McCoy doesn’t figure this out, because his game plans are usually solid and the Chargers play hard for him. But John Spanos and Tom Telesco need to think long and hard about who they want leading their team in 2017, because adding Keenan Allen and Jason Verrett back into the mix, with the young talent starting to emerge this season, could turn the Chargers into instant Super Bowl contenders – with the right coach.
 
Faris Tanyos: Milquetoast Mike? It's reaching. It doesn’t roll off the tongue. It’s too loquacious and voluble. Let’s bag it. 
 
Did Kiszla even know the word “Milquetoast” existed before he stumbled onto it on his Power Thesaurus? I doubt it. Me thinks Mr. Kiszla borrowed a page from one Joey Tribbiani, who once penned this infamous line
 
“They are human prepossessing homo sapiens with full-size aortic pumps.”
 
That, Ben, is comedy. 
 
Short of pulling a Tom Coughlin circa 2007, McCoy isn’t keeping his job next season, even if he snags a wildcard spot. McCoy continues the long and storied tradition of trailblazers such as Wade Phillips and Hue Jackson; great assistants not wired to head a team. His pedestrian 25-30 record means this time next year he’ll be running special teams for the Titans. 
 
That said, the 3-4 Chargers are still very much in the playoff hunt. After they visit the Broncos Sunday in a crucial division tilt, here are their next five: Titans, Dolphins, Texans, Bucs and Panthers. 
 
Let’s just take a moment and appreciate the gifts the NFC South and AFC South have bestowed upon the rest of the NFL.   
 
Those five teams have a combined record of 15-19. And that record is actually misleading given that many of those wins came against one another. If the Chargers can somehow eke out a win in Denver and go 4-1 against that smorgasbord of atrocity, they’d be sitting pretty at 8-5 headed into their Week 15 matchup with the Raiders. 
 
And it gets so much better… The Bolts get the 0-15 Browns in Week 16. Oh happy day! 10-6 is definitely in play for Milquetoast Mike
 
OK, so it’s growing on me. Whatever. 
 
Overall NFL TV ratings are down considerably this season. Why is that?
 
Ben: I don’t know about you, but I feel a little bit dirty when I watch an NFL game now. When a player is taken out after a big hit, my first thought is about the long-term health effects on these young men who are getting (well) paid to entertain me on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays.
 
We’ve reached a point in this country where almost everyone is aware of the dangers of football. News stories about CTE, movies like Concussion, players like Calvin Johnson retiring in their prime – these truths are now impossible to ignore.
 
Now, I’m not ready to call for a boycott of the NFL. While players of the past may not have imagined the consequences of their profession, today’s players are going in with their eyes wide open. They are adults who can make their own life choices. So I’m going to keep watching despite some misgivings.
 
But if I, as a sportscaster and lifelong football fan, feel that way, I can only imagine how a more casual fan or empathetic mother might feel about watching a game. It’s no doubt enough to get some people to change the channel or go outside and enjoy a Sunday afternoon. The end result is a ratings decline for football – and no good answers about how the stop the slide.
 
Faris: While the concussion crisis is a very real threat to the long-term future of football, it’s not the primary reason viewership for night games is suddenly down 13 to 17 percent. 
 
While we’re here, that dip is also not due to Colin Kaepernick’s kneel down. A single individual’s personal beliefs or actions can’t tank a multibillion-dollar machine. If that were the case, Aaron Hernandez, Greg Hardy and Ray Rice would have already sunk the NFL. 
 
No, let’s go with an Occam's razor approach: NFL games are too long and too corporate. 
 
The average NFL game has about 11 minutes of action and more than 100 commercials. Are you serious Roger Goodell? We are a people with options and short attention spans. That combination does not bode well for your future. We have smart phones and iPads and Netflix. 
 
Have you been to an NFL stadium lately, Ben? The tickets are expensive, the traffic is log-jammed and the game is downright boring. The action is far away: I can’t see who made that pick/sack/catch. I spend two-thirds of my time looking at the video board to find out what the hell just happened, and the other one-third standing in line for half-an-hour to fork out $40 for a lukewarm Bud Light and an undercooked bacon burger. 
 
While the NFL is pulling a Roman-style collapse, the NBA is chugging along by ticking off all the boxes, by providing a better in-person and television experience. The MLS is also seeing its popularity grow. Why? Because I know I’m getting 45 minutes of uninterrupted field activity. 
 
The NFL is being killed by its own money machine. Those obscene TV deals are forcing networks to pack in as many advertisers as possible and drag out the length of these games. Touchdown. Commercial. Kickoff. Another commercial. At a certain point, I’m not watching football, I’m being besieged by an endless sequence of marketing experts from Hyundai and Frito Lay. In 2015 the NFL had 32 league-wide sponsors. 32!
 
The NFL won’t salvage its league by making its players wear pink. It needs to shorten these games and take some advice from Jerry Maguire:
 
“You play for the money. You play with your head, not your heart. When you get on the field, it's all about what you didn't get. Who's to blame. Who's got the contract you didn't get. That is not what inspires people! Shut up! Play the game from your heart. Then I'll show you the kwan. And that's the truth.”
 
-- Follow Ben Higgins on Twitter @BenHigginsSD
-- Follow Faris Tanyos on Twitter @OnlyFairchild
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