Mike McCoy, the new San Diego Chargers head coach, was a quarterback for Long Beach State in 1990 and 1991. McCoy began his coaching career in 2000 with
Mike McCoy, the new San Diego Chargers head coach, was a quarterback for Long Beach State in 1990 and 1991. McCoy began his coaching career in 2000 with the Carolina Panthers, then became the Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator.

It's been 22 years since anyone has strapped on a Long Beach State football helmet in earnest, which by itself is the punch line of an inside joke among the dwindling in-crowd of faithful and aging 49er fans.

After all, the 49ers are unbeaten since 1992. The program closed down in 1991, sure, but there haven't been any scandals or 55-0 losses or embarrassing coaches deflating footballs and a program's integrity.

But they're not forgotten, and 49er football will enjoy a bit of a revival in 2013 with the hiring of Mike McCoy as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers.

McCoy was a member of the last two Long Beach State football teams, making the 1990 team as a walk-on quarterback for the legendary George Allen and starting six games in 1991 for Willie Brown, who took over when Allen died on New Year's Eve of 1990.

In 1991, the tall, blond quarterback completed 52 percent of his passes for 938 yards and threw seven touchdowns and just three interceptions while stepping in for returning starter Todd Studer, who suffered a broken jaw in the second game of the season.

He had some nice days, throwing for 305 yards and two touchdowns against San Jose State and tossing two touchdown passes in a 31-19 win over Nevada-Las Vegas.

McCoy's stay in Long Beach was short, and his football itinerary since has included stops in Utah, Denver, Green Bay, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Calgary, Carolina, back to Denver and now San Diego. But those two years were formative.

"Back then, I was an 18-, 19-year-old kid living the dream," McCoy said during a recent chat.


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"Playing for one of the greatest coaches ever (Allen) speaks for itself. It was an unbelievable experience to play for him. He so enjoyed coaching football and young players that it was impossible to not enjoy it as well.

"So much of what I learned about being a quarterback started at Long Beach. The first day I was on campus, I met the quarterback coach, Randy Whitsitt, and we sat down to watch 8 mm game films of the Redskins when Allen was the coach.

"It was all research for my career, even if I didn't know where it was going at the time."

The 49ers of 1990 (6-5) and 1991 (2-9) weren't without talent. They had a receiver, Mark Seay, who overcame the loss of a kidney to play five years in the NFL, and a freshman running back in '91 named Terrell Davis who helped Denver to two Super Bowl titles and is back in town as an assistant football coach at Lakewood High.

"Playing for George and Willie was great, and I made some great friends and met some good people," he said. "I kept in contact with players and coaches, like Whitsitt, who was a great teacher. Terrell dropped by practice (at Denver) a few times the last few years just to say hello."

McCoy was pretty good, too. He transferred to Utah and had two great seasons for head coach Ron McBride, a former 49er assistant coach. In 1993, McCoy led the nation in passing yardage (4,146 yards) in a 7-6 season that included wins over Kansas and BYU and a close bowl loss to USC.

In 1994, he led the country in touchdown passes (29) and the Utes went 10-2, beating Oregon early in the season - the Ducks won the Pac-10 and went to the Rose Bowl - and Arizona in the last Freedom Bowl ever played in Anaheim. The team was ranked as high as No. 9 during the season.

"I was fortunate to have a coach (McBride) who put in a system that took advantage of my abilities," he said.

In the NFL, he signed as a free agent with Denver but was cut, then landed on the Green Bay practice squad. He played in NFL Europe, was on training camp squads in San Francisco and Philadelphia, and was a starter for Calgary in the Canadian Football League in 1999.

A year later, he went into coaching. He was on the staff of the Carolina Panthers for nine seasons, where he worked with former L.A. Raider quarterback Steve Beuerlein, and then was offensive coordinator with the Broncos for four years. He received a lot of credit for helping devise an offense Tim Tebow could run in Denver in 2011.

"I think I got into coaching at the right time," he said. "I was a 27-year-old who started in quality control and then worked with the offensive line, receivers and quarterbacks. Working with Beuerlein was great, because he didn't mind my age and trusted me. 

"The Carolina job was great for me because I had a chance to learn working for one franchise. The move to Denver was the right time because I had a chance to be a coordinator."

He's one of four NFL coaches with ties to Long Beach. Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis was a 49er assistant in 1985-86; Houston Texans assistant Chick Harris, a Poly grad, was a 49er assistant in 1973; and Broncos head coach John Fox briefly was a 49er assistant in 1981.

Chargers fans are anxious to see what McCoy can do, especially after so many missed expectations the previous years under General Manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner.

"I start with a clean slate," he said. "The parity in this is such that one or two players can make a big difference in a team's success. We have a new G.M. and new coaches and we have a lot of great players, including one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league (Philip Rivers).

"Football is football," he said. "It's just a matter of knowing what your players can do best and then putting them in a position to use their skills."

That sounds like something George Allen may have said. Thanks to McCoy, a program once lost has been found again.

bob.keisser@presstelegram.com

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