By Arnie Stapleton, AP pro football writer
ENGLEWOOD — Mike McCoy is calling the plays again instead of the shots. His second stint as Denver’s play-caller begins Monday night against the Chargers, the team that fired him as their head coach nine months ago.
McCoy won’t say it, but wide receiver Demaryius Thomas thinks McCoy would like to stick it to his former team.
“Absolutely. If you were the head coach for the Chargers and you got fired, you play them on Monday night, what would you want to do? I’d try to put up 100 if I could,” Thomas said. “I know it’s impossible, but I’d try.”
There are other reasons this is a big game for the Broncos : It’s a divisional game in the ultra-competitive AFC West, where teams can ill afford a home loss. Plus, the Chiefs are already riding high thanks to their 42-27 rout at New England in the NFL kickoff.
So, facing familiar faces doesn’t necessarily add to his fire.
“I give all the respect in the world for everyone in the organization. I can’t thank the Spanos family enough for everything and the opportunity they gave me back in 2013 to lead their organization,” said McCoy, who went 27-37 in San Diego with one playoff appearance — a loss to Denver after his first season.
“I have a lot of respect for all of those players,” McCoy said. “A lot of great people, not just players but the way every coach and every player through some tough times fought their tails off every day. There was no excuse as we just showed up to work every day, but unfortunately we didn’t win enough games. We’re excited here and that’s the thing now. I’ve got a new home and we’re ready to go.”
Vance Joseph’s first move as the Broncos coach was hiring McCoy, whose return to Denver has been celebrated by the offensive players.
“It’s been great,” said Thomas, who thrived under McCoy’s tutelage early in his career, whether he was catching passes from Tim Tebow or Peyton Manning. “It’s been great for the new guys that came around and learned the offense. You can see the excitement on their faces to get the season started.”
The Broncos are expecting better production offensively after petering out under Rick Dennison and Gary Kubiak last year.
They beefed up their backfield, adding veteran Jamaal Charles and rookie De’Angelo Henderson, and they added venom to their O-line with first-round draft pick Garett Bolles and free agents Allen Barbre, Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson.
The biggest addition, however, might very well be McCoy.
“I think Mike McCoy is a chess master,” said tight end Virgil Green, one of just two players who were on the roster the last time McCoy was calling the plays for the Broncos. “He knows how to calls plays, set plays up and how to set plays up that he was setting up two weeks ago. He’s a wizard so I think him calling the plays and our coaches wanting us to understand why we’re doing certain things is ultimately going lead to our success.”
Thomas likes the renewed focus on putting defenses on their toes instead of just controlling the clock.
“He’s the same Mike McCoy that I knew three or four years ago,” Thomas said. “He wants to go out and put as many points as he can on any team. Just go out and blow everybody out. He wants to give his playmakers the ball.”
Notes: NT Zack Kerr (knee) and DE Jared Crick (back) were ruled out for the game and NT Kyle Peko (foot) is questionable.