AFC West to have a new look


Adam Gase at the end of training camp at the Broncos Training Facility. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

The AFC West has received a makeover.

Two of the four head coaches in the division are new, as are two general managers.

The first team to make a big splash was Kansas City, with the Chiefs hiring John Dorsey as general manager to replace Scott Pioli, then longtime Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid to run things on the field after letting Romeo Crennel go.

Next came the San Diego Chargers, who named Tom Telesco to replace A.J. Smith as general manager, then Mike McCoy, the Bronco offensive coordinator, as head coach, replacing Norv Turner.

The Oakland Raiders are standing pat going into Year Two of Dennis Allen’s coaching tenure and the Broncos, two-time division champs, are trying to maintain as much consistency as possible, promoting from within by naming quarterbacks coach Adam Gase to McCoy’s coordinator spot on Thursday.

While Oakland and Denver tinker, the retooling of staffs in Kansas City and San Diego could lead to serious revamping with each team.

Let’s start with the Chiefs, who finished 2-14 and own the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Their obvious need is at quarterback, where Brady Quinn had one of the worst QB ratings in the league after replacing Matt Cassel, who was in the process of playing himself out of a job when he suffered a head injury midway through the season.

Where do they get a starter?

There is, of course, the No. 1 selection in the draft. Problem is, there is no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III available, according to a variety of scouting services.

Geno Smith of West Virginia is possible as the No. 1 selection and might fit that profile that Reid enjoyed in Philadelphia. Remember Donavan McNabb?

Two veteran quarterbacks Reid has connections to are Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb, both of whom struggled to stay on the field for the Eagles and the Cardinals the last two seasons because of injuries and inconsistent play.

There is also the Green Bay factor: Dorsey was head of college scouting for the Packers. One of the players he is familiar with is Matt Flynn, who signed as a free agent last season with Seattle. Then along came the rookie Russell Wilson and Flynn spent a season unexpectedly sitting.

Dorsey may think Flynn is capable of more, although his reported $5.25 million salary next season and $7.5 million cap hit may keep the Chiefs from going that direction even though the team has approximately $14 million in cap space.

If the Chiefs don’t go quarterback with their first pick, there may be a need at offensive tackle if they allow Brendan Albert to go the free agent route. Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M has been bandied about as a potential No. 1 selection.

Philip Rivers (17) hands the ball off to running back Jackie Battle (44) during the first quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

The Chiefs also have to make a decision on receiver Dwayne Bowe, a free agent who was franchised last season and will be in high demand around the league.

For McCoy and the Chargers, the options don’t appear to be as wide-ranging.

Quarterback Phillip Rivers is where it all starts with the Chargers offense and it comes as no great revelation that the team’s problems of late, including a 7-9 record last season, stem largely from the inability to protect Rivers. He gets pressured and stuff happens – much of it bad.

With the ninth pick in the draft, offensive line would seem to be the need and Eric Fisher of Central Michigan, Taylor Lewan of Michigan or Lane Johnson of Oklahoma are all candidates to step in immediately at a tackle spot, perhaps even on the left side to protect Rivers.

Telesco and McCoy could also opt for help in the draft at wide receiver, a sore spot last season brightened only by the in-season signing of free agent Danario Alexander, or at running back, where Ryan Mathews has been effective when healthy, which isn’t often.

With the Chargers about $9 million under the cap at present and a respectable defense (ranking ninth overall and allowing only 21 points per game), most of the focus and hoped-for bang for the buck for Telesco and McCoy appears to be on offense.

McCoy is high on Rivers and says he plans to spend plenty of time discussing the last several years with his new QB. “I’ll ask some tough questions,” McCoy told reporters at his first press conference as Charger coach.

And the changes that come about will be made in an effort to make his life easier on the field – and maybe help close the gap on the Broncos.

“We’re going to lead this team to a championship sometime in the near future,” McCoy said.

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